Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tomato Biryani (Rice)

I started to make this delicious, spicy, and tangy rice during my first year of grad school. Back then the lack of a decent grocery store kept me from buying fresh vegetables, with the exception of the basics like onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, and potato. As a result I am pretty sure I ate more dal and rice the first couple years of grad school than I ever have in my life.

Unlike maggi noodles (Indian ramen), I never got tired of eating tomato rice. It can be a meal in itself with plain yogurt. Trust me, given the amount of heat in this dish, you will want cold yogurt. Lightly fried vidalia onion, garlic, whole spices of cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, and dried red chilis, are cooked with ground spices and tomatoes and then combined with cooked Basmati rice.

Here's a little bit of terminology for you. Biryani is the term used when you combine cooked rice with a rich, aromatic gravy, as is done in this dish. Pullao refers to the process of cooking rice and spices together, like basmati rice cooked with peas, cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves.

Even though we don't eat a lot of rice, my family always asks me to make this dish for them when they visit. I hope you enjoy it as much as they do!

Tomato Biryani

1 cup uncooked basmati rice
1 tbsp canola oil
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 dried red chilis
3 bay leaves
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 8 oz can tomato sauce (will use about 6 oz)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt or to taste

Wash basmati rice using multiple changes of water, until the water runs clear. Cook basmati rice using 2 cups of water per 1 cup dry rice in a small saucepan. Let cool completely. Can make a day ahead and refrigerate until needed.

Heat canola oil until shimmery over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add cloves, dried red chilis, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves, sauté for one minute. Then add onions and cook until translucent, about 7-8 minutes.  Add all ground spices except garam masala, sauté for a minute.

Add chopped tomatoes and stir until well coated. Cook until the juices leave the tomatoes, about 8-10 minutes.

Add cooked rice and mix gently so that the rice doesn't break.

Add just enough tomato sauce to barely coat the rice, about 6 oz. Add salt, and adjust seasoning as needed. Cook for two minutes until rice is heated thoroughly. Remove from heat. Serve with plain yogurt.

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