If I had to choose just one dish to eat the rest of my life, this might well be it. I l.o.v.e pulihora, every bit of it - the tangy tamarind, the crunchy peanuts and dals and rice, O rice! whats not to love in this divine combo. And rightly so it is served in all the temples in Southern India as the Lord's prasadam (gift). The play of textures and flavors plays a huge role in this simple dish. I used to love gobbling up the tiny handful that was passed on after the Darshan(offering prayers) at temples. I would eat up my share and then wait for my parents to give me their share too, the things parents will do for their kids! J) There is something magical about the pulihora served at temples which can never be found in the ones made at home. When I was in Cleveland, I got to visit the Shiva-Vishnu Temple at Pittsburgh quite often and after the wonderful darshan I would pick up a couple of pulihora boxes at the canteen. A perfect treat after the early morning 2hr drive and darshan.
Pulihora, simply put, is rice flavored with a tart/sour ingredient, tempered with mild spices, roasted peanuts & lentils. The main flavor component could come from tamarind, lemon, mango or sorrel leaves - they are all fabulous. Every cook has a special recipe for it, and doing the rounds during the festival time with my mom was fun as I would get to taste quite a few pulihara and sundal recipes. My mother makes a gojju/pulikachal first that she adds to the rice along with a roasted dal powder. I would always hoard the peanuts while serving myself competing with my brother for the larger share. I don't know if I like the rice better or if it is the peanuts that I'm after ;) Most festival or celebratory lunch/dinner menus feature atleast one form of pulihora or kalandha sadham, as it’s called in Tamil. The meal would feel incomplete without one of them. They are simple to make and use very humble ingredients, but the end product you get is much larger than the sum of its parts. I think the tangy component in the pulihora also tickles the taste buds and get the digestive fluids flowing so you are ready to attack the rest of the meal ;)
When I am in a pinch and need to make something quick I use the MTR instant puliyogare mix if I have it or make a near instant tamarind gravy. Heat up some sesame oil, toast mustard seeds, chana dal, peanuts, curry leaves and green chillies. Add turmeric, hing and a watery tamarind extract with salt, cook until the rawness is coaxed out of the tamarind and its ready to envelope the warm rice grains. This will take you less than 15 mins, just enough to have some rice going in the cooker. This is a quick and hits the spot, but when you have some extra time and want a hint of the magic that you savor at the temples start off by making a thick gojju, like my mother does. Sesame oil is the key to getting the flavor right, no other oil will work here. Roast the peanuts in the oil on medium or medium-low heat, it’ll take longer but you’ll achieve even browning that’s delicious and adds ten-fold to the flavor of the pulihora.
This is a dish that has been perfected along the ages and you will see that in the way in which a bunch of very humble ingredients are brought together to create a sublime dish. Every ingredient has a role to play. The nuttiness of the sesame oil and the final punch of toasted sesame powder elevate this dish to a totally different realm of flavors. The curry leaves and red chillies cook down along with the tamarind and are coaxed to lend their entire flavor to the dish and the browned peanuts drink it all up but still manage to retain a little bite. This pulihora is in no way a low-calorie dish with the amount of oil that it has, but the flavors are divine. When you are in a hurry the shortcuts are always there to pull you through, but once in a while, go all out and treat yourself to this pulihora.Temple-style Chintapandu Pulihora/Puliyodarai
- 3-4 Tbsp - Sesame (Gingely) Oil
- ¼ cup – Peanuts, raw
- ½ tsp - Mustard Seeds
- 1 Tbsp - Channa Dal
- 1 tsp - Urad Dal
- 1-3 nos – dried Red chillies (adjust to taste, more chillies are added in the roasted powder)
- 6-8 nos - Curry Leaves, washed & patted dry and roughly torn into pieces
- ½ tsp - Turmeric Powder
- A pinch of Asafoetida/hing/inguva
- A golf ball sized chunk of raw Tamarind pulp – soaked in ½ cup warm water for 10mins
- Salt to taste
- 1 ½ Tbsp – Sesame oil
- 1 ½ Tbsp - Channa Dal
- 1 Tbsp - Urad dal
- ½ Tbsp - Coriander Seeds/Dhania
- 3-4 nos – dried Red Chillies
- ½ tsp - Fenugreek Seeds/Menthulu
- 1 Tbsp – Sesame seeds
- Cook 2 cups of rice using a 1:2 ratio of rice-to-water.
- Using your hands squeeze out the thick tamarind pulp and discard the seeds and fiber.
- Heat oil in a sauce pan on medium-low heat and add the peanuts. Roast until they start to turn a slight reddish orange color. Add the mustard seeds and dals next and continue to roast them until they get an even brown color.
- Add the curry leaves, red chillies, turmeric powder and asafoetida and stir for 30 secs more. Carefully pour in the tamarind extract, a little salt and cook for 10-15mins until the gojju comes together as a thick mass and the oil begins to separate and collect around the edges.
- In the meantime, in a shallow pan, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil and roast the dals to give them a head start. As they begin to turn color add the coriander seeds and red chillies. When all the ingredients have changed color to a deep reddish orange, bring down the heat a little and add the fenugreek and sesame seeds. These two ingredients tend to burn quickly so it is better to heat them on a low heat. Roast until the sesame seeds begin to splutter, take off the heat and cool for a few minutes before grinding them to a fine powder.
- Once the rice is cooked, spread it in a wide dish to cool a bit, holding back about a cup of rice. Drizzle a little sesame oil on top and add a few tablespoons of the gojju. Mix lightly without bruising the rice grains. Add salt and more gojju or rice according to taste.
- As a final garnish sprinkle the roasted powder on top and mix it in. Cover the pulihora and let it rest for atleast 30mins before serving. You could take photos in the mean time ;)
- Don’t add all the salt to the tamarind extract in the beginning of the cooking process. Since the gojju reduces and thickens towards the end, if you salt to taste in the beginning it will be over salted by the time it’s done cooking.
- Even if it takes you longer, use a medium to medium-low heat and brown the peanuts evenly, they contribute a lot to the final taste of the pulihora.
- If you like your tamarind rice to be a nice glowing yellow, slightly warm up a spoon of sesame oil with a pinch of turmeric and drizzle it on the warm rice before adding the gojju. If the rice is warm enough, you can skip heating the oil.
- Double the quantity of gojju and store the leftovers in the fridge, it’ll keep well for weeks in an airtight container.
Dhadhojanam/Yogurt RiceThis is a simplified version of the original.For two cups of cooked rice,
- In a popu/tadka pan – heat a ½ tsp of vegetable oil and toast ½ tsp of mustard seeds, 1 tsp urad dal, 1 dried chilli broken in bits, 1 green chilli finely chopped, ½ tsp finely chopped ginger, a few curry leaves roughly torn, and a pinch of inguva/asafoetida. Heat another tsp of oil and fry up a couple of salt cured chillies/uppu mirapa.
- To the cooled rice add 1 cup thick yogurt, ¼ cup milk, 2 Tbsp finely chopped carrots & onions, salt to taste and mix well. Top it with the tadka and crumble in the salt-cured chillies. You can also add 1Tbsp of chopped cilantro.
- Allow it to rest for 30mins before savoring so the flavors get a chance to gel together. The milk helps to keep the yogurt rice loose as it sits for a longer time.
To cool you down and soothe the palate, dhadhojanam or yogurt rice is a must-have. Though yogurt/curd is the last course of a meal, I like to serve myself the pulihora and dhadhojanam at the same time and go back n forth between the two while eating. The curd cools your palate and then the pulihora fills it up with tantalizing flavors, what fun ;)