This post is dedicated to H.U.G – Humane Universal Good Deed Network, who had undertaken to generate and distribute 200,000 meals for the needy and the underprivileged at Bangalore, during the Daan Utsav between 2nd and 8th October 2016. A menu had been fixed, with simple rice items which could be easily cooked even in large quantities in the micro kitchens being established, and by volunteers who were to help in this endeavor. Follow H.U.G and the hashtag #HUGFeedWithLove, on Facebook to know more about the event. One of the items on the menu is a Puliyodharai or Tamarind Rice, and here is my recipe for preparation of the same.
During my student days, specially when I was studying to become a Chartered Accountant, I was a frequent visitor to neighboring temples (well, lots of exams and so lots of prayers too!) The temples in Chennai where I then lived, were generous with their Prasadams ( the delicious foods offered as naivedhiyam to the deities and then distributed to the devotees.) As children, my cousins and I would wait patiently in the queue for our turn to receive a donnai (a environmentally friendly cup made of dried leaves) full of prasadam, and would crane our necks trying to figure out what was the prasadam of the day. The sweet sakkaripongal, dripping with ghee was a big favourite, but the spicy Puliyodharai (spiced tamarind rice) was a close second. My parents often made huge batches of prasadam at home, to offer at the Temple, and my mother’s Puliyodharai was outstanding in taste.
The day the prasadam was to be made, the house would be redolent with the aroma of the Pulikachal (mix of chillis and spices sauteed in hot oil) in progress, the oil and the spices and the sharp smell of chilies frying. I loved the fragrance of sesame seeds when they were added to the gingelly (sesame) oil which was the only oil used to make the pulikachal. Offerings to the Gods could not of course, be tasted before hand, so we had to wait like everyone else for the pooja to be completed at the temple, and to stand in the queue for our turn to receive the Puliyodharai prasadam. Once back home there would be a container full of surplus pulikachal, ready to be feasted on for a week or so at least.
Puliyodharai , made from Pulikachal mixed with rice, and with appalams (pappad) or chips were an integral part of train journeys in those days. Mother would stir some of the pulikachal mix into a large quantity of rice, add a little sesame oil, check the taste for seasonings, and when done, would tuck the Puliyodharai into individual packets of banana leaves in turn wrapped in newspapers and with a rubber band apiece to hold the packet intact. Train journeys would usually be for at least a night and a day, often for 2 nights. The packets of puliyodharai , lemon rice and curd rice would remain fresh for at least 2 meals, and somehow, tasted even better after several hours into the journey.
Here then is my recipe for Pulikachal, slightly modified from my mothers recipe. I made a batch today, and have already made inroads into this delicious spicy mix, for lunch. The pulikachal can normally be used for upto 10 days if kept in the fridge in tightly closed jar, and if it is ensured that only a dry spoon is used and no moisture/ water is permitted ingress into the jar.
Apart from making the tamarind rice or Puliyodharai , the pulikachal may be used as a side with curd rice and goes well with chapatis too.
Check out the recipe and do tell me how your Puliyodharai turned out and whether you made any changes !
Pulikachal - Spiced Tamarind Chilli Paste for Tamarind Rice or Puliyodharai
Ingredients for Puliyodharai Tamarind Rice
- 3 cups rice - Cooked
- 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
- to taste salt
To Roast and Powder
- 1 tablespoon black gram - Split (split Uradh dhal)
- 1 tablespoon bengal gram - (Chana dhal)
- 5 chillis - Dry Red
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek - (Methi seeds)
- 2 tablespoons Coriander seeds - (Dhania seeds)
- 1 teaspoon Sesame seeds - (Til)
- 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds - (Rai/ kadugu)
- 2 tablespoons curry leaves
- 1 tablespoon black gram split - (split Uradh dhal/ uluttham paruppu)
- 1 tablespoon bengal gram - (Chana dhal/ kadala paruppu)
- 10 dry red chilies
- 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida - (Hing/ perungaiyam)
- 2 tablespoons peanuts
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder - (Haldi/ manjal podi)
- 1 tamarind - (lemon sized ball)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
How To Make the Pulikachal Tamarind mix
- Soak the tamarind in 2 cups of warm water (warm water is fine, don't use boiling hot water). Set aside till required. It usually takes 5-10 minutes for the tamarind to soften enough for the juice to be extracted.
- Measure out all the ingredients, checking that the spices and condiments are dry. Roast (on a dry pan) separately, each of the ingredients listed out as "To Roast and Powder", as below.
- Roast the methi/ fenugreek for about 10 seconds on a hot pan, and transfer to a dry bowl. Roast the dhals for about 10 seconds and transfer to the same bow.
- Roast the red chillies for about 20 seconds and transfer to the bowl. Roast the coriander seeds for about 10 seconds, after all the above, as coriander tends to leave a residue in the pan. Transfer the coriander to the bowl, wipe out the pan.
- Roast the sesame seeds quickly for 10 seconds or before they darken. Sesame can burn very fast, and splutters in the hot pan, so keep the flame on low and remove quickly. Add it to the pan. Let the roasted ingredients cool, and then grind to a fine powder. Set aside till required.
- Heat the pan/ kadai and add sesame (gingelly oil). Other oils such as sunflower oil may be used, but sesame oil will give the authentic taste. Do not however use coconut oil, mustard oil and other oils with distinctive smell and flavour.
- When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and let them burst. Keep the pan on low flame.
- Add curry leaves. If the curry leaves are fresh, stand back as they may splutter.
- Add Chana dhal and split uradh dhal, saute for 10 seconds. Add Turmeric powder, sauté for 5 seconds
- Add Red chillies, saute for 20 seconds, stirring so the chillies do not char (blacken).
- Add the peanuts, saute for 20 seconds. Peanuts have a tendency to burst when added to hot oil.
- Meanwhile, extract the juice of the tamarind, by taking the ball of tamarind out of the water and squeezing out any left over juice. Strain to remove any seeds or bits of tamarind fibre from the water. Discard the fibre.
- Add the tamarind water/ extract to the pan of spices. If using readymade tamarind extract, use about 1 tablespoon of paste and mix in warm water.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, add the roasted spice powder. Lower the flame, add salt. I add only a little salt to the paste, and then add more when I'm mixing with rice for Puliyodharai.
- Turn off the stove when the consistency is that of a thick paste.
How To make the Puliyodharai
- Take the cooked rice in a wide bowl. Add sesame oil and a little salt. Mix gently so that the rice does not break or get mashed.
- Add some pulikachal and mix it into the rice. Taste the Puliyodharai and add more pulikachal or salt as may be required to your taste.
- Serve with appalam (papad) or vadams to accompany. I served this with microwaved appalams instead of frying them as I usually do.