Tomato Rice (Tamatar Biryani) Recipe on Food52

Serves a Crowd

Tomato Rice (Tamatar Biryani)

November  2, 2010
5 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Author Notes

We made this rice for Raghavan Iyer—Cookbook Author, Magazine Writer, Culinary Educator—and I'm thanking him for writing this recipe. - pauljoseph

Test Kitchen Notes

We are in love with pauljoseph's Tomato Rice—it's loaded with aromatics and layers of heat but so easily made for a simple side or lunch. With pauljoseph and Raghavan Iyer's precise instructions, the rice comes out perfectly cooked and soaked through with the flavorful tomato broth. You can vary the spice with the type of chiles you choose (Thai are much spicier than serrano), and whether you remove the seeds and heat-packed white ribs—bear in mind that the spice will continue to build as you eat. If you can't find whole mace, substitute 1/8 tsp ground mace or even skip it and let the other spices carry the dish. - A&M

—The Editors

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6
  • 1 cup Indian or Pakistani white basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee or butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 6 green or white cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (each 3 inches long)
  • 2 blades mace
  • 1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon shredded fresh ginger
  • 4 medium-size cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 or 3 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, cut lengthwise into thin strips (do not remove the seeds)
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
In This Recipe
  1. Place the rice in a medium-size bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with water, to cover the rice. Gently rub the slender grains through your fingers, without breaking them, to wash off any dust or light foreign objects (like loose husks), which will float to the surface. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now fill the bowl halfway with cold water and let it sit at room temperature until the kernels soften, 20 to 30 minutes; drain.
  2. Heat the ghee in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and mace. Cook until they sizzle, crackle, and smell aromatic, 15 to 30 seconds. Then add the onion and stir-fry until it is light brown around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Mix in the ginger, garlic, and chiles. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. (You don't want the garlic to brown because its nutlike crunch is important to the rice's texture.) Stir in the tomatoes, with their juices, and the sea salt and turmeric. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften, 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Add the drained rice and toss gently to coat the grains with the tomato sauce. Pour in 1 1/2 cups water, and stir once to incorporate the ingredients. Bring to a boil, still over medium-high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated from the surface and craters are starting to appear in the rice, 5 to 8 minutes. Then (and not until then) stir once to bring the partially cooked layer from the bottom of the pan to the surface. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes (10 minutes for a gas burner). Then turn off the heat and let the pan stand on that burner, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve. (Remove the cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks before you serve it, or just remind folks to eat around them.)
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Regine
  • Cowpscowper
  • Bluejade
  • sevenfaces
  • kimberly.godwin

