Curd Rice has become ubiquitous in recent years , having finally crossed over the Vindhyas.
I remember during my childhood in Delhi , North Indian neighbors would use curd only for making Raita or Lassi and that too only during the summer months because it was considered ‘thanda’ , or cooling for the digestive tract and would recoil in horror if offered curd in the winter months between Diwali and Holi!!
Across the four southern states however, curd is as much of a staple as rice, and that too all year around, and the two mixed together make for a nothing less than a gourmet dish!
No meal however large, is complete without curd rice. It is always the final dish to be eaten.
Its almost as if the excesses committed during the meal, of fried pappadams or fried sweets and the like, would get washed away with curd rice.
I recall being told as a child that I could have as many helpings of dessert as I wanted, provided I end my meal with curd rice. It was a very tiresome rule to obey those days, but as I grew older, curd rice sort of grew on me, albeit subconsciously, and remained dormant in some recesses of my mind until the need arose in young adult years, for some kind of comfort food and there it was! I rediscovered curd rice as basic comfort food to be eaten with lemon or tender mango pickle, or even just plain by itself, with just a tempering of mustard and curry leaf.
Its bland taste lends itself to as many variations as there are families. Each family has their own sacred and secret curd rice recipe to be eaten with specific accompaniments. Whatever works!
Several luxury hotels in the southern states serve it as a gourmet dish, with as many as 7-8 accompaniments.
I now find it a regular in other states as well in restaurants serving southern cuisine.
And yes! friends and neighbors in Delhi now swear by curd rice as the ultimate dish to be eaten in Delhi summers for lunch. Its still taboo in many households in winter!
However we south Indians who have settled in Delhi for decades eat it all year around and , may I dare to add, are none the worse for it!
Basic Recipe of Curd Rice
- Overcooked rice: 1 cup ( Basmati is not essential, but of course will add to the taste. Any other rice will also do, like parwal or southern ponni rice or red rice.)
- Freshly set curd: 1 cup ( obviously curd made with whole fat milk or even 3% fat tastes better than skimmed milk curd, to each his own.)
- Cold Milk : half a cup
- Salt to taste
- Hing: ¼ tsp( hing is optional)
- Ginger: ½ tsp chopped fine
- Green chilly: chopped fine( also optional)
- Mustard seeds: ½ tsp
- White uraddal : ½ tsp
- Fresh curry leaves: 2 sprigs
- Cooking oil: ¼ tsp
Mash the cooked rice using the cold milk to soften it. Once mashed, add the curd slowly stirring all the while until a jammy consistency is reached. Add the salt, hing , ginger and green chilly. Mix well. Transfer into a serving bowl. Splutter the mustard , dal and curry leaf in hot oil and pour over the curd rice. Enjoy!!
There are several variations to this basic recipe.
a tad more watery consistency
chopped cucumbers and tomatoes can be added
pomegranate seeds, chopped apple and
It is the accompaniments that make curd rice the gourmet dish it is. The list is large. Here are a few, apart from the standard tender mango and lemon pickle.
- PuliInji: Arelish made with ginger and tamarind.
- MoruMolagai:A dried green chilly preparation.
- Vettalkurambu: Another relish made with dried berries and tamarind.
- Fried Chundakkai( SolanumTorvum) known in English as Turkey Berry
- Fried Martangali( also a berry)
- Fried Lotus stems
- Manga –Inji pickle, it actually looks like fresh ginger and tastes like raw mango, absolutely yum!, sadly , found only in south India.
I can go on and on!