There are several versions of rice cooked with turmeric and or curry powder that are Curry Rice. And then there are the Yellow Rice dishes that are particular to certain countries such as Indonesia’s Nasi Kuning – rice cooked with turmeric, coconut milk and lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves. There’s the Spanish version – Arroz Amarillo – that uses annatto (achiote) as the agent of flavour and colour to its Yellow Rice.
I was not deliberately looking to create anything special when I made my curry rice. The idea came, as many of my quick-meals ideas do, out of a need to make something quick and tasty. In the refrigerator, there was some curry paste left over from the previous week when I had cooked curry. And just like that, I decided that I was going to curry the rice.
I don’t know about you, but one of the things I really enjoy about eating curry is mixing the sauce/gravy with the rice and eating it. The meat, fish or shrimp in the curry is always put aside while I get my fill of the rice and sauce mixed together, more often than not with my fingers (smile). I eat the meat last because I don’t want it to get in the way of the curry in my rice. Imagine my excitement then at the thought of a meal exclusively of curry rice. Some sliced cucumbers on the side, dressed with fresh lime juice, salt and pepper was the accompaniment I needed. Or, if you are into raita(s) – a side dish made of thick yogurt, fruits or vegetables with fresh delicate fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro and basil and sometimes spices. It’s really like a salad. Have you ever heard of Tzatziki (tat-zee-kee)? It’s a Greek-style yogurt sauce. Well, a raita is similar in nature.
The key to this rice having that deep signature curry flavour is to approach it just as you would curry. In other words, there must be some garam masala involved. The curry paste made up of garam masala, garlic, onions, hot peppers, fresh herb (celery, basil, or cilantro/coriander) and turmeric, should be sautéed in hot oil first, to cook out the “rawness” of the spices and other ingredients so that they can meld and become a unified powerhouse of flavour. The second important stage is to cook this paste with the rice for a couple of minutes before adding the liquid to cook the rice.
Unlike other Yellow Rice dishes, where it is easy to pair with spiced meats, my curry rice, if being used with a protein would be best served with something that is lightly or delicately flavoured. This way, the two dishes when combined and eaten would be complimentary and not overpower the palette. Think of it this way. Whenever we cook curry, notice that we serve it with white rice? the rice being that plain medium for the curry sauce/gravy to be mixed with and then eaten. Or with roti, again, a fairly bland medium that offers up texture, heft and body to soak up the curry sauce and act as a vehicle to transport the meat, seafood or vegetables to our mouths.
For my curry rice, I would suggest serving it with seafood. These items cook up quickly and when they are so fresh, all you need for seasoning is salt and pepper or a freshly made herb paste. A quick sauté or pan-searing is all the cooking you’ll need to do.
Actually, a fry-up of vegetables would also be an excellent accompaniment for this curry rice. So, you can make this rice and easily serve it to meat lovers and vegetarians alike.
Give it a try.
Cynthia’s Curry Rice
2 cups Basmati rice
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry paste
1 ½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)
2 + 2/3 cups water
½ cup thinly sliced green onions (white and green parts) OR ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro/coriander
1. Wash rice 3 – 4 times and then soak in a bowl with water for 30 minutes.
2. Add oil to a large pot and heat until hot but not smoking.
3. Add curry paste and salt to oil, reduce heat to low and let cook gently for 2 – 3 minutes stirring a few times.
4. Meanwhile, drain rice well, shaking off excess liquid.
5. Turn heat to medium and add the rice. Stir the rice with the curry mixture to coat the rice completely, let cook together for 1 – 2 minutes.
6. Turn heat to high and add the measured water, stir to mix well, scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate the stuck bits. Taste liquid and if more salt is needed, adjust.
7. Cover pot and let it come to a boil, as soon as the pot comes to a boil, reduce heat to low/simmer and cook covered for 25 minutes. At the end of the 25 minutes, do not remove the lid, shut off the heat and let the pot remain covered for 10 minutes.
At the end of the 10 minutes, remove the lid, add the green onions or cilantro which ever you are using and mix into the rice. Serve immediately.
● If using long grain white rice, no need to soak the rice; use 3 cups water to cook the rice.
● If using parboiled rice, you can soak the rice, cook with 3 ½ cups water. If you are not soaking the rice, cook with 4 cups water.
● If using brown rice, you can soak the rice and cook with 5 cups water. If you are not soaking the rice, cook with 6 cups water.