Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bisi Puliyogare - full of authentic flavors, made easy and instant version of a traditional recipe

Any hikers, trekkers out there among you readers? Care to read through my weekend hiking expedition? I promise I will treat you to a traditional South Indian recipe today, made the easy way.
I grew up in a town where every measurement was with respect to a moutain (or hill), we lived at the foothills of Chamundi Hills and took that name as part of conversation every time. As tall as, as steep as, as gorgeous as were the list of comparisons & attributes in daily life. When we were building a house, the first thing my father did was add a stone bench to be put in the corner of the terrace from where we had a clear view of the chamundi hills. It looked divine with the lighting come Dasara time. I have stood there taking in the breath taking perfume of blooming jasmines as a newly married, have sat on that bench trying to pacify a little baby as a young mother, sat alone or with my father as we talked through the setting Sun, with the hills always in the background. I don't remember exactly how many times I have climbed those 1000 steps leading to the temple at the top, a favorite pastime with visiting cousins and siblings. Stopping for a tender coconut near the Mahishasura(the demon killed by the Goddess), feeding bananas to the monkeys on the way or sitting down on a random step to eat puffed rice with fresh coconut pieces is all part of that trekking. Akka says she even carried me as a chubby toddler on her waist once :-).
Couple of weeks back, on the whim, we decided to do some mountain trekking. It was in the coming as we live surrounded by mountains - big & small, all around us beckoning us to climb. So while the tired DD slept, the two of us went looking for a mountain hike and ended up parking at the base of Mount Si. While I kept insisting that as beginners we should be climbing the Little Si and not Mount Si, BH bravely took the decision for both of us and we ended up climbing the big brother of the 2 mountains here in the state. Off we went, a little huffing and puffing, totally unprepared (mentally and energy wise), but made good and reached the half way snag in a decent 2 hours. But my knees were crying fowl by that time and though BH was rearing to reach the peak, he had to stick to his marital vows of never abandoning me (especially on a mountain trail) and hike back with me. A little disappointing weekend.
Doing a few stretches and massages helped the creaky knees and I was up and ready to go this Saturday again. Not to forego the peak experience, we stuck to the Little Si this time, the mountain is very cajoling and coaxing for beginners like me, the trails are not all vertical and there are stretches of ups and downs giving ample opportunity for a racing heart to come back to normal beat. The weather was perfect, and though the Sun played a little hide & seek, we were warm without being hot. At 1500ft, this mountain is about half the height of my favorite Chamundi Hills from Mysore. And as I reflected that I was able to climb Chamundi Hills many times without feeling tired at all, the ever practical BH muttered something like, "you were a teenager then", he avoided all further discussions though on the topic. I am totally convinced that I married a real smart man :-).

It is a very humbling experience when you reach the top and look around to see the surroundings. Once you leave the cameras and phones inside the backpack pockets, you enjoy the nature around you much more and feel one with it. I will go back again, may be try the big one next time.
OK, I am done with my weekend expeditions and now onto a much loved recipe from the South of India. There are variations to this from state to state with a common basic theme and plan. Tamil nadu adds a bit more tamarind, while Karnataka brings in a sweeter taste with jaggery and Andhra does a quick take on the gojju/pulikachal and just boils the tamarind water. Any of these or all of these are wonderfully tasty and have a treasured place in a South Indian's heart. This is a very good travel food since it keeps well and infact grows tastier the day after you make it. It provides that very essential salty, cleansing effect on long travels or hospital beds. Yep, I am talking about Puliyogare/Huliyanna/puliyodharai/pulihora/puli sadam.

Now if you are familiar with this dish, you will immediately drool and then become wary thinking of the labor intensive, time consuming process of making the gojju or the paste for the puliyogare. While that is the traditional method of making this yummy rice dish, I am here to the rescue with an equally traditional and time tested method to achieve the same results. Granted, you can go buy an MTR mix and use it but it is not definitely the same as the real deal and if you are ready to spend as many minutes as it takes to cook and cool your rice, come along with me for a simple way to make this dish.
This is a staple prasada (offering) in many South Indian temples and without any additional spices or a lot of seasoning, it still tastes heavenly, may be the ambiance and the mood has a lot to do with the food tastes. For BH, puliyogare is always eaten with slightly sour yogurt, that is how he was introduced to it in Kadambam restaurants as a bike driving road warrior. I love my day old puliyogare with a little bit of sliced onions. Find your own comfort zone of eating this dish.

We had a neighbor in Mysore who was Nammamma's friend and they exchanged a lot of recipes. She made a real killer puliyogare using the gojju method but she also taught amma this short cut way to make the same dish especially on days when you had a lot going on. It is called bisi puliyogare since the hot rice is already half way prepared to the final stage. This comes in handy and gets ready quickly, I will come back with the gojju version another time, until then, use this recipe to satiate your puliyogare hunger.
What do you need to make Bisi Puliyogare? 
2 cups rice - I use sona masoori variety
A small apple size tamarind
1 Tbsp salt - adjust to taste
1 Tsp crushed jaggery/brown sugar
1 Tbsp rasam powder
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp grated coconut/kobbari
Spices to roast & powder: 
1 Tsp chana dal
1/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tsp dhania/coriander seeds
1/2 Tsp cumin
1/2 Tsp black pepper
1-2 dry red chilies
4-6 curry leaves
1 Tbsp grated dry coconut/kobbari
2 Tbsp oil
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tbsp chana dal
2-3 Tbsp peanuts (per taste)
12-15 fresh curry leaves

How do you make Bisi Puliyogare?
  • Soak tamarind for 20 minutes in 1 cup warm water and extract the juice, discard any pip/seeds. 
  • Wash rice in 2 changes of water, add salt, tamarind extract, crushed jaggery, rasam powder, turmeric powder and 3 cups of water. See notes for managing the water content. 
  • Add 1/2 Tsp of oil and cook the rice (either rice cooker or pressure cooker) until done. 
  • Meanwhile, heat a heavy pan on medium heat, add all ingredients listed under spices to roast except for coconut and frequently stirring, roast them until fragrant (takes about 2-3 minutes).
  • Add the grated coconut, mix and switch off. 
  • Keep aside to cool and make a fine powder. 
  • Once done, spread the rice in a wide plate or bowl, sprinkle grated dry coconut,  the spice powder and let it cool down. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, add mustard, chana dal & peanuts. Let mustard & peanuts pop. 
  • Add asafoetida, curry leaves and switch off after 30 seconds. 
  • Pour the seasoning over the rice. 
  • Once rice is cool enough to handle, mix everything together gently keeping the fluffiness of cooked rice. 
  • Let it stand for 20 minutes before serving. 
  • 2 cups of rice typically takes 4 cups of liquid to cook, measure the amount of tamarind juice you add and then substitute with water. 
  • Adding a few drops of oil while cooking rice helps the grains to remain separate. 
  • Tamarind can vary quite a bit in sourness, you may need to experiment a little or go by instinct while adding the tamarind extract. 
  • Puliyogare should balance salt, sweet, hot and sour tastes well to taste good. 
  • Use good quality rasam powder to bring in the taste, the roasted spices add to the freshness. 
  • You can use either black sesame seeds or white ones, the black ones give a deeper color. 


தக்குடு said...

very nice to read about your "mysore Mahathmiyam' and Puliyogare :) i am from bengaluru

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

A very different and easy way to make puliyogare...I like the idea of adding rasam powder..looks delicious

NamsVeni Pothas said...

beautiful natures photos with tasty recipe. easy to prepare and nice taste. thanks for the traditional recipe