I first had Birinji Rice when my family moved to Chennai in 1957. It was a vegetarian delicacy served at weddings instead of mutton biriyani. Though my family felt disappointed at the lack of meat, I loved its taste, and I used to pester my mother to make it but she didn’t know how – which is not surprising as the key ingredient, kalpasi, was not known in Thirunelveli at that time. Fast forward 63 years, and I finally made my own version which matches the flavour of the birinji rice I used to enjoy so much at Christian weddings. This also makes part of a nice feast at any occasion where meat side dishes are served. It can also be used for a purely vegan/vegetarian feast along with Vegetable Kuruma and Sweet and Sour Brinjal Masala.
The basmati rice provides 345 Calories and 6.8g or protein per 100g. The other ingredient which adds to the energy value is the oil used. This is a high carbohydrate and medium fat vegan/vegetarian main dish. The nutritive value can be increased by serving along with Mangalore Mutton Curry for non vegetarians, Black Gram Dhal Pakoda Kuruma for vegans, or my Paneer, Peas & Potato Curry for vegetarians.
- 3 C Basmati Rice
- 2 large Onions, diced
- 6 Green Chillies, stalks removed
- 3 T Ginger-Garlic Paste
- ¼ C chopped Coriander Leaves
- ¼ C chopped Mint Leaves
- 1 C thick Coconut Milk
- 1/3 C Vegetable Oil
- 4 small pieces Cinnamon
- 4 Cloves
- 4 Cardamoms
- 2-3 Birinji/Biriyani/Dried Bay Leaves
- Pinch of Kalpasi (Black Stone Flower)
- 3 teaspoons Salt
- 5 C Water
- Wash and soak the basmati rice for 20-30 minutes. Drain in a colander.
- Heat the oil in a heavy-based large pan which has a tight fitting lid.
- Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, and stone flower, and fry till the cloves swell.
- Add the onion and green chillies, and fry till the onion becomes translucent. Do not brown the onion.
- Add the coriander and mint leaves and fry for a minute.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste and a tablespoon of water, and fry on low heat till an enticing aroma arises.
- Add the coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to boil.
- Add the basmati rice and stir. Wait for it to boil again.
- Lower heat and cover the vessel with its tight fitting lid.
- Open after 5 minutes and give it a stir.
- Cook again on low heat till all the water is absorbed.
- I make ginger-garlic paste by grinding equal quantities of ginger and garlic without water in a mixie/blender, and bottle and refrigerate the paste. It will keep for 7-10 days.
- The kalpasi gives a very strong aroma once it comes into contact with hot oil and should therefore be used in limited quantities.
- Browning the onion will change the flavour of the birinji rice. Take care to fry only till the translucent stage.
- I use sunflower oil supplemented with rice bran oil for its neutral flavour and cholesterol- lowering properties.
- I use reconstituted coconut milk made from coconut milk power which is easily available in most stores.