Monday, November 21, 2011

Puliodharai - Tamarind Rice from Southern India

MTR may disagree with me on the name here, but hey I'm a Tamilian and this is how I know it. Not as puliogare or anything else. Simple and spicy puliodharai. Especially the one we can buy from Sri Ranganathar Kovil. Everytime we make a visit to the temple, my dad and I queue up behind the long snaking line in the sun just to buy some puliodharai. To what I can recall, amma never made puliodharai from scratch. We do have an equivalent of the same that is eaten with dosas and idlis - pulikachal. It's quite a favorite and traditional recipe from Tirunelveli ( my native town). The only puliodharai we had at home was the one that came out of the famous 777 ready-to-mix jar. Other versions that I remember are the ones from Grand Sweets, Parvati Bhavan etc.

I dutifully carried a jar of 777 puliodharai paste when I came to the US. It's almost half-empty now but it somehow doesn't taste the same. I'm not sure if it's the temperature change or the water or the rice from the Indian store here or whatever. But like I said, it just does NOT taste the same. And thus began my quest to find a recipe online. After much research, I chose this recipe. Reason: I had all the ingredients it called for and it seemed minimum fuss compared to the others AND it had the ubiquitous "temple style" tag in it. So I was pretty much sold on it 'cause I really did not care much and just wanted something to try on a lazy mid-week day.

Cooked rice - 2 cups
Tamarind paste - 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds- 1/4 tsp
Sesame seeds - 2 tsp
Channa dal - 4 tsp
Red chillies - 6
Peanuts (dry, roasted and halved) - 2 tsp
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Asafoetida / Hing - 1/4 tsp
Gingely oil - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste

1. Heat a pan and fry the coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and sesame seeds. Do NOT add oil to fry them. Remove and set aside to cool.
2. Add 1/2 tsp oil and fry the red chillies followed by the channa dal and peanuts. Set aside to cool.
3. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 tbsp water and set aside.
4. Now add the remaining oil to the pan and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the curry leaves, turmeric powder and hing followed immediately by the tamarind extract. Then add salt and let it boil for 5 mins.
5. In the meantime, grind the ingredients from step 1 into a fine powder and the ingredients from step 2 into a coarse powder separately.
6. Add the powder from step 1 to the boiling tamarind mixture. Switch off the stove and let it sit.
7. Spread out the rice in a plate or wide mixing bowl and add 1 tsp gingely oil to it and sprinkle some salt. Keep in mind that the tamarind mixture also has salt added to it.
8. Now pour the tamarind mixture over the rice and mix well. Finally add the powder from step 2. If the rice feels dry, add another 1 tsp of oil.

It helps if the rice is a little over cooked. Kinda adds to the taste. I usually eat puliodharai with plain papad or curds. Another good side dish to go with puliodharai is urlai kezhangu podi maas :) I promise I'll add the recipe soon.

Adapted minimally from this recipe -


  1. 100% agreed to the fact that MTR or 777 cannot match the taste of perumal koil puliyodarai. The recipe above though looks close to the one you receive at perumal koils...but isn;t exactly the same.
    I'd suggest some modifications to it hoping you'll give it a try next time:
    1. Use Tamarind extract instead of tamarind the paste has added preservatives to it.
    2. Soak lemon size tamarind to extract 3-4 cups of juice from the pulp. Remove the seeds and the pulp after extraction. Boil this mixture along with 2 tbsp channa dal 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and 1 slit green chilli. Boil till the dal gets cooked in the juice which will have turned thick by then (takes about 20-30 your favourite tv show meanwhile). Set this mixture aside. This will stay good for over a month in the refrigerator and can be used just like the ready mix.
    3. Make a powder as in your step 1; but add red chillies to it as well.
    4. The powder in step 2 is not necessary.
    5. Make a tadka with extra gingely oil using mustard, urad dal, red chilli and peanuts(with skin).
    6. Remove the flavored gingely oil from the tadka to coat the rice.
    7. Add the simmered tamarind gravy with salt to taste...mix with rice.
    8. Add the tadka and mix to finish.
    9. Let it sit for an hour before serving or digging in...but I know we sure can't wait up till then ;-)

  2. Thanks for the comment! I feel like you're my only true follower out there :)

    I use tamarind extract because it's easier to store and cheaper to buy. As a student, both these things are crucial when I am shopping at the local Indian store. So unfortunately, I have to make to with the preservatives. The original recipe actually calls for fresh tamarind extract.

    And there are multiple versions out there. This is just one that was easy for me to try on a lazy day :) Will try it next time in a different way. I especially liked the mixture that I could store...that's a bingo for me. Yumm!

  3. So much time definitely for a good old school buddy.....
    I wish I had the time to blog like this!! Your photos are more appealing these days...taking up classes in photography as well??
    Btw...I did try your paneer butter masala...sure it's not 'c' for cream but cashews that make the magic!!
    Have fun...these single student days aren't returning anyway!!
    cheers, Manasa

  4. Thanks! But the photos are better 'cause I am using a better camera. And also reading up on food photography basics on other blogs :)