Tamarind rice has to be the most popular of all the ‘Chitrannam’ in Tamil cuisine. See more about Chitrannam here. There are over 100 different ways to make this, but my favorite is “Kovil PuLiyorai” or tamarind rice made in temples. It is the most common prasadam (offering to God) distributed in South Indian Temples.
Puliyorai can be made two ways: one, you make a paste out of tamarind and other spices, cook it down, and mix it with cooked rice. But the normal method for temples is to cook rice with tamarind and turmeric, make dry spice mix, and mix everything together. I follow the second method, because it’s much tastier and far simpler.
Uncooked Raw long-grain white rice – 1 cup
Tamarind paste – 1/2 tablespoon
Turmeric powder – 1/2 teaspoon
For the spice mix
Fenugreek seeds – 1 teaspoon
Black sesame seeds – 1 1/2 teaspoon
Urad dal (white lentil) – 1 1/2 tablespoon
Whole dried red chilies – 4 – 6 (depends on how spicy you like it, cut it back even further if you like it mild)
Black pepper corn – 1 teaspoon
Coriander seeds – 1 tablespoon
Mustard seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
Urad dal – 1 tablespoon
Channa dal – 1 tablespoon
Whole unsalted peanuts/cashewnuts (optional) – 1/4 cup
Fresh curry leaves – 6- 8
Gingelly oil – 2 tablespoons
Salt, to taste
1. Cook rice with 2 cups of water, the tamarind paste and turmeric in the normal way you cook rice. Don’t overcook it. Spread it out on a cookie sheet/large pan, so the rice grains don’t stick to one another.
2. Dry roast black sesame seeds and fenugreek seeds in a pan. Roast the rest of the spice mix ingredients in a bit of oil. Cool them down and grind to a powder in a blender/coffee gridner (Grind all the spices except the sesame seeds first, and then add the sesame seeds at the end and spin the mixer again. Because of their high oil content, the sesame seeds won’t let the other spices grind well).
3. Heat the gingelly oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds. Once they have spluttered, add the urad dal, channa dal, and peanuts/cashew nuts. Once they are golden brown, turn off the heat, and add the curry leaves.
4. Add the tempered oil, ground spice mix and salt to cooked rice. Mix well and serve with papaddam (or yogurt).
1. Gingelly oil is made from Sesame seeds, but it’s different from the sesame oil used in Oriental cuisine. That’s roasted sesame seed oil, but gingelly oil (or til oil) is pressed from raw sesame seeds. If you cannot find it, use any vegetable oil.
2. Tamarind rice tastes even better the next day!