Even though I am a pukka north Indian, I have a strong affinity for south Indian cuisine. My initiation to south Indian cuisine was partly thanks to my college friends who introduced me to the soft and spongy idlis dunked in spicy and tangy sambhar and the crispy dosa that were meant to be polished off with coconut and tomato chutneys.
However, it were my colleagues at Reliance where I started my first job (95% of the staff hailed from one or the other state of south India) who introduced me to a huge array of dishes that I would see in their Tiffin boxes each day. Their dishes tasted so different from what I had eaten in the south Indian specialty restaurants in Delhi or places in north India. The food in the restaurants had been tweaked to cater to the north Indian palate. Having tasted my colleagues’ home-made authentic south Indian dishes, I fell in love with the south Indian cuisine all over again.
My colleagues and I often used to visit Andhra Bhavan in Delhi and enjoy their sumptuous south Indian thali. However, it was the UNI canteen which was an all time favourite. The canteen (somewhere around Parliament Street) was near my office which served authentic south Indian meals at an unbelievably reasonable price. Although the canteen was located in the premises of the UNI wire service, it was open to all and sundry. It was amusing to see even the multimillionaire Ambani brothers eating out there in the very humble environs of the canteen.
Most of my colleagues used to order their lunch from the UNI canteen on Saturdays. I too joined the gang and stopped carrying my lunch pack from home on Saturdays. In fact, I used to look forward to the day and would mostly order their rice preparations such as Sambhar Rice (a tangy & tempered dal and rice preparation), Tomato Rice, Lemon Riceand Curd Rice.
Each Saturday used to be a different rice dish on the menu. I used to look forward to the day when the canteen would serve my favourite – the curd rice. It was served with fried dry red chilli smeared in some spicy masala, either a sweetish lemon chutney or a tangy mango pickle called Pachadi along with some south Indian papad (famously known as poppadums). Somehow, the simple flavours of the curd rice paired with a tangy pickle and papad seemed like a match made in heaven! Curd Rice is an ideal summer meal. Both, the rice and the curd have a cooling effect on the body. The pickle peps up and helps the digestive system from becoming sluggish due to the summer heat.
Here is what you would need,
2 cups over cooked rice (cooled)
½ tsp finely chopped ginger
1 finely chopped green chili (de-seeded)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh green coriander (cilantro)
Salt to taste
¼ tsp cracked black or white pepper corns
2 whole dry red chili (split in two and seeds removed)
1 tsp urad dal (ivory lentils – split & skinless black dal)
1 tsp chana dal (split Bengal gram)
Mango pickle or Lemon Pickle (actually any pickle of your choice)
In a bowl beat the curd and mix in the rice. Add salt, pepper, green chili, ginger and fresh coriander. Keep aside.
For tempering, heat the oil and add the red whole chilies till they start to change colour. Reduce heat and add mustard seeds. Once they start to crackle, add both the dals till they change colour to goldenish brown.Immediately add the curry leaves (these might splatter oil so add them carefully)Remove from heat and pour this into the curd rice. Give a stir. Serve with pickle and papad.
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