Easy, quick to make and delicious Lemon Rice or Elumicham Sadam from cooked rice and lemon juice with peanuts and a simple tempering of mustard seeds, chilies, channa dal, ginger, turmeric and curry leaves in sesame oil. A traditional South Indian favourite whose flavour is enhanced by using the juice of a King Lime, Bengal's Gondhoraj Lebu.
Most often when I order Vegetables online, the lemons that are supplied are small and rather pathetic. I am really happy when the veggies delivered include large lemons from which juice is easily squeezed, and I find many different ways to utilize them. Last week however I had half of a Gondhoraj Lebu on hand and decided to use it for a quick flavoured rice lunch.
As it is difficult to source Gondhoraj Lebu in Bangalore (or has been till recently) I considered that using Gondhoraj Lime for a rice dish is a waste, and it is better used in traditional Bengali food like Masoor Dal. I realise now that this gorgeous King Lime adds so much more pep and zing to our simple traditional lemon rice. And it is so filled with flavour that you need less juice than that from a regular lemon.
Lemon Rice - It's Many Uses
When we were young, long train journeys were the order of the day, as we vacationed in Tamil Nadu, far away from our home at Kharagpur. One of the invariable dishes that my Mom made and packed for these journeys, was lemon rice or elumicham sadam which she packed in banana leaves into individual parcels. A bag full of broken papad pieces added to the enjoyment of lunch or dinner! I continue to follow this tradition of packing the rice along with tamarind rice and curd rice for train journeys or when traveling a long distance by road. Potatoes diced small and sauteed to perfection (see link to recipe below), are the best accompaniment.
It is popular for packing in the Lunch Box as it is delicious even several hours after it has been made.
It also comes in useful on days when the weather is hot and humid and you don't want to spend much time in the kitchen.
Apart from being a go to for lunch or dinner, it is one of the popular bhog/ naivedya offered to the Gods at festival time and a perfect addition to festival lunch too.
Lemon rice again came to my rescue, when we had to leave home very early on days when my husband had to undergo chemo at a hospital an hours ride from home. It was easy to make and stayed fresh the whole day, and was further, it one of the few foods he was able to eat with some relish during those difficult times, perking up the appetite with its tangy fresh flavours.
Rice: This dish packs a lot of flavour by itself, so a short grained rice is best rather than an aromatic basmati. I use a locally available brand of kollam/ 'bullet' raw rice and it looks and tastes just perfect.
Lemon Juice: Regular lemon is great. If you can lay your hands on Gondhoraj Lebu though, I recommend you try it. As explained in the recipe below, add a little juice to the rice to begin with. Taste and add more as required. The flavour of lemon should dominate the dish.
I like the way Jamie Oliver squeezes lemons, using his fingers as a strainer so he holds the seeds back. When I do it with one hand, however, one or two seeds do manage to slip past my finger guard, and then need to be fished out with a spoon! Squeezing with one hand and straining the juice through the fingers of the other hand, works well though! (Check it out on Jamie's Wednesday Wisdom One Minute Tips on "how to get the most out of your lemons.")
Salt: Use Table salt and add it to the tempering after turning off the stove, as in the recipe below. It will be easier to distribute it throughout rather than when directly adding to the rice. Go easy on the salt and then add a little more while tasting, if you need it.
Other Recipes You May Like:
Lemon Rice with Gondhoraj Lebu Juice
For Lemon Rice
- 2 cups Raw rice short grained rice is best
- 3 tablespoons Lemon juice for Gondhoraj Lebu Juice 2 tablespoons; Other lemon juice 3 tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons Gingelly Oil/ Til Oil
- ¼ cup Raw peanuts shelled. To be fried together with another ¼ cup noted below for garnish
- ½ teaspoon Kadugu/ rai/ mustard seeds
- ¼ teaspoon Vendhayam seeds/ Methi seeds / Fenugreek seeds
- ¼ teaspoon Kadalai paruppu/ Channa dal / Split Bengal Gram lentils
- 1 Green chilli sliced
- 1 teaspoon Ginger About 2 cm piece, minced
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
- 10 Curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon Salt or to taste
For the garnish:
- 1 tablespoon coriander leaves
- ¼ cup raw peanuts shelled
Cook The Rice
- Cook the rice in a pressure cooker for one whistle, using just sufficient water for it to cook. The rice grains should be separate and whole, and not mushy.
- Once the cooker cools enough by itself, remove and spread the rice on a wide plate, so that the grains remain separate. Allow rice to cool.
Preparation: While the rice cooks
- Squeeze juice from lemon, discard the seeds. If Gondhoraj Lime is available, it gives great flavour to the lemon rice. Alternatively, regular lemon may be used.
- Slice the chili and tear the curry leaves into bits. Mince cilantro leaves and Ginger
- Heat the oil, sauté all the peanuts on medium (¼ cup for adding to the rice, ¼ cup for the garnish, i.e. totally about ½ cup) for about 2 minutes till they begin darken and to split. Remove fried peanuts (after draining the oil back into the pan, using a slotted ladle) and transfer the peanuts to a dry heatproof bowl.
- To the remaining oil, add mustard seeds, let them crackle. One by one, add fenugreek seeds, channa dal, sliced green chilies, minced ginger, turmeric powder and curry leaves, giving each a few seconds to sauté.
- Switch off the stove and add salt to the tempering, stirring gently so it dissolves. You could add the salt directly to the cooked rice, but it's difficult to spread it evenly into the rice. Adding salt to the oil helps to mix it uniformly into the rice, but add it sparingly. You can always add more salt later on if required, rather than adding excess salt at this stage.
Making Lemon Rice
- Pour the tempering with the oil into the rice along with half the lemon juice. Mix well but gently, into the rice till the yellow of the turmeric covers every grain and there are no lumps or grains of white rice.Taste for salt and for tanginess, adding more salt or more lemon juice as required. The taste of the lemon should be dominant.
- Roughly Crush (without powdering it) half the fried peanuts with a pestle and mix into the prepared rice.Transfer the lemon rice to a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining fried peanuts and with coriander leaves.
- Serve with roasted or fried South Indian appalam, or pappad or with chips. Fried potatoes, sliced into small cubes makes a great accompaniment.
- The lemon rice may be served hot or after several hours. It can serve well as a packed lunch for school or office or for a train or car journey.