Spice up your Rice #1: South Indian Variety Rice

Rice Grain
Rice Grain | Source

Rice Nation


Rice is the most important grain in terms of human consumption. It is consumed largely in South Asia, Africa, Middle East, West Indies and Latin America. However, due to globalisation of various cuisines, everyone has access to rice and the potential to make some delicious rice based dishes. Almost everyone has had rice in ethnic cuisines, be it an Indian Pilau recipe, a Chinese fried rice or with Mexican chilli.

South India boasts some of the best vegetarian and non vegetarian recipes. Rice is grown in abundance in the south Indian fields and the local cuisine has evolved with various influences and has such unique flavours, textures and smells. Unlike north Indian cuisine which has been heavily influenced by the Middle Eastern flavours .Most ‘Indian’ Restaurants all over the world predominantly serve north Indian based cuisine. However interest in South Indian food is slowly growing and new restaurants are cropping up everywhere offering wonderful choices of vegetarian and non vegetarian menu.


Rice with chives
Rice with chives

Rice Recipes


South Indians, have so many varieties of rice based dishes it boggles the mind. Rice is so easy going, with its starchy interior prepared to soak up any flavour you may choose to dowse it in. This gives a unique blank canvas to paint on and is what enriches rice based dishes.

For starters I am going to recommend some easy to prepare flavoured rice recipes from South India. These are simple to prepare, require minimum ingredients and can be a quick snack or as a centrepiece for a more elaborate meal with other dishes.

You can use long grain or basmati rice. If you have access to other types feel free to experiment. Some Indians are particular about the plain and parboiled varieties but for the purpose of these recipes stick with what you have. No fuss, yet delicious.

My Mother's cooking


People have preferences and it is likely some flavours tickle your palate more than others. This is not an issue. Indian recipes are so forgiving, don’t worry if you don’t get the measures right. Experiment, feel free to improvise. I learnt to cook with my mother who was such a great cook. She was terrible when it comes to writing down a recipe though. She will use ‘pinches’ and ‘handfuls’ which can cause havoc to a novice cook but in her hands it was like an artist wielding a palate, mixing some colour here and some there, knowing the right tone and the righ shade, tasting, adding some more, creating the right balance of sourness, sweetness and heat that when you tasted the first spoonful, your mouth went to heaven.

Sorry to ramble on, I know you want to get cooking.

Cooking Rice


Cooking rice is easy. I usually stick to a 1:2 ratio for cooking rice, one cup of rice to two cups of water. I don’t bother washing the rice as most modern packaging gives you clean rice grains. Use any cooking pan (if it is cast iron the heat is well retained and cause shorter cooking times) and add rice + water and turn up the heat. Keep it open until it comes to a boil. Watch it as it tends to bubble along and then suddenly it will rice and boil over. As soon as it comes to a boil, turn the heat right down and then add the lid and let it simmer away. The steam makes the rice puff up nice and fluffy and after about 5-10 minutes on low heat it should be done depending on the size of the flame. Make sure all water is gone. I usually stick a fork handle or a cutlery knife straight into the mass of rice and pull out to feel the tip. It shouldn’t be too sticky and definitely not wet.

If you have a rice cooker, then go for it. I prefer my old fashioned method.

The following recipes are all based on either freshly cooked plain rice like above or if you have some precooked rice that is going spare, you could use it too.

Variety Rice (Kalavai Saadham)


The great south Indian tradition of variety rice adds colour to the dining table. As you can see each of these four recipes gives the rice a different tint. Reddish/orange, yellow, white and brown. Imagine having this steaming and in nice dishes in the middle of your dining table. It is a feast for your eyes and your mouth.

Variety Rice also know in South India as Kalavai ( variety) Saadham (rice) in Tamil. As you can see below each type of rice preparation has its tamil name next to it for you to practice. Now that you know Saadham means rice you can work out all those other terms!

These recipes are also ideal for vegetarians or vegans.

Lemon Rice
Lemon Rice | Source

Lemon Rice (Elumichai Saadham)


This tangy delight has the kick of green chillies and the crunchy bonus of cashews or you can also use peanuts.

If you are calorie conscious skip the nuts.

Ingredients:

  • Lemon juice - freshly squeezed from 1 lemon
  • Green chillies - 3 or 4 chopped sideways ( reduce if you are heat sensitive!)
  • Curry leaves - few ( nice aroma )
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp (gives the lovely bright color but is also good for your stomach)
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Channa dal - 1 tsp
  • Urid dal - 1 tsp
  • Cashews or peanuts - few
  • Vegetable Oil - 1-2 tbsp ( you can also use sunflower oil )
  • Salt - as required

Preparation:

Cook the rice as before 1 cup of rice with 2 portions of water - increase amount of rice if you’re serving more than 2.