    122 Reviews

    Kate B. June 4, 2019
    I made it to the recipe only substituting dried instead of fresh mace which I've never seen in any speciality grocer. Delicious!!! My husband had seconds and thirds. The left overs will be superb as a side to tomorrow's fish
    Regine September 11, 2018
    Let me also add that for me this recipe, at least in my "rice lover" household, cannot be 6 servings but at the most 3. :D)
    Regine September 11, 2018
    I made this last night but used only dashes of (actually, several of each) powdered clove, cardamom and cinnamon because this is what I had on hand. My rice came out exactly like in the 2nd picture. It is quite tasty but I had to add a bit more salt to the liquids (which I tasted after I added the rice). It also took me 20 not 10 minutes on my gas oven (with the tight fitting lid) for the rice to be fully cooked. I do agree with Cowpscowper; raita would be good with this rice. Thanks for the recipe.
    SoInconvenient June 28, 2018
    We made this tonight and were so thrilled with the result. We didn't have any mace, so we subbed in a few dashes of nutmeg. We made a side of Nigel Slater's spinach with ginger, garlic and garam masala (whole recipe is in the title) and are so content and full and happy.
    Brenda May 14, 2015
    I cannot give enough praise to this recipe. It is so yummy...I made it last night and i am still thinking about it. I added broccoli to this dish, but would like to try adding tofu next time as well. :)
    Cowpscowper April 14, 2015
    This one's a keeper! I will continue to make this throughout my life: it's that tasty. Aromatic and flavorful. Spicy and sweet. I threw in some chicken. And made some raita on the side. Thanks for the wonderful recipe! :)
    Bluejade November 24, 2014
    This is pretty good. I used ground spices instead of the whole spices because I just don't buy them. I did not use the spicy peppers. I substituted with chopping up fresh red bell pepper and a small amount of red pepper flakes. That was fine for us. This recipe, as is, must be really hot. Altho the recipe is not tedious and it came together within according to the directions, it is not exactly simple. Worth trying.
    sevenfaces September 6, 2014
    This was great. I'm a big fan of spanish rice - rice cooked in tomatoes - so I knew I would like this too. I counted the number of cloves and cardamom pods I put in so I knew when I had picked them all out and could serve it at the table with confidence!
    kimberly.godwin March 23, 2014
    I made this last weekend. Quite good. I used 2 Serrano chilies, but think I should have used 3. (I like a bit more kick.) I even found mace! I did run out of turmeric so I had to do without. I will definitely make this again, and make sure I have turmeric on hand next go round.
    Angel January 26, 2014
    This was very good!! Will make again for sure. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your achievement!
    TS October 29, 2013
    I made this for dinner tonight along with some pan-fried padron peppers from my garden - delicious. This is definitely a keeper!
    Ham July 20, 2013
    This turned out fantastic. I made it with three serrano chiles and fearfully removed about 3/4 of the seeds. Not necessary! The heat was extremely mild, so next time I will keep the seeds in at least two of the chiles. I also threw 1/4 cup of peas in just after the "crater" step which I thought worked well. I will absolutely make this again.
    za'atar July 8, 2013
    This dish has such wonderful flavor. I needed to use up some Thai jasmine rice and didn't have any basmati on hand, so my end result was a little gloppy, but we still loved it. Looking forward to making it again soon with the proper rice.
    rupal November 14, 2013
    za'atar, incase you dont have basmati rice or you unsure about the right amount of water to put in for boiling rice so that it doesnt get mushy, you can first boil rice separately in a pan in good amount of water n once you feel the rice is cooked just fine you can remove from the stove and can drain excess water using a sieve...hope that helps :)
    rupal November 14, 2013
    and later u can mix this rice with the rest of the cooked ingredients and can let it warm of couple of mins on the stove.
    HaLi H. May 15, 2013
    I made this before and we loved it! If I want to double the recipe, do I need to add 2 cans of tomatoes?
    piacere March 29, 2013
    Fantastic aroma filled our home when this was cooking. Great fun to try the new rise rinsing and soaking techinique too. Wonderful flavors and rice texture in the finished dish. The only drawback was needing to eat around the spices. Cinammon sticks could be easily removed. The cardamom pods virtually disintegrated and so did the mace blades so no worries there either. Avoiding the cloves was a bit trickier. :-)
    [email protected] March 2, 2013
    i just made it and it reminds me of home cooked food in India!
    Jann August 28, 2012
    Made this for my cooking club and Indian Night and it was very good. My husband loved it the next night with black beans! Really tasty recipe. Thank you.
    dymnyno August 27, 2012
    It's great to see this recipe featured! I can hardly wait for my trip to India this December.
    Author Comment
    pauljoseph August 27, 2012
    Please don't forget to visit us when you are in Kerala,India
    Author Comment
    pauljoseph August 27, 2012
    Please don't forget to visit us when you are in Kerala,India
    Author Comment
    pauljoseph August 27, 2012
    Please don't forget to visit us when you are in Kerala,India
    Z June 29, 2020
    @pauljoseph did you mean to brown the garlic instead of do not brown?
    ubs2007 January 13, 2012
    Incredible! "Wow...this is amazing" said my 4 yr old. I'm Indian so I've always been skeptical about Indian recipes. This recipe was scrumptious, authentic (at least the way my Kashmiri mother use to make it). Thank you very much for the meticulously detailed, delicous recipe...may be one day I'll enhance my repertoire of northern Indian dishes:)
    Author Comment
    pauljoseph January 17, 2012
    Thank you for your comment
    Author Comment
    pauljoseph January 17, 2012
    Thank you for your comment
    JSaez October 11, 2011
    Wow! Fabulous. I made this recipe today and it was so good. I even used brown rice instead and still amazing. Thank you!