Category Archives: Rice-Pulavs,Biryanis,Bhaaths

Thayir Sadam/Tempered Yogurt Rice

This very simple dish has been one of my favorite ways to eat rice since my childhood days when I first fell in love with Tamilian cuisine in – of all places – Bokaro, the town in eastern India where I was born and lived until I was 16. Some of my earliest memories are of eating steaming hot sambaar, idlis, and sometimes thayir sadam, in the home of  our neighbors the Ramachandrans, whose daughter Aparna was my dearest friend when we were both 4 or 5, and in whose home I therefore often ended up eating my meals after she and I had played together.

So it was disappointing when Indira and Noor did not like it much at all when I made this dish some years ago when they were much younger. But that was then, I thought to myself, as I decided to give it another try last week. Surely their love of both the main components-rice and yogurt- would make it acceptable in their lunch boxes?And I would not go by the recipe in a book this time, I figured, but get it instead from someone who I could go back to till I got it right! So I asked my Tamilian colleague Radha one lunch hour last week  to give me a step-by-step download on how she and her mother make the dish in their kitchen.

A good decision,as it turned out, because Radha gave me some useful tips as well and the result was two very satisfied girls, and some more children who liked it too (“Ameya and Vrushi loved it !”, said Noor, and “Yes, Zara and Munira loved it too!”, said Indira).

I did make one significant change to Radha’s recipe – she suggested adding some pomegranate seeds (a tablespoon or 2) at the end but since Indira doesn’t like this fruit at all, I substituted it for lentils since I seem to remember having come across this version of the dish over the years.

Tamilians usually eat this dish at the end of a meal – they say it helps with digestion and cools the stomach after all the spicy food that comes before – but I can eat this any time!

dahi rice

Thayir Sadam/Yogurt Rice

Cooked Rice – 1 cup
Yogurt (not too sour, especially if you’re going to make  and keep the dish for an hour or more before serving it) – 1/2 cup
Milk (for a creamier taste, use 100% rather than low-fat) – 1/2 a cup
7-8 curry leaves
1 green chilli, finely chopped OR 1 dried red chilli, broken in half (optional)
1 or 1  and a 1/2 tablespoons of chana daal (split black chickpea lentils), soaked for at least a couple of hours  OR urad daal (skin less black gram lentils)
1/a teaspoon of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds
1/2 a tablespoon of sunflower oil or ghee
1/2 a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
Salt to taste

Drain the lentils and keep aside. Whisk the yogurt a little, to dissolve any lumps, then add the milk and blend the two well. Put the rice in to a mixing bowl, and mash a little (if you don’t mind doing this with your hand, you’ll be rewarded with a really soft, creamy thayir sadam). Now add the yogurt and milk mixture along with the salt, and stir it all together thoroughly.
To finish – in a small tempering pan, heat the oil/ghee, add the mustard seeds and wait till they splutter. Now add the curry leaves, and after a few seconds the lentils, and fry everything over low heat till the lentils are really quite soft to bite in to. Half-way through, add the ginger so that it’s fried a little by the time the lentils are done. Now add the green chilli, the asafoetida, fry for just a few seconds and then pour the whole mixture over the rice. Add the coriander also, now, and then mix everything in well.

Radha and another Tamilian colleague – our accounts manager Venu who, like many Tamilian men, is a great cook ! – tell me this dish is best eaten cold, so they each suggested leaving it in the refrigerator for some time before serving. Personally though, I prefer eating it at room temperature.

With a quick-to-make dry vegetable dish such as beans poriyal or cabbage poriyal on the side, this makes for a soothing, simple and delicious meal, full of gentle but distinctive flavor.

A tip about the rice – long-grained rice will not do justice to this dish. Use a short-grain variety such as the ambe mor of  Maharashtra,called mango blossom in English. Another thing, about the yogurt-milk mixture – if the dish is going to be kept for several hours before eating, as is the case when it’s prepared to carry as “tiffin” for a long-ish train journey or for a picnic, then use less than a quarter cup of yogurt, and make up the rest of the cup with milk. This is done because in warmer places, the milk will curdle and form yogurt by the time the dish is eaten, thus avoiding a too-sour taste that would result from more yogurt than just a few spoons at the start.

Some interesting trivia (source-wikipedia) about this dish – “In the state of Tamil Nadu it is so popular that this food is one of the chief offerings to the God in many Shiva and Vaishnavite Temples which is later distributed as ‘prasadam’ (blessed food) to devotees. Here this is called by a different name ‘dadhiannam’/ “dadyodanam” (Tamil script:ததியன்னம்/ தத்தியோதனம்) Sanskrit दधि dadhi=curd + अन्नं annam = cooked rice.”

