I am not a fan of rice. Very A-typical of a Malaysian but I've got weight issues and so, rice is my enemy. I know my diet science is kinda screwy but lets leave that for another day. Fact is, I don't usually eat rice. But, there are a couple of rice dishes that i find very hard to resist.
Curd rice is one. What's curd rice? It's cooked rice (soft grains, cooked with added water) mixed with yoghurt and seasoned with fried finely chopped green chillies, ginger, curry leaves, dhal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and coriander. If you don't like yoghurt (this is yoghurt in its natural state, not the fancy RM3.5 per gram ice cream-cloaked-in-yoghurt), chances are this dish will sound like nothing you'll ever want to try. If you DO like yoghurt, it's pure heaven.
My friend's mum used to make this with buffalo-milk curd. She used to share some with me when we were in university and I will always be grateful to her for that experience. Oh! The richness is unbelievable.
But that's for my next post.
I also love Tamarind Rice or Pulli Saadam. Its a traditional South Indian dish and it's exactly what its name suggests: rice thats seasoned with a home-made tamarind paste.
Some people cook this dish regularly at home. As with most Indian dishes, the spices and the tamarind renders this rice dish a healthy one. Or so my mum and her friends used to say: you know, that tamarind is high in iron and vitamins, it helps in digestions and, would you believe it, conjunctivitis. Anyways, its a common dish among south Indians.
For some reason, we never had home-cooked pulli saadam. Ever. The only time I got to eat this deliciously tangy dish was at temples. Yes, temples. It's quite a common prasadam or prasad -- a food offered to God and then partaken by the congregation to accept and absorb the blessings. The dish is said to be a speciality of the Iyengars, a cast of Hindu Brahmins ... hence its association with temples.
Yes, so the rice was definitely a pull towards the temple. I love God but I am more the pray-at-home kinda gal and I have to admit, that pulli saadam was one of the reasons I looked forward to my periodical visits to the temple. Is that bad? I do pray at home. Really, I do.
Ok. Enough justification. This rice is my favourite. Its tangy (thanks to the tamarind), slightly spicy (spices and dried red chilli takes care of that) and just a little salty too. The addition of two types of dhal (channa and urad dhal) makes it almost nutty. Some people actually add roasted peanuts too.
Most dishes are best eaten hot off the plate. This one however tastes better the day after. Or the day after that. The tamarind acts as a preserving agent and keeps the rice nice and fresh for a couple of days. You can make it with freshly cooked rice or you can use leftover rice: either way, it tastes better if you use long grain rice.
Pulli Saadam or Tamarind Rice
2 cups cooked rice
1 tbsp tamarind
1tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp urad dhal
2 tsp channa dhal
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp finely minced ginger
2 dried chillies, roughly broken
1/2tsp turmeric powder
1tsp chili powder
1/4tsp fenugreek powder
salt to taste
Soak the tamarind in 1/2-1 cup hot water for about 30 mins. Extract the juice and discard the seed and pulp. Keep aside.
Head the gingerly oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves, mustard seeds and the two types of dhal. Fry lightly till the seeds slutter and the dhal starts to brown. Don't leave it to get too brown or burn!
Add the dried chilies and garlic and stir till the garlic browns a little. Add the fenugreek powder, asofoetida, turmeric and chilli powder and fry till the spices loose their raw smell. About 3 mins.
Add the tamarind juice and season with salt. Keep on the fire till the juice thickens and becomes almost a paste.
When done, mix the paste (you may not want to use all; mix half first and add more if you prefer) with the white rice, careful that you don't mash the grains as you mix.
Garnish with parsley.