Jeera rice can range from the very simple—literally a spoonful of frizzled cumin seeds stirred into rice—to more elaborate variations including fried onions and cashews. This version lies somewhere in between, plain enough to play second fiddle to a robust dish, but flavorful enough to stand on its own with nothing but a bowl and a spoon for company. The recipe incorporates a foundational tenet of Indian cuisine, tadka (aka thalimpu, chaunk, or vagarne): blooming spices in hot fat to awaken them while also perfuming the oil. Most flavor compounds in spices and herbs are fat-soluble, so the ghee or oil carries the flavor through the dish. (Butter would burn during the prolonged high-heat cooking common in Indian cuisine.) My first choice of rice here is a good-quality basmati (I like Daawat or Tilda brands); failing that, jasmine rice makes an excellent stand-in. Jeera rice will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 4 days. Reheat in a loosely covered bowl in the microwave, or in a skillet over medium heat. —Shilpa Uskokovic
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
ghee or vegetable oil
small yellow onion, thinly sliced
large garlic cloves, peeled and grated
grated fresh ginger
serrano chile (or other hot green chile), thinly sliced
cooked long-grain rice, preferably day-old
finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
finely chopped fresh mint leaves
roasted cashews, preferably unsalted, roughly chopped
- In a heavy large pot over medium heat, melt the ghee. When it shimmers, add the cumin seeds (they should sizzle and pop immediately). Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and pale golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and chile. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with ¼ cup of water, scraping the bottom to remove any stuck-on bits. Season with salt to taste.
- Add the rice, cilantro, mint, and cashews. Continue to cook over low heat, tossing constantly, until the rice is warmed through, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.