For the first 10-12 years of my life, South indian food meant dosa, idli, sambar, chutney and rasam. Pretty much the basics. There was this restaurant called Naivedyam near our house (it still exists there) where we used to go fairly often and usually ordered the same standard food. The variations were limited pretty much to masala or plain dosa, paper dosa or smaller size dosa, rasam to start the meal or go straight to idli. Important decisions! 🙂 But we loved the food and these dishes became part of what we used to eat at home too.
Slowly as we started trying more things, at restaurants or friend’s houses, I got to know more about the beautiful food from the four south Indian states. I am still learning new things, new flavours, new names, new combinations and continue to fall in love with the cuisines even more. Helps that I am married to a Tamilian 🙂
One of the earliest things I tried, outside of the standard fare, was Lemon Rice. It was an easy thing to start with, given how much I love rice and lemon (Bengali-ness :)). It is light, delicious, textural and punchy. What’s not to love?
I based this on K’s grandmom’s cookbook on simple Tamilian recipes. I’ve made it a few times and each time I am amazed at how simple it is. And how filling as a meal. Just this with some curd maybe. Or some pickle. That’s it. Easy peasy!
You need basic ingredients to get this deliciousness ready. Also a teeny bit of patience to let the plain rice cool down before you can begin making the lemon rice. After that, it just takes 15 minutes.
Adjust the spice to your preference and remember to test the green chillies before hand. I keep getting surprised by which chillies are spicy and which aren’t and that can either mean the dish is fiery AF or too tame. I also like to dry roast the peanuts for a short while before adding a tiny bit of oil to given them a little extra oomph (vs frying them for longer). They look so nice and shiny!
Hope you make this and enjoy it as much as we do 🙂
1 cup rice
2.5 cups water
1/3 cup peanuts
1 tsp mustard seeds
1.5 tsp split urad dal (white)
1 tsp channa (split bengal gram) dal
2 green chillies – diced
2 dried red chillies
10-12 curry leaves – roughly chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric (haldi) powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida (hing)
6-7 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
- Rinse the rice. Add it to an open pan with 2.5 cups water and a pinch of salt. Cook on low flame for about 30 minutes till cooked through. Drain excess water, cover the pan for about 5 minutes.
- Spread out the cooked rice on a plate and let it cool to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes.
- In a small pan, dry roast the peanuts for 1 -2 minutes on low heat. Be careful not to burn them. Then add 1/2 tbsp oil and stir so that all the peanuts are covered. Continue to roast for another minute or so till the peanuts are glossy and crunchy (you might hear some popping sounds, that’s normal). Remove from the pan and transfer to a plate.
- In a wok/kadhai, heat 1 tbsp oil (low heat). Add the mustard, urad dal, channa dal and cook for 1 – 2 minutes till they become slightly brown, but not too dark/burnt.
- Add the green chillies, red chillies and curry leaves. Cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the turmeric (haldi) powder and asafoetida (hing) and cook for a minute.
- Switch off the gas and add the cooled rice to the wok/kadhai.
- Mix well so that all of the rice is evenly coated. Add salt to taste.
- Add lemon juice and peanuts to the rice. Mix well.
- Cover the wok/kadhai and let the rice rest for about 5-7 minutes. Once done, mix one more time and serve hot.