Italian Rice Salad with Tuna, Vegetables and Cheese

At the buffet served after the OIB graduation ceremony held at the CIV tonight – I was there to help with the aperitif and the buffet – there was a delicious rice salad which was contributed by the mum of a student in the Italian section.

Here’s the recipe, as I remember it, which she told me as we served the crowd so I hope I’ve got the details right !

Italian Rice Salad

Cooked and cooled rice (from a region in Italy, if I understood her right, near the one that arborio rice come from) tossed with canned tuna (with the oil), olives, capers, very finely sliced raw carrots(or they may have been very lightly steamed), tomatoes (optional) and small pieces of provolone cheese. Though I forgot to ask if she had used any herbs, I don’t think there was any  seasoning in the salad other than salt.

I am going to try this soon as it would make such a simple, fresh and delicious summer meal though I’ll have to figure out first what the rice variety she’d used might be.  I wonder if it is Carnaroli?  The name she used sounded sort of like that from what I remember and when I google Arborio, I find many references to the Carnaroli rice variety as a great base for risottos and salads – indeed for the former it appears to be a better choice than Arborio.

Chicken Pulav(2)

This recipe is quite similar to the other one I’ve used a couple of times to make chicken pulav for the boulangerie. The chief difference is that this one requires tomatoes, while that other recipe calls for lemon juice.

I did without an ingredient that the original recipe – which is from Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s “Khazana of Indian Recipes” – requires  and that’s chicken stock.

I suspect that would add a great deal to the taste but never having got the hang of how to make stock, I made this pulav yesterday with water instead.  Fortunately it passed muster with both Patrick the boulanger – I will be making this for him next Tuesday – and Maria, our guest last night at dinner.

Maria’s daughter was away this week on the same school trip as Indira and since her husband is traveling on work, we asked her to eat with us yesterday.

Dinner was this chicken pulav, rasedar aloo tamatar, salad with mesclun, red bell pepper,corn and asparagus and multi-cereal baguette. I planned the meal this way because I wanted to suggest the first two dishes to Patrick for next week, along with some carrot salad. Luckily he liked both and Maria appeared to enjoy her dinner too so that turned out okay !

Here’s my adaptation –

Chicken Pulav

2 cups of Basmati rice

500 gms of boneless chicken, cut in to small chunks

3 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic paste

1/2 a teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder



Thakkali Sadam or Tomato Fried Rice

This rice preparation – native to the south of India – would make a nice meal on a summer day, with a raita on the side and perhaps a light vegetable dish such as cauliflower with paanchphoran or beans poriyal or jeera aloo.

I have adapted the recipe from “Samayal”, a cookbook by Viji Vardarajan. To make it interesting for the customers of the local boulangerie – where they served this today with mint- and coriander-flavored chicken, pumpkin raita and salad greens- I skipped the green chillies in the original recipe and added cashew nuts on a whim.

Thakkali Sadam

1 and a 1/2 cups of Basmati rice

2 large tomatoes, chopped fine

1 small onion, chopped fine

3 tablespoons of oil plus 1 teaspoon to add to the water in which the rice will be cooked.

1/4 of a teaspoon of mustard seeds

1/4 of a teaspoon of cumin seeds

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder

a few curry leaves

50-60 grams of cashew nuts, halved and then fried lightly for a minute or so in a teaspoon of oil

Wash and soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes , then drain the water and cook the rice with 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of oil in 2 and a quarter cups of water.

When the rice has cooled a little, separate the grains a little with a fork.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the mustard seeds. When these start to pop, add the curry leaves, fry for a couple of seconds and add the cumin seeds. As soon as they start to darken in color, add the onions and fry fora few minutes till they begin to look translucent. Now add the tomatoes, cover the pan and cook till the tomatoes are quite soft and their juice has almost dried up.

Add the turmeric, fry the mixture for another minute, then add the rice and toss everything together. Cover the pan and cook the rice for 6-7 minutes, turning over the rice a couple of times till all of it acquires a uniform yellow color. Just before taking the pan off the heat, mix in the cashew nuts.

Lemon Rice

I have always loved this rice dish because it is so light yet flavorful. But then that is a hallmark of so many recipes of the cuisine of Tamil Nadu in India.

I made it for dinner yesterday when we had friends come over to eat with us.

I always make so much more rice than ever gets used so there was lots left over. We had some of that for lunch today with the raita and carrot salad that were also left over from last night.

This recipe borrows from Viji Vardarajan’s “Samayal”.

