Puliyodarai – Tamil Iyengar Style (Tamarind Rice)

Srilatha Indian, South Indian Leave a Comment

Ah! What can I say about puliyodarai that hasn’t been said. It’s a kind of mixed rice, what we call “kalanda sadam” in thamizh. The gravy that it’s mixed with is made up of tamarind extract and a spice mix that has chana dal, red chilies, coriander seeds, a little bit of black pepper, and most importantly, sesame seeds. These spices are toasted in a bit of oil, preferably sesame, and made into a powder. The tamarind juice is boiled with a bit of oil, hing, chana dal, red chilies, and curry leaves and made into a thick paste – this is called pulikachal. It’s then mixed with rice, a bit of the spice powder, and tempered with more hing, curry leaves, and roasted peanuts. Heaven! It’s a very popular prasad in many temples, travels really well, and is part of the meal on one of the pongal days along with coconut rice, and yogurt rice, and fried papads, vathals. The most important thing to note about puliyodarai is that it needs sesame oil, and sesame oil only. None other will do if you want authentic puliyodarai.
This specific version is the Iyengar version as I’ve learned. The Iyer version stops with making the puli gravy with chilies, curry leaves, methi powder and hing. At that stage, it can be mixed with rice and eaten. The Iyengar version goes one step further and adds this beautiful spice powder, the dominant flavor there being sesame seeds.
To summarize, there are 3 steps in making puliyodarai:
1. Make the pulikachal paste (this will stay in the refrigerator for a couple of months, so make a good quantity)
2. Make the spice powder
3. Make the rice, and mix, add tempering

Mirch Ka Salan

Srilatha Indian, Main Dish Leave a Comment

A complex dish with an unusual combination of spices, souring agents, and the star vegetable that’s actually a condiment! I have made bhaghare baingan which is very similar, but made with eggplant/brinjal. This year, I am getting a bounty of slim, long green chilies in my garden and was searching online for suitable new recipes, and ran into this. I have never actually had this dish in a restaurant but decided to make it, since we love bhagare baingan.
While looking for recipes, I did some research on the origins of the dish, and came across the fascinating story of how green chilies made their way into India. Hard to believe, but they are not native to India, considering how much every cuisine of India uses them, and how seamlessly integrated they seem, as to make one think they are native to India. Nope, just like tomatoes, they were brought to India by the Portuguese, specifically the famous Vasco da Gama who brought the saplings wrapped in moss as a gift — he picked them up from Spain, Brazil and Africa! In return, he took home the precious black gold, aka pepper!
Read all about how they made their way into Akbar’s and all the kitchens of India in this story:
http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/food-wine/food-story-the-saga-of-mirch-ka-salan/
By the way, I learned that Akbar was a staunch vegetarian! Wonders never cease, and Akbar continues to amaze me. This dish, with the influence of Karnataka, Telengana, and Marathwada cuisines, apparently appealed to Akbar’s “unifying Hindustan” sensitibilites. I love food stories! On to the recipe now.