If you have eaten south Indian food, you’d be familiar with the mixed rice varieties that we make – gazillions of them! You have heard of the popular ones – lemon rice, tamarind rice and curd rice among others, but we can make a quick meal with just some steamed rice, a dollop of ghee and one of the many rice-mix-powders we make at home, including curry leaf powder, coriander powder and even til powder. These are so tasty and versatile, in addition to being convenient, that you will fall in love with them. I am planning to share a series on mixed rice varieties and rice-mixes.
While the rice-mix-powders have a long shelf life, instant mixed rice dishes like lemon rice, tomato rice and curd rice don’t. This is due to their moisture content and ingredients used. However, there is one mixed rice variety that stays good for a couple of days if mixed the right way and is also moist. In fact, it used to be and still remains a favourite for journeys that last more than a day – the versatile Tamarind Rice or Puliyodarai. (This is pronounced पुळीयोदरे. If you say पुली, it would mean a tiger!)
The readymade mixes you get in the market are dry and some even ask you to make the tadka, while others can be mixed into the rice directly. Whatever, they are no match for the pulikaichal (paste-mix) we make at home and store. If refrigerated it has a good shelf life, provided it is cooked well.
I will be sharing the recipe of Puliyodarai, the Tamilian version – more precisely, my family recipe. There are a lot of variations of this recipe. As evident from the title, this dish is made in Karnataka (Puliyogare) and Andhra (Pulihora) too but the ingredients and method of preparing are different. They each have their distinct taste.
The recipe might look as if it is too difficult, but it is just the list of ingredients that is long! And all the ingredients are easily available.
Ingredients for Pulikaichal powder mix: (For about a teacup of paste)
Dry roast and grind:
- Chana Dal 1 tbsp
- Coriander (Dhania) 1 ½ tbsp
- Red chillies 5-6
- Fenugreek seeds (Methi ) ½ tsp
- Peppercorns 10-15
- Sesame seeds (Til) 1 tbsp
For the tadka:
- Mustard 1 tsp
- Chana dal 2 tsp
- Groundnut 2-3 tbsp
- Red Chillies 2-3
- Methi ¼ tsp
- Curry leaves 5-6
- Hing ¼ tsp
- Oil (preferably til oil) 2-3 tbsp.
For tamarind base
- Tamarind 1 lemon-sized ball
- Turmeric powder ½ tsp
- Salt to taste
- Jaggery ½ tsp
- Soak the tamarind in 1 ½ cups of hot water for half an hour. Squeeze out the pulp and keep aside.
- Roast the chana dal and chillies without oil. Remove to a plate.
- Add the methi, pepper and dhania. Roast till they emit a nice aroma.
- Roast til till it pops and remove to a separate plate.
- Grind all the ingredients except til, to a fine powder.
- Grind til separately to a coarse powder.
- In a heavy-bottomed kadhai, heat 2 tbsp oil.
- Drop the mustard in the oil after it heats up and when it crackles, add chana dal. After a few seconds, add the groundnuts.
- After they start changing colour, add the chillies and methi.
- Fry till they turn golden brown and fragrant.
- Now add the hing, curry leaves and saute.
- Slowly add the tamarind pulp and salt to taste. Add the curry leaves. Mix well and let it simmer on low heat. Add the jaggery. It doesn’t add sweetness but balances the taste.
- Once the oil starts separating and the tamarind loses its raw smell, add the pulikaichal powder, mixing it well. At this stage, add the remaining oil.
- Let it all come together and the oil float on top. Add the til powder and mix.
- Switch off the flame and transfer to a dry container – glass or stainless steel.
To make tamarind rice:
- Cooked rice (cooled) 2 – 3 cups
- Puliyodarai paste 2 tbsp (more or less as per taste)
- Til oil a little
- Spread the rice in a big parat or bowl. Drizzle a tsp of sesame (til) oil over it.
- Add the pulikaichal and with a fork or the handle of a ladle, mix the rice and paste well.
- Serve with fried or roasted papad.
- Don’t use your hand unless you are going to consume it immediately or within a few hours. Puliyodarai gets tastier when eaten the next day, as the rice gets well ‘marinated’, for want of a better word!
- You can use any oil, but til oil adds flavour to the dish.
- The ingredients given will be perfect for this quantity and will be slightly spicy. You can add a little more til oil while mixing the rice to reduce the spiciness.
- The groundnuts can be dry roasted, skinned and halved before adding, in which case, you can add it at the last stage of the tadka. We make it both ways.
- If you want it less spicy, reduce both the chillies and the tamarind paste to balance the taste.
- Resting the puliyodarai is important as it becomes more flavourful.
- It is typically eaten cold and ideal for travel, picnics and lunchboxes.