Friday, 5 April 2013

Arisi Upma (Savoury Rice Khichdi)

"Dheem tanana dheem tanana,
Dheem tanana dheem tanana, dhirana. 

Nadhiye, nadhiye, kaadhal nadhiye,
Neeyum penn thaane? 
Adi neeyum penn thaane?

Onra iranda kaaranam nooru,
Ketaa solvenae,
Nee ketaa, solvenae..."

It was a rainy Friday afternoon, and I didn't have any other plans. All I had to do was sit by my backyard door, and stare out at the trees, bathing so sensually in the rain, to think of Nadhiye, Nadhiye. Rahman topped himself with this song from the movie, Rhythm. My mother and I love this tune so much, that we used it as a base to create new bhajans and prayers. It's a very simple tune in the Ragam Anandabhairavi, which is often known as the Rain Ragam - due to its believed ability to invoke rain if sung properly. There's a keerthanai that I learnt that was believed to do this: Aanandhaamrutha karshini, amrutha varshini, haraadhi poo jithe shive bhavaani!

But this song is a perfect match for this raga, simply for the beautiful way in which nature is praised in the melody. See -

"Vanna vanna pennae, vattamidum nadhiye,
Valaivugal azhagu.. ungal valaivugal azhagu.
Ho... Mellisaigal padithal, maedu pallam maraithal,
Nadhigalin gunamae... adhu nangaiyin gunamae...

Siru nadhigale, nadhiyidum karaigalae, 
Karaithodum nuraigalae, nuraigalil ival mugamae..."

Just perfect. Such a perfect evening of spritzing breezes and rain bucketing down like in the Ganges had to call for something special.
Today's recipe is for Arisi Upma (Savoury Rice Khichdi). I'm not a big fan of rice, I must admit. Because it lacks so heavily in nutrients, and is so high in carbohydrates, I very much limit myself to the consumption of white rice. Instead, I tend to eat more Quinoa and Dalia (Broken wheat) as a substitute.

However, there is one dish that is made primarily from rice, that I absolutely love! Arisi upma is a staple evening tiffin that my mother often makes at home, and we have all loved it since as far as we can remember. Our fond memories of fluffy arisi upma with crunchy bits at the bottom of the pan, devoured with some tangy eggplant gotsu/gojju, definitely classifies as a family favourite.

Arisi Upma
This dish is fairly simple and easy to make, but it is time consuming. So, if you have a good hour to spare on a lazy evening, sipping a glass of iced tea and watching re-runs of Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond, then you ought to make this khichdi to make it special.

I usually keep the mix for the Arisi Upma in a jar, so that it's easy to make when I want it.
Total time required: 1 hour
Yield: Serves 2 people

FOR MIX (This will make a lot of the mix, and you can store it away for later use) -
4 cups of normal raw rice
4 tablespoons of toor daal (thoram paruppu)
2 tablespoon whole peppercorns (molagu)
4 dried red chillies (vatha molaga)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)

1.5 cups of the above mix
4 tablespoons of oil 
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds (kadugu)
1 teaspoon of split chana dal (kadala paruppu)
1 teaspoon of urad dal (ultham paruppu)
1 strand of curry leaves (karuvappillai)
1/2 cup of grated or dessicated coconut
A pinch of asafoetida (LG/hing/perungaayam)
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter)

To make the mix, all you have to do is put the ingredients for "THE MIX" in a food processor, mixie or grinder and grind the ingredients just for a few seconds till it is coarse.

Store in a dry container, in a cool and dry place, like your pantry.

To make arisi upma, heat the 4 tablespoons of oil in a non stick pot, and once it is hot, add in the mustard seeds, chana dal, urad dal, curry leaves and dry red chillies.

Fry this for a little while, then add your half cup of grated/dessicated coconut and asafoetida. Fry for two seconds, and IMMEDIATELY ADD 4.5 cups of water.
Let it come to boil and stir once or twice. Add salt to taste.

Now, add the arisi upma mix little by little, by sprinkling it in the pot.
Slowly stir as you sprinkle the mix into the pan. Once you've added the entire 1.5 cups of the mix, stir the pot gently.
Add the ghee. Stir again gently, and reduce the flame to sim. Close the lid on the pot, and allow it to cook for at least 30 minutes. You could even do this in a pressure cooker, and close the lid and allow it cook for 2 whistles.

After 30 minutes, open it up and stir it gently again. It should be nice and fluffy, and you might even get some nice and crunchy bits at the bottom. Ensure it is soft and cooked, if not, close the lid and allow it to cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot with eggplant gojju and onion tomato chutney! It also goes very well with plain yoghurt - my personal favourite!


Sri Om.