There are several rivers flowing through the southern states of India and the fertile deltas are excellent for growing rice. That is why rice is a staple and it is used not only as the carbohydrate source but also used in a variety of ways. Pulihora is made for festive occasions, although traditionally made with Ponni rice and tamarind, the lemon and mango version is popular in Andhra Pradesh. I find the long grain rice we get has too much starch and gets too sticky, so prefer Basmati rice.
You cannot make pulihora without using hing. There is a certain umami savouriness that hing brings to the dish. Hing or asafoetida is a resin of giant fennel plants that grow wild in Afghanistan and Iran. It was brought to India about the 16th century. The resin can be kept pure, which is how I store mine. You mostly find it ground to a powder and mixed with wheat – in India L.G (not the Korean brand) is synonymous with hing powder.
250 grams Basmati rice, rinsed several times until water runs clear
600 ml water from the tap
4 long green chillies, quartered lengthwise
5 sprigs of curry leaves
¾ teaspoon turmeric powder
4 teaspoons sesame oil
Juice of 2 or 3 lemons (measuring about 60ml)
1 large raw mango or 2 small raw mangos, finely grated
Salt to taste
For the popu (seasoning):
2 tablespoons brown sesame seeds
75 grams peanuts
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons channa dhal (split chick pea)
A small pinch of hing (asafoetida, available in Indian stores)
5-6 dried red chillies, cut in to two or three pieces and seeds removed (I used a combination of hot and not so hot ones)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 green chillies, chopped
2 sprigs curry leaves
Put the measured rice in a sieve and thoroughly rinse the rice in water until the water runs clear. Place rice in a large (30 centimetre wide microwave safe) glass bowl.
Add a teaspoon of sesame oil, a teaspoon of salt and the water. Mix and microwave on 70% power for 20 minutes. (My microwave is 1100 watts so if yours is lower wattage adjust cooking power accordingly).
When rice is cooked, remove from bowl and spread onto a large platter to allow the grains to dry out. On the hot rice, throw in the green chillies, curry leaves and turmeric powder. Add the remaining three teaspoons of sesame oil.
In a small fry pan, add a teaspoon of peanut oil and fry peanuts and sesame seeds until golden. Sesame seeds start to pop when done. Best to do on low heat so they stay crunchy.
In a small sauce pan or a small kadai (Indian style wok), heat the remaining peanut oil on medium heat. When hot, add the channa dhal and fry till they turn pale brown. Add the hing, dried red chillies, followed by the mustard seeds. Use a spoon to stir them around so they fry evenly. You will know the mustard seeds are fried sufficiently when they start to crackle. When you hear the mustard seeds crackling, remove from heat and add the curry leaves and remaining green chillies. Put the grated mango and mix to combine.
Mix the mango and seasoning into the rice well with a paddle spoon. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste to adjust seasoning and allow to rest for half an hour at least for flavour to develop. Serves 4 -6.