Lemon Rice

1 cup of Basmati rice

a few curry leaves

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

2 tablespoons – a little more or a little less would be okay too- of chana daal (yellow split pea lentils), soaked in warm water for 3-4 hours then drained

juice of half a lime

salt to taste

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder

1 green chilli, sliced in to halves (optional)

2 tablespoons of oil

Wash and soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes, then cook with salt, a teaspoon of oil and 1 and a 1/2 cups of water. Leave the rice to cool, then fluff up the rice a little to separate the grains.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the curry leaves and the mustard seeds. When the latter begun to crackle and jump out of the oil, add the lentils and stir fry for a few minutes till they are quite soft. At this point they will begin to look a darker yellow and be just a little bit crisp (but not hard). Now stir in the turmeric powder, add the lime juice and then the rice. Mix everything together, then fry the rice for 3-4 minutes, turning over a couple of times and then take the pan off the heat.

Sambhar is an excellent accompaniment for this rice dish.

Chicken Pulav(1)

I wanted to persuade the boulanger to try something other than chicken curry – though that does seem to work well with his clients – for next week’s order.

So since I had some boneless chicken left over in the fridge, I used it to make chicken pulav. The girls liked it a lot and fortunately there is enough that they can have it for dinner tonight.

As for the boulanger, his reaction was so pleasing.  He said, without tasting either the pulav or the upma (which is what I have had made for lunch today so I took some of that too, for him to taste) that he would like me to make both these things for next week; when I asked him to taste both dishes so as  to be sure, he said that wasn’t necessary since “whatever you bring is all delicious “.

Now, I have my fingers crossed that his clients feel the same way next week 🙂

This recipe is adapted from one in Rocky Mohan’s “Art of Indian Cuisine”.

Chicken Pulav

2 cups of basmati rice, washed and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained thereafter

400-500 gms of boneless chicken, cut in to small pieces

3 teaspoons each of ginger and garlic pastes

2 medium sized onions, chopped fine

4-5 cloves

4 pods of green cardamom

3-4 small sticks of cinnamon

2 green chillies, finely chopped

4 tablespoons of sunflower oil (or 3 of oil and 1 of ghee)

To be mixed together:

150 ml of yoghurt

1 teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 a teaspoon of red chilli powder

1 tablespoon of coriander powder

1/2 a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

the juice of 1 large lime

salt to taste

To make the Pulav:

In a large frying pan, warm the oil and add the green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Fry for a few seconds till their aroma begins to be released.

Add the onions and fry till they begin to look translucent.

Now add the pastes and the green chillies (optional; I skipped this) and fry again till everything turns a golden-brown color.

Add the chicken pieces next, turn up the heat a little and fry till they are golden all over.

Add the yogurt mixture, season with salt and mix everything together well. Cover the pan, lower the heat and cook till the chicken is tender and the water in the yogurt dries up, turning the mixture over every once in a while.

Add the rice, mix it in thoroughly, then add 3 and a half cups of hot water. Cover the pan, turn up the heat and bring the water to a boil. Now reduce the heat again to quite a low setting and simmer till the rice is cooked and all the water is absorbed.

Leave the pulav covered for a while before serving it as I feel this allows the flavors to develop further.

This is so quick and easy to make; a great alternative to biryani.






Vangi Baath: An unorthodox variation

Traditionally, vangi baath is a pulav/fried rice that has only one vegetable in it and that is the aubergine which gives the dish its’ name.

But when I decided to make it for dinner tonight,along with some khatti-meethi daal, I felt there ought to be a dash of green in our meal.

So I made this rice dish today with aubergines and green beans.

The girls don’t know what the original is like, in any case, and Shri usually gamely goes along with all these variations to the classics!

This recipe is adapted from the one in Viji Varadarajan’s “Samayal”, a book about South Indian vegetarian cuisine.

2 cups of rice, cooked-with a little salt-  beforehand in 3 cups of water (which makes this recipe a great way to use leftover rice)

1 thin and long aubergine, diced

1 medium-sized tomato

1 cup of chopped green beans (optional)

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 green chilly , slit in to half (optional)

1/2 or 3/4 of a teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 a tsp of mustard seeds

6-8 curry leaves

1 and a 1/2 tablespoons of pitlai powder

3-4 tablespoons of thick tamarind juice

4 tablespoons of sunflower oil

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. After a few seconds, when the seeds crackle, add the green chilly, the onions and sauté till the onions start to look translucent. Add the beans, cover the pan and cook till they start to soften just a little. Now add the aubergine, cover and cook again till the aubergines begin to soften too, turning everything over once in a while.

Now add the tomato and fry for a few minutes till the tomatoes begins to become quite soft.  Add the spices next, fry for a minute or two, then add the tamarind juice and mix it in well.  Season the vegetables with salt, add the rice – separate the grains gently with a fork first – and fry for a few more minutes till everything is thoroughly mixed.

I might try this dish without the tomato – and with peanuts – another time, since I think I remember eating it like that a long time ago.

Tonight, the girls each asked for a second helping of the vangibath with a little ghee, and I tried that too. Yum !