Warm a large pan and when it is hot add a splash of vegetable oil and wait till it is hot. Add mustard seeds and when it splutters, add channa dal, urad dal and cashews or peanuts and fry until lightly browned

Add green chillies and curry leaves and after a few seconds, turn off the flame completely. Add the turmeric powder to this mixture and mix well. Now add the lemon juice and salt to taste. This should now be a slightly oily mixture ready to be mixed with warm rice. Add rice to the mixture gradually so it is not too diluted. When you feel there is enough rice to take on the colour and flavourings, stop, taste, enjoy.


Coconut Rice
Coconut Rice | Source

Coconut Rice ( Thengai Saadham)


Coconut, as you can imagine, forms an essential ingredient for many South Indian recipes. The coconut palms grow in abundance amongst the coastal areas. South India is abutted by sea all around : Bay of Bengal to the East, arabian sea to the west and the Indian ocean to the South.

Coconut rice has that slightly sweet taste but the added heat of chillies just gives the right kick to make it a savoury dish. This is not a sweet pudding but a really nice snack or dinner dish.

Ingredients:

  • Coconut - 3/4 cup shredded
  • Green chillies - 3 or 4 chopped
  • Curry leaves - few
  • Ginger - small piece shredded
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Urad dal - 1 tsp
  • Cashews / peanuts - few ( skip if calorie conscious)
  • Vegetable or Coconut oil - 2 tbsp

Preparation:

Cook the rice as before 1 cup of rice with 2 portions of water - increase amount of rice if you’re serving more than 2.

Warm a large pan and when it is hot add a splash of vegetable oil and wait till it is hot. Add mustard seeds and when it splutters, add urad dal and cashews or peanuts and fry until lightly browned.

Add green chillies, ginger and curry leaves first. after few stirs, add the shreedded coconut and toss for a few seconds until the coconut begins to brown- be careful not to burn it as it only needs a few seconds. This should now be a mixture ready to be mixed with warm rice. Add rice to the mixture gradually so it is not too diluted. When you feel there is enough rice to take on the flavourings, stop, taste, enjoy.

Serve with a sprig of corander or some chives as garnish.

Tamarind Rice
Tamarind Rice

Tamarind Rice ( Puli Saadham)

Tamarind is a fruit that yields a really tangy sauce that is used in abundance in Indian cooking. This gives the sour taste to the recipe. Tamarind is the ingredient in worcestershire sauce and brown ( HP) sauce. This recipe has a nice tangy sweet/sour/spice taste. Puli saadham is very popular in South India.

Tamarind also has medicinal properties and has bactericidal effect in the gut. However, a little too much of it will give you the runs as it's extract can be used as a laxative. If you happen to be irregualr in the department. tamarind rice will sort you out!

Tamarind pulp can be obtained from shops but it is a messy affair to soak and extract the sauce. May supermarkets sell tamarind paste so you can use a tablespoon of this instead.If for a you want to use the pulp, then use a large marble sized ball.

This mixture can also be made in a larger quantity and bottled as it will keep for a couple of weeks. you then only have to take out enough to mix with freshly cooked rice whenever you please.

Ingredients:

  • Tamarind (dark) - 1 lemon /marble size or a large tbsp of tamarind paste.
  • Dried long red chillies - 4 or 5
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Curry powder - 1 tsp
  • Urad dal - 1 tsp
  • Vegetable Oil - 2 tbsp
  • Jaggery (brown sugar) - 2 tsp powdered ( optional)
  • Curry leaves - few
  • Peanuts - 1/3 cup roasted
  • Salt - as per taste

Preparation:

Cook the rice as before 1 cup of rice with 2 portions of water - increase amount of rice if you’re serving more than 2.

Heat oil in pan and when it is warm, add red chillies and mustard seeds. Wait till the mustard splutters and then add urad dal and fry until light brown. Add the tamarind paste or pulp extract. Once it starts boiling, add the curry powder, turmeric powder and salt. Cook until the the raw smell of the tamarind goes and then turn the flame down. Add the jaggery, curry leaves and roasted peanuts. Stir well until the mixture is uniform and then after a few minutes turn the flames off.

Spread the rice in a bowl and make sure the grains are loose and not sticky. Pour the mixture to taste and mix uniformly. Enjoy!

Hope you enjoy!

Hope you enjoy these recipes and do let me know how they turn out. As I said I learnt to cook without recipes so it has been hard to be disciplined and instruct someone else. Hopefully the recipes are clear. The ingredients shouldn't be that hard to find but with Indian cuisine you can always mix and match. Let me know if you have any queries or comments.

This is my first go at writing cooking instructions so be kind.

Come back when you have tried them and vote for your favourite!

In the next instalment I will bring you the delights of South Indian tomato rice, vegetable rice, and yoghurt rice...

Which of the three Recipes is your favourite?

See results without voting

Comments 23 comments

richtwf profile image

richtwf 5 years ago

A very impressive hub my friend. A top-drawer presentation indeed!

