Tangy Tamarind Rice- A Traditional South-Indian Recipe

By Shweta Ganapati
July 24, 2018
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Author Notes: When I think umami, I can almost taste the irresistibly savory notes if this tamarind based recipe. This dish is a popular "portable" food for picnics and train journeys in south India, because it tastes just as good at room temperature as it does piping hot! I have childhood memories of sneaking out left-overs from the fridge and enjoying it chilled on hot summer days in Delhi. The cooked tamarind paste lasts for weeks in the fridge and can be mixed into freshly cooked white rice for a quick meal, which can be supplemented with a side of salted yogurt with cucumbers in it to cut through the heat of the dish. Crispy potato or lentil chips are popular accompaniments to provide some texture to the meal. I have adapted my mom's recipe here, and made some changes to use ingredients which are easily available in american grocery stores. Shweta Ganapati

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min

Tamarind Paste and Cooked Rice

  • 6 tablespoons Gingelly (sesame) oil (can be substituted with vegetable oil)
  • 0.5 teaspoons Mustard seeds
  • 1 Whole dried red chili (can be omitted if unavailable)
  • 10 Curry leaves (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons Peanut halves
  • 3 tablespoons Quartered cashews
  • 3 tablespoons Tamarind pulp
  • 1 teaspoon Tahini paste (optional)
  • 0.5 teaspoons Turmeric powder or grated fresh turmeric
  • 0.5 teaspoons Asafoetida powder (available at Whole Foods Market and all Indian Stores)
  • 1.5 teaspoons Salt (add more after tasting cooked paste, if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon Powdered jaggery or sugar
  • 1.5 cups White rice (basmati or a variety that does not become sticky)

Spice Powder

  • 1 teaspoon Dry coriander (cilantro) seeds or cilantro powder
  • 1 Dried red chili broken into thirds or chili flakes (1 tsp)
  • 1 tablespoon Peanut halves (without skin)
  1. Start by cooking the white rice with 3 cups of water in a rice cooker or in a covered pot over the stove- as you prefer. Once the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes), spread it out on a large tray, drizzle about 3 tbsp of gingelly or vegetable oil, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. For the spice powder, add the three ingredients listed to a large pan set to medium heat and dry roast them until the peanuts turn brown and you can smell the nutty aromas (do not char). Transfer this to a glass bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature before adding it to a blender or coffee grinder to grind to a powder (it's okay to have a few coarsely ground peanut bits in the powder).
  3. Next, to make the tamarind paste, add 3 tbsp of gingelly oil to a frying pan or wok and set to medium heat. After about 1 minute add the mustard seeds (they will sputter indicating that the oil is hot enough).
  4. Add the dried red chili broken in half, whole curry leaves, peanut halves, and quartered cashews and fry until the nuts are golden (do not char).
  5. Turn off the heat and add all the remaining ingredients (except the cooked rice) listed for the tamarind paste, plus 2/3 cup water. Give this mixture a stir, and turn the heat back on to medium.
  6. Allow the tamarind paste to cook until you see the oil separating from the pulp (about 20 minutes), and then turn the heat off.
  7. To the cooled rice, add the tamarind paste and sprinkle the spice powder (start by mixing in half the tamarind paste and half the spice powder and add more of each according to how spicy/ flavorful you like your food to be). Add some salt at this stage if needed, and mix well. Enjoy the tangy hit of umami!

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