Everyone loves the basic food one is attached with since childhood. May it be Dal-Chawal, Rajma-Chawal, Khichri, Sambar-Chawal, Rasam, Vada-Pav, Litti Chokha, Lassi or Chhaas etc etc. It is like all time favorite and draws you to your roots. We may eat exotic food for days together but would always like to come back to the basic Dal-Chawal or Khichri as something our own and loved. Home cooked food is always divine.
Early this week, it was a whirlwind trip of three states in three days; Bihar, Karnataka and Andhra (sorry Telengana). A dish which caught my fancy was, again the basic, Curd- Rice !! Yes, the headline of this article gave it away as to what I am going to write about today.
A white base dish decorated with green curry leaves, dark mustard seeds, a sporadic splash of yellow dal, promogranate and a dried red chilly. What a colorful sight !! Despite so good looking and amazingly tasty , this dish is normally relegated to an unimportant place in the buffet or the menu card; albeit in some places in Tamil Nadu. Here in Bangalore too it was placed alongside pickles and chutneys.
I love it so spotted it. The first spoonful in the mouth played virtually a harmony of falvours on my palate. This cold yogurt was blended seamlessly with the rice and the salty taste combined with the mild chilly, crispy taste of curry leaves and the crunch of dal. The occasional sweetness of promogranate coming on to the palate was a delight and balanced the whole dish. Spoon after spoon not only provided flavored experience on the tongue but also was soothening on your food pipe and the stomach. And that day, I didn’t eat it as a winding up dish. It was enjoyed as the mains and the only dish.
The falvours, though basic and delicate, ran me through lots of memories. However, first my mind was forced to de-construct the dish.
Curd-Rice consists of predominantly two ingredients- Cooked Rice (normally steamed version) and fresh Curd / Yoghurt. Firstly, fresh curd, preferably mildly salted, is added to ,slightly hot, cooked rice (this aids the curd to blend thoroughly with the rice) and then tempered with oil, curry leaves, hint of minced ginger, green Chillies, cumin, mustard seeds and urad dal. Sometimes a hint of hing is also added. Normally, it is served cold. Consistency is normally kept slightly thick and not runny like Khichri. Sometimes promogranate is added to give it an exotic look and feel. It’s normally eaten as it is. Some like to eat it with pickle or chutney. I love it pure.
Many years ago, a friend of mine (TN Shanker; haven’t met him for years now) introduced me to this dish. We were traveling together for a few days in the interior of Tamil Nadu and my love for South Indian food made Shanker comfortable in not having to scout for North Indian food for me. After a couple of meals together, I noticed, he ending every single meal with a round of curd rice. It was like a ritual. On asking, he said South Indians, typically tamilians, eat lot of spices in every meal. Winding it up with curd rice soothens the palate and helps in digestion. That day, I tasted it for the first time and since then am hooked to it.
I have eaten curd-rice in almost all parts of the country, east,west,north and of course south. Eaten it in a road side joint, a decent standalone restaurant, a food chain, a five star hotel, at friends place and don’t remember where all. Amazingly, it tastes the same all the time and at all the places. This could be only true in the case of Curd-Rice. All others dishes like dal, rajma, Chokha etc would taste differently at different places including one home to another. Curd-Rice remains the same all over. It is satisfying and easy on the stomach and of course easy on the pocket.
…..And I eat it as a main dish for its amazingly delicate falvours and simplicity. Soothening of food pipe and stomach are simply by-products. Try it, you would fall in love with it. It’s Cool !!