I love rice and I love Indian and Sri Lankan food too. Spicy food I adore and this hub makes me miss my wife's spicy cooking!

Great job and God bless you!

P.S. This one is on my desktop for future reference and also did a little tab-tap on your keys!


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK Author

Thank you my friend. Hope you enjoy the recipes! Bless you.


Palak Verma profile image

Palak Verma 5 years ago from Sunnyvale

Good post and mouth watering pictures must say!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Docmo, great hub. I am cooking biryani for tea tomorrow after work, we love it. Of yours here, I would prefer the coconut rice cos I just love the flavour but I also love cashews in rice, they are a crunchy addition and I always enjoy my Indian (but usually Bagladeshi in my town actually) rice at a restaurant; I have never been able to copy it at home!


DanaTeresa profile image

DanaTeresa 4 years ago from Ohio

These look fantastic. For years I was afraid to cook anything besides instant rice. Then I discovered how easy it is! My favorites are Basmati rice and Jasmine rice. These recipes look great. I cannot eat wheat, so I eat a lot of rice and I am always looking for ways to add some variety. Thanks for the ideas.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

I am also partial to the coconut rice with its lovely flavours. A good biriyani is heavenly, especially when its a 'hyderabadi dum biriyani' with its tender meat and smoked flavours. all this talk of recipes aint doing me much good as I am trying to shed the few extra pounds gained from the wonderful food we ate on the cruise! Thanks Julie.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Dana, I am sure you'll enjoy these recipes. They are good both with fresh rice and also if you have left over steamed rice. Basmati lends itself nicely to these recipes too.


kelleyward 4 years ago

Wow this is a great hub Docmo! I'm trying the coconut rice it's sounds amazing! Take care, Kelley


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Mohan (Docmo),

I accompanied my boyfriend on a business trip to India several years ago. This article brought back memories of the time I spent there...eating in the five-star hotel's wonderful restaurants and spending hours in the hotel gym in an attempt to burn up the calories I consumed.

Thanks for publishing this very interesting article. I'd like to see you write more vegetarian food-related Hubs.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

Kelley- thank you glad you liked the recipes.

Daisy- it is good that you've been to India and tried the local authentic cuisine- there are so many flavours and varieties in the Indian subcontinent due to the influences from different cultures. I'll try to do more of my mum's recipes.


Cathleena Beams profile image

Cathleena Beams 4 years ago from Lascassas, Tennessee

Docmo - My mouth was watering as I read this hub. All three recipes sound delightful. I think I will try the lemon rice first as the color is so appealing to me and I also love green chilies. I have had rice dishes with saffron to make them yellow before and didn't realize that you can also use turmeric powder. This is an excellent hub, voting up, useful, awesome, interesting and also sharing!


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK Author

Thank you Cathleena. The turmeric adds nice color and also is good for overall health. These 'variety rices' form a nice colorful addition to the table too apart from being scrumptious!


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

I am always looking for something to make rice different. Thank you for the recipes. Will be doing the lemon rice one day this week.

I am not impressed with rice cookers either, prefer the old fashioned way


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

The coconut rice recipe sounds yummy! I like coconut everything!! UP and Pinned!


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

I think I like the last one Tamarind Rice.. but I love rice I will try all of them..

Debbie


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Mohan (Docmo),

Happy August 26th Birthday!

I've returned to reread and share your recipes. Speaking as a vegetarian, I thank you for publishing this article.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I love rice! My two favorite places, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica are really big on rice. They have it 3 times a day in different forms. My kids won't eat it, though. One of my favorite dishes is rice pudding. Bet you'd like that. It's just left over rice, sugar, milk and eggs.

I voted this Hub, up, etc.


ishwaryaa22 profile image

ishwaryaa22 4 years ago from Chennai, India

A wonderfully-written hub about South-Indian rice dishes! I like all of them and I voted tamarind rice as the favorite in your poll. Your instructions are clearly explained with drool-worthy photos! My most favorite rice dishes are tomato rice and mutton biryani prepared in South Indian-Tamil style. Looking forward to your next installment! Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Awesome. Voted up & Socially Shared


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Mohan (Docmo),

It isn't easy finding great recipes for my vegetarian / vegan household. I came to refer to your recipes again. I'd love to see more of your mother's recipes on HubPages.


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Docmo, I would go for Lemon rice in a heartbeat!! Thanks for sharing these lovely recipes, which I share and pin.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

I am with midget! I would go for the lemon rice in a second! Thank you!!


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom

Memories :)

I love yoghurt rice too! These are all my favourites. Lemon rice used to be a lunch box and picnic food! Thank you for sharing this! Voted up and sharing!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

You've hit the target on this one. Two of my favorite foods in the world, rice and cashews! I must admit I eat rice every day. It doesn't take away from other foods and if I put gravy on it, well you know what happens.

I am really going to try these recipes but I must admit the coconut looks the best to me. Thanks for these.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

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