ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Spice up your Rice #1: South Indian Variety Rice

Updated on November 13, 2015
Docmo profile image

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler with an interest in etymology.

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.


  • 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


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.


  • 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


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.


  • 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


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

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)