Yogurt rice has to be the most ubiquitous rice dish in South Indian Tamil homes. Every Tamilian ends their meal be it lunch or dinner with yogurt rice. Basically it’s white rice mixed with plain yogurt – that’s it. Yogurt rice is such an integral part of a Tamilian daily menu that even as toddlers yogurt rice is one of the first solid foods that are given to children. Yogurt rice makes a perfect summertime meal. It’s typically served at room temperature or the preferred way is cold. I grew up with yogurt rice and I have passed on the love of yogurt rice onto Hitesh and my kids. When I make yogurt rice for dinner I always get a unanimous “Yes, yogurt rice!” reaction.
Yogurt rice is made in advance and left in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Adults usually have yogurt rice with spicy Indian pickles. Sometimes when yogurt rice is served for when guest are over for lunch or dinner, or when it is served at Tamil weddings yogurt rice gets jazzed up with the addition of mustard seeds, asafoetida powder, green chilies/red chilies, and curry leaves that are all toasted in oil and added to the yogurt rice. Finely chopped cucumber, carrots, finely cut raw mango, peas or corn may be added to the yogurt rice as well.
Talking to a few of my family members and friends I hear that these days like everything else in the internet age even the humble yogurt rice has become a more fanciful dish. It seems nowadays yogurt rice is enhanced with even pomegranate seeds (yuck 😝). To me yogurt rice should be creamy white, that’s the way it has been for centuries, now we are going to muck it up with pomegranate seeds and turn yogurt rice pink? No thank you 😝. But I do see the virtue of adding veggies in yogurt rice, more veggies in our diet in as many ways as we can consume it is good for our health.
My family likes yogurt rice all jazzed up with mustard seeds and asafetida. I typically serve it with a side of vegetables like a green beans curry, okra curry or turmeric spiced potatoes. The recipe I would like to share with you here is a simple yogurt rice that my Mom used to make when I was growing up, she usually made this version for special occasions, but I make my yogurt rice in this way all the time.
makes 5-6 servings
- 1 cup quinoa cooked with 3 cups water – makes about 2-3 cups cooked quinoa or 1 cup uncooked white rice cooked with 2-3 cups water.
- 4-5 cups plain yogurt or a combination of yogurt and buttermilk.
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp asafoetida powder. Yogurt rice has a generous amount of asafoetida powder, which helps in the digestion of food – especially as yogurt rice is the last course of a typical Tamil meal.
- Whole red chili or 1 green chili (optional)
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger or ginger paste
- 4-5 curry leaves if you have (optional)
- A few sprigs chopped cilantro
- In a large bowl place the cooked quinoa or white rice and let it cool to room temperature. If I am impatient to accelerate the cooling of the quinoa or rice I add a few ice cubes to the rice.
- In a small pan heat 1 tbsp oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Once they stop popping add asafoetida powder and cook in oil for 1-2 seconds. Turn the stove off and immediately add green chili or red chili, ginger, and curry leaves. Toast chili in hot oil for a few seconds. Add this oil mixture to the quinoa/rice and mix in.
- If using vegetables, add them now and mix into the rice.
- Next add yogurt and mix all ingredients together. Add salt to taste. If the yogurt rice is too thick, add cold water to thin the yogurt rice slightly. Yogurt rice is ready.
- Top with chopped cilantro and serve chilled or at room temperature.
Cook’s Notes: If you would like to pump up the veggie volume go ahead and add veggies which is what I do these days to get more veggies in my families diet. Here are a few suggestions. You can use about 2 cups of just one vegetable or a combination of vegetables including finely cut carrots, onions, cucumber, cooked corn, green peas, and green beans.