‘Tamarind Rice’ or ‘Chinthapandu Pulihora’ – ‘Chinthapandu’ refers to ‘Tamarind’, ‘Pulihora’ refers to ‘Sour Rice’ is one of the most common festive foods prepared for a number of festivals especially in South India. Also, it is one of the most common food offered as ‘prasadam’ in temples.
Festivals are such a great part of any culture or religion because they bring near and dear together. On such occasions traditions, whether it’s the stories behind the festival, the form of worship as well as authentic food and recipes are shared and passed on to the next generation. It creates such a happy and joyous atmosphere beaming with positive energy. In India, there are large number of festivals celebrated all throughout the year. Every region has it own set of important festivals and then there are a bunch of festivals which are celebrated on a wide scale in all parts of the country. The cuture and traditions in India are so diversified that the festival name, the way in which it is celebrated and the food prepared, everything differs from region to region.
In a week or so, ‘Dussehra‘ or ‘Dasara‘ or ‘Vijaya Dashami‘ is coming up. This is one of the most important festivals celebrated all throughout India and it refers to the celebration of ‘Victory of Good over Evil’. It also marks the tenth day of ‘Nava Ratri (Nine Nights)’ or ‘Durgotsav’ in honor of ‘Goddess Durga’. The significant stories associated with Dussehra are the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana-the Demon King of Lanka; of Goddess Shakthi over demonic Mahishasura and of Goddess Durga on demons like Shumbh and Nishumbh.
At our home in childhood we would perfectly clean our houses the previous day and on Dussehra day, we used to wake up early in the morning, take a shower, wear our new clothes and then get involved in the festive duties. In my region, we perform a ‘Ayudha Puja’ or ‘Vahana Puja’ which involves worship of ayudha (machines, weapons, agricultural tools and implements) and vahana ‘vehicles’ to pray for the safety of those using them. So, Dad and bro would get busy with washing the vehicles and decorating them, while I would be in the kitchen trying to help out my mom to make ‘Naivedyam’ (food offered to God prior to us having it) or in the ‘Puja’ room decorating the statues and photos of Gods and Godesses. Then, in the evening we would visit near and dear and follow the tradition of handing elders sacred ‘jammi aaku (leaves of Shami/Jammi tree) and bow our heads to them in respect.
Let me get to the recipe now! This dish is super flavorful, tasty, aromatic and simply irresistible It has the ‘sourness’ from the tamarind, the ‘sweetness’ from the jaggery, the ‘spiciness’ from the dry red chilli and peppercorns and the ‘crunchiness’ from peanuts, urad dal and chana dal. All these distinct ingredients add so much flavor and color to this rice, making it a crowd favorite festive food. It can be relished on its own plain and simple or you could serve it with simple dal or plain yogurt. We also enjoyed it with some ‘vadiyalu’ (homemade rice and potato chips) my mom-in-law sent from India! It is really easy to make and the best thing about it is that you can make the tamarind base and store in refrigerator for at least a week and whenever you cook plain white rice, you could just add it, mix it up well and enjoy!
Prep time + Cook time: 30 mins
Serves: 2 or 3
- Rice – 2 cups
- Tamarind – a fistful or large lime size
- Jaggery – 3 tsps
- Pepper Corns – 6 to 8
- Green Chillies – 3
- Peanuts – 1/2 cup
- Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
- Urad Dal – 2 tsps
- Chana Dal – 1 tsp
- Dry Red Chillies – 4 or 5
- Curry Leaves – a handful
- Hing – 1 tsp
- Turmeric – 1n1/2 tsp
- Red Chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – 1n1/2 tsp or as desired
1. Cook white rice as you would normally do rice:water in a 1:2 ratio. When done, empty the cooked rice into a wide plate or bowl and spread it out so it cools down nicely.
2. In a small bowl take a fistful of tamarind soaked in some water and microwave for around 30 secs to a minute. Remove, let cool, squeeze out all the tamarind juice and discard the pulp (or don’t discard and use the pulp to wash/rub on bronze ware to get a shine). Set aside. You should have about 1 to 1/4th cup of tamarind juice.
3. In a skillet or sauce pan, heat 2 to 3 tsps of oil. Add mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal and dry red chillies. When they dance around/splutter in the oil, add green chillies, peppercorns, peanuts and curry leaves. Saute for a couple of minutes until the peanuts are palely brown. Add turmeric, hing and salt. Saute for a minute.
4. Now, add the tamarind juice and mix everything well. Grate jaggery right into the tamarind mixture. Mix well. Let it come to a boil for a minute or two. Taste it and add some red chilli powder or salt if needed.
5. Check if the rice has cooled down. Add the prepared tamarind gravy/base to the rice. Do not add the entire gravy. Add 3/4th to 1, mix well using a wide spoon or your clean hand. Let it sit for at-least 20 to 25 mins. Taste again and add more if the sourness is very mild.
Serve on its own or with some dal, yogurt, vadiyalu or chips!