Saturday, 10 May 2014

Tamarind Rice and Train Journeys

The first time I heard about tamarind rice was from our Tamilian neighbours, they mentioned that on long train journeys from Mumbai to Tamil Nadu they would always carry tamarind rice as it stayed for long and didn’t spoil.

Train journeys were so much fun. I guess in today’s era when all of us have very little time to spare we often choose other modes of travel rather than train travel. But in the days of yore travel by train was ‘the’ way to travel with tickets being booked way in advance and a lot of packing of things to eat enroute.

Different regions and communities had their own specific preferences on the best thing to take for these long journeys. South Indians would generally take tamarind rice or lemon rice. I know many northerners and even people from Gujarat and Maharashtra would always prefer puri and aloo ki sabzi made without any water for long life. The other day I met someone and she mentioned she still takes paratha and karele ki sabzi when she is travelling by train and yes aate ka halwa too. Then there are others who generally take paratha and kababs.

Every family would also have a large thermos for taking tea and yes I remember sometime back a friend had posted something about the Milton water cooler. That is so reminiscent about travel in those days :-). 
I got thinking about all this as I made pullikachal or the paste used for making tamarind rice the other day, though not for train journeys but as an easy thing to fill in my office lunch box ;-).


1 lemon-sized ball of tamarind,
Salt to taste,
½ tsp turmeric powder,
1-2 tsps jaggery

To be Roasted and Ground to a Powder

2 tsps urad dal,
3 tbsps channa dal,
2 tsps coriander seeds,
9-10 black pepper corns,
A handful of curry leaves,
1 tsp of sesame seeds,
½ tsp fenugreek seeds,
10-12 red chillies

For the Seasoning

3 tbsps of sesame oil,
2 red chillies,
1 tsp channa dal,
2-3 tbsps of peanuts,
1 tsp mustard seeds,
½ tsp asafoetida,
A few curry leaves


Soak the tamarind and extract the juice.

Heat the oil and add the channa dal and peanuts, let them fry on a low flame till light brown in colour. Now add the halved red chillies, mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves.

Once the mustard seeds splutter, add tamarind juice and the turmeric. Let it come to a boil, then add the salt and spice powder.

Once it thickens add the jaggery and cook for a minute more. Cool and store in a dry container. This stays well in the refrigerator for about 2-3 weeks.

When you want to make tamarind rice just mix about 2-3 tps of this in 5 cups of cooked rice. You can vary the proportion according to how tangy or spicy you want your tamarind rice to be.

Tamarind rice tastes good with fried papad. One of my friends used to prefer to have it with curds.