In South Indian cooking, food is usually rice based like Idli, Pongal, Adai, Parvannam and Pulihoara. Puli means tamarind, and is abundantly used to flavour many a curry, chutney and rice. It is an essential ingredient in cooking, the pods hang from the big trees during winter and are then harvested and sold in markets during the hot summer. The sharp, tangy taste of tamarind when blended with dry, red chillies and salt –gives a unique, mouth watering, fiery flavourful chutney.
Hyderabad capital of Telengana and Andhra Pradesh twin states has a melange of cuisines, owing to its rich Deccani- Mughal history. Aromatic, spicy, meat and chiken based Mughlai food contrasts with the more subtle, sattvic vegetarian Telugu Brahmin cuisine.
Credit goes to my Mother-in-law for teaching me this Telugu recipe. Often, she made this for puja orprayer offerings, especially on Saturday, to Lord Perumal / Vishnu . It’s a family favourite, and I have learned to prepare it well now for prayer time as well as for friends and relatives.
Indian Spices for Pulihoara Rice preparation
1 cup Indian rice (medium grain)
1 1/2 cup water
3 tsp. cooking oil
Tamarind pulp – preferably brown coloured (small lemon sized ball)
8-10 curry leaves (almost a must!)
2 dry red chillies (adjust to your taste)
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
Pinch of Asatoefida (Hing) – available in Indian grocery stores
Salt to taste
For garnish: (optional)
2 tsp. roasted Sesame seeds
2 tsp. roasted Peanuts
Coriander stalk / Curry leaves
Banana leaf or prayer plate
Wash rice thoroughly and discard the coloured water. Cook rice with measured water in rice cooker /stove top/ pressure cooker. Add a drop of oil so that the cooked grains are loose and fluffy. Once cooked, immediately run a fork through it and loosen grains and pour onto big, flat dish to cool. Apply some turmeric powder and salt and leave aside.
In a deep pan /wok /kadhai pour some oil and let it warm. Add mustard seeds, dry chilli, half amount of peanuts, remaining turmeric, curry leaves and splutter this. Take care! Cover quickly if necessary and switch off gas. Let cool.
In a small bowl add quarter glass water and soak the tamarind (without seeds). Microwave for 1 minute and mash the pulp. Cool it. Roast peanuts and sesame seeds, remove any skin and cool.
Next part – Mixing of rice and the mixtures by hand is the most therapeutic and divine indulgence. Refrain from using a fork or ladle, if you can. Chant, for better results.
Pour the oil mixture, tamarind pulp, half of peanut /sesame seeds onto the cooled rice. Using your hand or fork lightly toss and mix it all. Adjust salt to taste. Take a small round bowl, wash with water lightly. Pour the rice mixture into it and press lightly. Keep a large prayer plate or serving plate ready, line it with washed banana leaf, if you fancy. Invert the rice bowl on plate, tap gently. Out pops the coloured rice. Garnish with rest of the toasted peanuts, sesame and curry leaves.
Place food at altar to offer, if you wish. Share and enjoy the tangy flavour with a cup of cool yoghurt. It sure drives the summer heat away.
‘A great introduction to cultures is their cuisine. It not only reflects their evolution, but also their beliefs and traditions.’ Vikas Khanna, Michelin star Indian Chef
Another version of this rice by Subbu can be found here
- Kovil Puliyodharai / Temple Puliyodharai (subbuskitchen.com)
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