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Spiced Rice

Spiced Rice is basically an Indian rice-based main dish which is prepared by flavouring plain rice with the use of certain specific aromatic and flavour inducing herbs and spices. Sometimes some tamarind paste, masala paste or Indian dry spice powders may also be used in order to give regular steamed rice a totally new appearance, aroma and taste. In the South Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu specially, several Spiced Rice preparations each with its own characteristic flavours is greatly relished on a daily basis. Spiced Rice may be eaten in other parts of Asia too but may not be as popular.

Ingredients and Preparation

Evidently rice plays the lead role in the recipe and many spices for rice such as peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves, cardamoms and many others can come together in a variety of combinations to create different tasty Spiced Rice recipes. Some of them are-

1. The Pulav which is basically plain rice lightly fried with some vegetables made using whole spices or ‘garam masala’ which consists of cinnamon, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, cumin, fennel etc. The Biryani uses these and other spices in addition such as cardamoms, green chillies, ginger, garlic and others. Also, saffron is a special ingredient used to render a distinct flavour, colour and aroma to biryani. Fresh herbs such as mint leaves and cilantro are also used. In South India, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves are added to deliver a distinctive flavour. It is not uncommon to use spice powders such as Coriander, Cumin, turmeric, red chilli and special Garam masala or biryani masala powders.

2. Curd Rice is a delicately flavoured rice dish that uses curd to coat the rice and is tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves, dry red chillies, sometimes shallots and some asafoetida powder for a distinctive aroma and flavour. Cilantro is used for garnish.

3. Bisi Bele Bhath is a specialty spiced rice from Karnataka that can form part of any meal and is somewhat similar to the North Indian Khichdi or the Pongal from Tamil Nadu but uses more resonant spices that deliver stronger flavours. Rice and dal is sautéed with vegetables and chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, with some tamarind pulp for slight sourness, some coconut gratings may be added and tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida, dry red chillies.

4. Pongal uses a combination of rice and dal cooked together and seasoned with mustard seeds, pepper corns, cloves, curry leaves, dry red chillies, green chillies, ginger and asafoetida fried in little ghee.

5. Tamarind rice uses thick tamarind pulp with a seasoning of Bengal gram dal, split black gram dal, mustard seeds, curry leaves, dry red chillies and peanuts fried together. For more flavour, a final touch of roasted fenugreek and pepper powder is added. Jaggery in a small amount may be used for a subtle inherent sweetness.

6. Ghee rice is quite popular throughout southern India, and consists of long-grain aromatic rice sautéed in a generous amount of clarified butter (ghee), with peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves that impart a sweet spicy flavour.

7. Jeera rice that makes use of high quality rice sautéed in oil or ghee with only cumin seeds spluttered to deliver a distinctive aroma and flavour.

8. Chitranna is another typical spiced rice from Karnataka that is sautéed in little oil with mustard seeds, dry red chillies, turmeric powder for a rich colour and groundnuts for crunch. Lemon rice that is made in a similar way uses Lemon juice to obtain rice with a zesty, tangy, citrusy taste.

Suggested Accompaniments

Most of these Spiced Rice varieties are stand-alone dishes that do not require any side dish.

• A pickle and papad would suffice.

• A cucumber, tomato in yoghurt combination (raita) would work well.

• A side dish, gravy or curry of choice.

Nutrition Information

The ingredients used in the spiced rice would determine its nutritive value. A typical Indian Spiced Rice that includes lentils, vegetables like potato apart from the rice and spices would supply per serving (225 g)-

465 calories, total fat of 7.1 g, cholesterol of 8 mg, sodium content of 467 mg; total carbohydrate of 87 g with 12g of dietary fibre and a total of 13.4 g of protein.

Nutritional Improvements

1. Addition of plenty of garlic and ginger aid in flavour enhancement; also garlic has lipid lowering and cholesterol improving effects, while ginger helps better digestion.

2. Fenugreek seeds have high fibre content and can be added to the spiced rice in order to exhibit a positive control on blood sugar as well as lower bad cholesterol (LDL).

3. Use of turmeric lends anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-bacterial properties.

4. Most of these spices possess inherent essential oils that are released into the foods during cooking. These have strong antioxidant properties which protect the vital organs from free radical damage and help maintain healthy cells.

5. Sodium content may be reduced by avoiding salt and using lime juice instead.