Recipe for Pulihora (Tamarind Rice)

Pulihora is a tangy rice recipe very popular in the southern part of India. The word puli means tangy/tamarind, and this prefix is added to the various names given to his dish, some of the most popular ones being puliodarai, pulikachal, and pulihora. They all translate to ‘tamarind rice or tangy rice.’

The key ingredient in the recipe, along with rice, is tamarind. Of course, many other spices also go into the dish ( with minor variants from state to state). However, what stays common is the use of tamarind.

If you have tasted South Indian cuisine, you might have noticed that many dishes have generous amounts of tanginess, for example, Sambar, Rasam, etc. The reason for adding tanginess to the dishes is pretty simple and straightforward.

As with any dish cooked in any part of the world, the dependency lies primarily on the local produce. The tamarind tree requires a hot and humid climate for its growth. Since these conditions are easily available in the southern states of India, tamarind grows abundantly there.

Many years back, the absence of modern methods of food preservation ( For example, refrigerators) and high temperatures throughout the year might have made it necessary for our ancestors to find ways to increase the shelf life of food. This would have led to innovations in preserving methods like pickling, drying, etc. One such innovation led to the understanding that increasing the tanginess of the food by adding sourness ( using tamarind )would keep it fresher for a longer time. The ingredient availability, combined with our ancestors’ knowledge, might have resulted in this popular rice dish.

Pulihora also finds its way into many temples in south India, where it is given as prasad – a devotional offering made to god and later shared amongst the devotees. Due to its high shelf life, this rice dish is also a popular travel food. On long travels, when people long for home food, the humble ‘pulihora’ comes to their rescue. Even when the weather is hot, it stays good for a few days and makes a perfect dish to carry along when you want to avoid outside food.

I enjoyed this dish primarily during our long train journeys in my childhood. These days, because the train journeys have reduced and the travel time has decreased considerably, the pulihora is not much of a travel companion. In our home, I mostly make it to break from the monotony of everyday food and sometimes just to tingle the taste buds.

So, here goes the recipe:

Ingredients and steps for Making Pulihora :

  1. Rice: 1 cup, boiled and cooled

  2. Peanuts and cashews : 3 tbsp, fried and cooled

  3. Fresh Coriander leaves: for garnishing
  4. Spice Powder ( Recipe given below)
  5. Tamarind Mix ( Recipe given below)

Method for making Pulihora:

  1. All the ingredients are individually prepared.
  2. Then they are all combined.

Ingredients for the spice powder:

  1. Split chickpea lentils: 1 tbsp
  2. Black lentils (without skin): 1 tbsp
  3. Dry red chillies: 5-6
  4. Dry coconut grated: 1 tbsp
  5. Fenugreek seeds: 1 tsp
  6. Sesame seeds: 1 tbsp
  7. Coriander seeds: 1 tbsp
  8. Sesame Oil: 1 tbsp

Steps for making the spice powder:

  1. Heat oil in a pan. Keep the heat low for the entire process. Start with frying chillies.

  2. Add the lentils and fry until they change colour to light brown.

  3. Add fenugreek seeds and coriander seeds and fry for 1 minute.

  4. Then add sesame seeds and fry for 30 seconds. Then turn off the heat and add grated coconut. Then let the mixture cool.

  5. Once the mixture cools, grind it. Keep this powdered mix aside. It will be later used in the recipe.

Ingredients for making the tamarind mix:

  1. Split chickpea lentils: 1 tsp
  2. Black lentils (without skin): 1 tsp
  3. Dry red chillies: 5-6
  4. Curry leaves: 8-10
  5. Green Chilies : 3-4, slit
  6. Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
  7. Jaggery: 1 tbsp
  8. Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  9. Salt: 2 tbsps
  10. Oil: 2 tbsps
  11. Tamarind pulp: 1 tbsp, mix with 1 cup of water and extract the juice
  12. Asafoetida: 1/2 tsp

Steps for making the Tamarind Mix

  1. Take oil in a pan and fry the lentils, cumin seeds, dry red chilis, curry leaves, green chillies, and asafoetida.

  2. Now add Jaggery, salt, turmeric powder, and tamarind juice.

  3. Reduce the heat, put a lid and let the juice concentrate. Cook till the oil separates

Final Steps of putting everything together 

  1. To the tamarind mix, add the cooked and cooled rice.

  2. Add the spice mix.

  3. Add fried peanuts, cashews, and fresh coriander.

Pulihora is ready


Check out other recipes from my kitchen here.

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