Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ghee Rice (Neychoru)

In India, rice is one of the staple foods of the vast majority of people. There are as many varieties of rice as there are ways of cooking it. Ghee rice (fondly called “neychoru” by Keralites) is something that’s made on special occasions. Actually I would be lying if I said it’s only made on special occasions. Sometimes the occasion can be just a lazy, laidback weekend lunch. For me, this is one of the easiest ways of cooking rice and I think it must be one of the first dishes I learnt to cook from my mother and grandmother.
I remember my grandmother’s tip –that you know the rice is fried and ready to be cooked when it starts “jumping around” the pan! My mom says its ready when each grain is crisp to the touch. 

Anyway, this is a very versatile main dish as it can be had with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries. I have many fond memories that involve this dish, as in my home we usually have this for "non-occasion-yet-special" Sunday lunches, that my mom serves with a delicious chicken curry, fried fish, chutney (see a previous post), and pappad!

Ghee is nothing but clarified butter. I suppose you could substitute it with butter or vegetable oil if ghee is not available, although that would obviously compromise the taste. Please note that the amount of rice you take per person will vary from household to household. Normally, it would be safe to calculate 1 cup raw rice for two people (or 100 g raw rice per person). The amount of water taken will be double that of the rice. While you can use Basmati rice for this, it is usually made with another variety of rice called “jeera” rice (known as “neychottari” in Kerala). This rice really imparts a unique aroma and flavor to this dish. Onto the recipe now:

To serve 4
  1. 2 cups rice, washed and soaked in water for at least 15 minutes. After that, drain the water and let the rice remain in a colander or sieve pan to make sure all the water has been removed.
  2. 1 onion, medium size, sliced long and fine
  3. 1-inch cinnamon stick
  4. 4 cloves
  5. 2 green cardamom
  6. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (perinjeera)
  7. 4 cups water
  8. 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
  9. Salt to taste
For the garnish:
1 large onion, sliced thin and fine
A handful of cashewnuts
A handful of raisins or sultanas
Ghee or vegetable oil to shallow fry the above (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • In a saucepan, keep the water to boil so that it reaches boiling point by the time the rice is ready to be cooked. You can use room temperature water also, but boiling water somehow gives a better texture to the rice, preventing it from becoming sticky.
  • In a wide-mouthed and deep pot, heat the ghee for about 30 seconds, then lower the heat.
  • First add the fennel seeds. When they start crackling, add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and onions.
  • Fry the onions until they turn translucent.
  • Now put in the drained rice and switch the flame back on high. Stir the rice around well until you see a couple of them start to “jump around”. Stir for a minute more until the ghee is well coated on all the rice grains.
  • By now, the water in the saucepan should have reached boiling point-pour it into the rice and watch as it starts bubbling (step back!!!).
  • Now add salt to taste (maybe 1 to 2 teaspoons), lower the heat to a slow simmer and cover with a lid.
  • Now heat some more ghee or vegetable oil in a small frying pan and add the onions. Fry on low heat until it turns golden brown. Remove and fry the cashewnuts and raisins likewise.
Carry on with any other work you have to do. Please do not stir the rice again as it will end up getting smashed and mushy. Just keep checking every 10 minutes or so until all the water is absorbed and each grain of rice stands out soft, pearly white, and proud! With jeera rice, this will get cooked within 10 to 15 minutes at the most. If you must, you can stir around gently with a fork. Serve immediately, with whatever side dish you choose, with the fried onions, cashewnuts and raisins sprinkled on top.

A chutney that would be a perfect accompaniment to this is the Tangy Chutney, made with dates and raisins.


Katerina said...

Hi Karishma, how are you and how is your family. I hope you all do well. Although rice is not as popular and so much used here, we cook quite a lot with it and now that commerce has emerged we have also different varietes. I think I will not be able to find jeera but basmati I have two cartons at home. I love basmati, in fact two days ago I made a beautiful yogurt chicken with basmati rice which I will post next week. This dish looks delicious. I am putting it in my file. Send me a mail to let me know how you are doing any time you have the time. Kisses from Greece.

Jayant said...

Hi Kary,
The raw rice used is also known as 'kaima' in Malabar area & Jeerakasala in the other parts. My mum uses only Kaima as she feels basmati doesn't have the special aroma & taste!!

Emreen said...

This is one popular dish among the vegetarians in TamilNadu too.. Its also made specially for some Hindu functions...

Now Serving said...

Hi Samira, Ghee rice looks So yummy, another friend had made this for us when we went for dinner recently and it was delicious!

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