Aromatic Rice-Palau the Pakistani way

November 24, 2009

Author Notes:

The fragrance of this rice reminds me of my mother. I remember seeing her as a child, in the kitchen with the household staff, cutting onions, spices all lined up next to her on the countertop, requesting me to leave the kitchen because the onions would make my eyes water. When I make this rice it transports me back to my childhood in Lagos, Nigeria, where my mother served this dish very often at dinner parties hosting 30+ persons. This rice, cooked in caramelised onions and fragrant spices, makes it a go-to dish whenever I have a supper at home. I serve it alongside a chicken curry and lentils.


Serves: 4
Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 40 min


  • 2 cups Basmati
  • 4 tablespoons oil, preferably sunflower
  • 1 medium-sized onion, sliced paper-thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 black cardamom (available at Indo-Pak stores)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper corns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
  • 3 cups hot water
In This Recipe


  1. You will need a heavy-bottomed pan for this dish to prevent the rice from scorching, (or you could use a non-stick pot). Heat oil on medium-heat and add onions. Allow onions to caramelise- they should turn very dark brown and golden. You may need to add a few more drops of oil as the onions caramelise. Don't be afraid to let the onions darken a great deal. This is what will give the finshed product it's golden hue.
  2. Next saute the spices to draw out their aromas: add the black cardamom, cumin seeds, cloves, black pepper corns, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and bay leaf and sauté for 3-5 minutes, till fragrant.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the rice, salt and hot water (not boiling).
  4. Give it a whirl and place a tea towel and lid on top, to prevent the steam from escaping. (My mother would often place a brick on top.)
  5. Let it simmer on low heat for 18-20 minutes. (If using an electric burner, you may wish to transfer the pot to a burner on low heat, as the coil takes time to cool down and may scorch the rice).
  6. Allow the rice to rest for 15 minutes before decanting it with a wide-rimmed spatula or teacup saucer.

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Reviews (4) Questions (0)

4 Reviews

Nadz February 3, 2019
I tried these out and they came out looking beautiful compared how I always made them over the years, so thank you
Salah December 18, 2018
Lovely....I prepared first time rice .. It turned out that I am hell of a cheff..bravo
Dawn N. December 23, 2017
Yes! This is exactly the same as the Pakistani restaurant! MMMMM! Thank you!
Busybee123 September 13, 2017
Delicious! I was looking for a fragrant rice recipe after being served some by a Pakistani friend. This was a perfect match. Thank you, Shayma!