Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A perennial favorite: SOUTH INDIAN CURD RICE
It is going to be over a hundred degrees today and the only thing I want for dinner is curd rice. The TV anchor said Monday was the last day of summer. For me it is summer till the heat is over.
Sandy Nag's post about curd rice reminded me I haven't posted my recipe which has been 'on hold' all summer. Better late than later...
Curd rice (Thair saadam) is very popular in Tamil Nadu, where both my parents grew up. Both were originally from Andhra where its know as perugu annam. Whatever the name, it is said when a South Indian is eating and reaches for the curd rice it is their Jana Gana Mana...meaning end of the meal; the same way the Indian National Anthem was played at the end of a movie, when I was growing up.
Curd Rice was the first dish I was asked to bring to a potluck in the US. Too nervous, as a newlywed who had to wade through the snow in a grand saree, wearing knee length leather boots, holding the saree above my knees (that's how high the snow drifts were that first winter in Michigan), I gladly agreed to HD's suggestion that he make the curd rice and we not mention the source to anyone! Everyone loved it and I passed my first cooking challenge in the eyes of the South Indian community married ladies! (Re. the boots they were removed in the foyer and one then slipped on dress shoes or fancy slippers for the party.)
Over the years I thought I had perfected my curd rice till a year ago I was asked to make it for a special birthday and came up with the final version with ideas from my mother's recipe, HD, and 7 cooking blogs; each giving me one idea and enabling me to come up with the perfect version of this beloved, traditional dish....
1 cup plain rice. (not Basmathi)
1/2 gallon more or less cold milk. (I used non-fat)
1/2-1 Tbsp thick curd at room temperature PLUS
2 Tbsp curd PLUS
1 cup thick, cold curd.
1-2 tsps sugar.
1 Tbsp fresh, grated ginger.
2 tsps ghee.
Seasoning: Rai, urad, karipata, red chillies, hing.
Wash and cook the rice with extra water so it is soft. Some people add salt while cooking; others add it later.
When rice is cooked, add ghee and mash rice with back of spoon to get half mashed consistency. (Don't omit the ghee step...you will be surprised how good the end result is.)
Add cold milk and mix first with a spoon, then with your hand, to ensure there are no lumps...it will be lukewarm...be generous with the milk as it shouldn't be too thick.
In the center, make a small depression and place a tablespoon of curd at room temperature in it.
Cover and keep dish in a warm place if you live in a cold place...mine is kept on the counter top.
In a separate pan, in one tsp of oil and season rai, fry urad golden brown, add karipata, red chillies and hing to taste. Remove and reserve 1/3 of the seasoning. Add grated ginger to the rest and fry for a minute...cool, add two Tbsps curd mixed with 1/3 cup water to this with sugar, stir to combine and refrigerate. This HAS to be done ahead for flavors to develop and permeate the curd properly. I use extra ginger as we love the flavor and it helps with 'pitha/bile' in the heat...use less till you find your own satisfaction level with the taste.
Eight hours later your curd rice should be ready for the next stage (6 on a very hot day). You have literally made the curd in your curd rice dish!
My mother always said our Brahmin neighbors made curd rice this way overnight and took it to work the next day as it was the most inexpensive way to do it.
I refrigerate for 6-8 hrs at this point as curd rice needs time to develop the perfect tinge of slight sourness and has to be cold. Some people prefer it at room temperature.
If you can't wait for this, buy one of the sour yogurts like Mountain High or Dannon and add that at this point.
Just before eating, add the last cup of thick cold curd, your rice should be ready. I do this just to move the taste from grand to perfect. It should be thick dropping consistency.
Decorate with the 1/3 seasoning, set aside earlier.
Enjoy with lime pickle and paapad/appalam.
TIPS: for a shortcut version I just season the curd and keep it in a container and add it to my rice. 
I would only use the 'perfect' version for an occasion.

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