Adapted from a recipe that appears in Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal. Read more about Chitra in our Womyn Powered Food series.
Nimbehannu chitranna, or lemon peanut rice, is a specialty of South Karnataka. This lemony golden rice is tinted with turmeric and flavored with South Indian spices, coconut, peanuts, cilantro and curry leaves. It is prepared on auspicious occasions and served at temples, but it’s also the perfect dish for a picnic or potluck. Leftover rice or rice cooled completely on a sheet pan works best in this recipe.
- 1 cup basmati or Jasmine rice
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1⁄4 cup unsweetened grated coconut (fresh, frozen, or dried)*
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon mild-flavored oil such as canola
- 1⁄4 cup raw peanuts or unsalted roasted peanuts, preferably with skin
- 1⁄2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- pinch of asafetida (hing) powder
- 1 teaspoon chana dal, without skin
- 1 teaspoon urad dal, without skin
- 4 or 5 fresh curry leaves
- 1 dried red chile, broken in half
- 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 teaspoon salt
- juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons), plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
*Thaw frozen coconut or place dried coconut in a little hot water to plump it.
Wash the rice in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in water, generously covered, for at least 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly, using a fine-mesh sieve.
Place the rice and 1 and 3⁄4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Mix in the 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the saucepan and turn the heat to the lowest setting on your stove.
Cook until the rice is tender and there is no water left in the pan, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Remove the saucepan from the stove and leave it covered for 10 minutes, to allow the grains to separate. You should have a yield of about 4 cups of cooked rice.
Put 1 teaspoon of the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat. Add the peanuts to the wok, stirring until they are fragrant and turn golden brown, a few minutes. Set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.
Coat the bottom of the wok with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add one black mustard seed. When the seed sizzles and pops, add the rest of the mustard seeds and the asafetida. Keep a lid handy to cover the pan while the mustard seeds are popping. When the popping starts to subside (a few seconds), immediately add the chana dal and urad dal. Stir to coat with oil, and turn the heat to medium-low. Continue to stir the dals so they evenly roast, until they turn a reddish golden brown and smell nutty, less than a minute. Rub the curry leaves between your fingers a little to release their natural oils, and drop them and the dried red chile into the oil. Cover immediately, as moisture from the curry leaves will cause the oil to spatter. Then stir to evenly coat everything with oil, a few seconds.
Add the cooked rice and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt to the wok and mix well. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut and fry for another minute. Turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Stir in the peanuts. Taste for salt and lemon juice and adjust as needed. Garnish with more cilantro. Serve hot with raita and achaar.