Stovetop: Indian Lemon Rice with Mustard Seeds

January 24, 2022 1 Comment

Stovetop: Indian Lemon Rice with Mustard Seeds
Indian Lemon Rice with Mustard Seeds

The first time I tried lemon rice was out of a turmeric-stained Tupperware container in a South Indian friend's home. Her mom made this magical concoction and it was so hot that it instantly seared my mouth and stung my eyes. I can still visualize the dried red chiles sitting innocently on top of the rice, and my mouth even three decades later waters at the thought. It was so incredibly addictive that I just kept eating - gobbling it up fast and sucking in air in between ever bite like that was going to help the heat on my lips and tongue. I thought Punjabi food was hot, but this was another level entirely. And, I've never stopped wanting and needing more of it. Lemon rice, that is. Here is a simple recipe that will simply blow your socks off. Traditionally, basmati rice is used for this dish. I used Jasmine rice and one of my favorite brands - Three Horses. It is fabulous. 

Note: This recipe appeared originally in my second book, Vegan Indian Cooking on page 194. I reduced the amount of rice I used and tweaked my cooking process a bit. I am always working on my recipes - the original is absolutely delicious as well. If you don't have this book, consider getting it and if you have it and love it, please please consider adding a review on Amazon. It's how we authors get more book deals - when you the public tell folks why you love our books so much.

Indian Lemon Rice

1/4 cup raw, unsalted peanuts (keep the skin)
1/4 cup chana dal or split gram
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 pinch hing or asafoetida
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds 
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, slightly crushed
1 small yellow or red onion, minced (heaping 1/2 cup)
4 whole dried red chile peppers, broken into pieces
10 fresh curry leaves, whole or roughly chopped or 2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2-4 Thai or serrano chiles, stems removed and thinly sliced
1/3 cup lemon juice (2 small lemons)
2 teaspoons chutney, sambhar, or rasam powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups cooked rice (basmati, jasmine - white or brown)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

1. In a shallow, dry pan, roast the peanuts until they are golden brown over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a plate so they can cool as you prep the remaining ingredients. 

2. Soak the chana dal in hot, boiled water. I heat water in my electric kettle and pour it over the dal in a bowl. There is no need to actively boil the dal, you want a little crunch. 

3. In a heavy 6-quart pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the hing, turmeric, and mustard. Stir and cook until the seeds pop, about 40 seconds. Keep a lid handy to prevent any splattering. 

4. Add the coriander, onion, dried red chile, and curry leaves. Stir and cook for 40 seconds. 

5. Carefully add the drained chana dal, ginger, fresh chiles, and peanuts. Stir and cook for about 3 minutes until the dal browns. The moisture from the dal can cause the oil to splatter. 

6. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, chutney/sambhar/rasam powder and the salt. Stir well, scraping the bottom. The lemon juice will deglaze the pan. This is a traditionally South Indian dish, so I recommend a spice blend from this region - feel free to use any Indian spice blend you have on hand, including garam masala, tandoori masala, or chaat masala. I sell them all on my site. I am always a fan of using what you have. 

7. Add the rice and stir well until all the grains of rice are coated yellow with turmeric. Remove and discard the bay leaves if using, garnish with the cilantro and serve warm. All of the other spices including the curry leaves are edible. 

Do I have to use rice? Not at all. If you are looking to replace rice, use cooked quinoa, barley, couscous, or even cauliflower rice OR a combination of these with a little rice. If using riced cauliflower from frozen, be sure to microwave/steam it before adding. The cauliflower is not the same as rice, but it's pretty darn good. I often make it with cauliflower and add a spoonful of rice in later. 
Nuts? You can use any nuts in this recipe. If you have a nut allergy in your house, leave them out. For a twist, add dried fruit like raisins or cherries. 
Curry Leaves. While curry leaves will add another layer of flavor entirely, they are not always easy to find. Leave them out, but keep your eye out for them at an Indian market. 

Here's a video on how to dry roast peanuts. Notice how I keep the product in the pan moving? Key to make sure it does not burn. For other fun, easy visuals on how to cook Indian food, head to my YouTube Channel and subscribe by clicking here

 Anupy's Spice Corner: Today, let's chat a little more about mustard seeds. We all know what mustard is, but what's the seed all about? Well, that's how we get mustard, by crushing and processing the seeds with other ingredients! Those seeds, however, are a different color. There are over 40 different varieties of mustard plants, but the three key mustard seeds that we generally use are light beige, brown, and black. In Indian cooking we use the black variety because it has a deeper, more pungent flavor and because it pops in our cooking. Look how beautiful it looks in our lemon rice above against the backdrop of turmeric and rice. If we used the beige seed it would just blend right in. On my website, I sell black mustard seeds as part of my spice line so you know that you can purchase the key ingredients that will help you make Indian food at home authentically and perfectly. To learn more on how to purchase, click here. 

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel by clicking here. You'll make me so happy! 

If you would like to watch my Facebook Live class - it was a lot of fun! - head to Indian As Apple Pie on Facebook by clicking here, click on the word 'Live' and look for the video from Sunday, January 23th that is 41 minutes and 02 seconds long - with me in the light blue shirt. 

1 Response

Linda Oliver
Linda Oliver

February 10, 2022

We made this recipe last night and served it with the Tamarind chutney we just received. It was delicious! I recently discovered a great Indian market near our house that carries chana dal and curry leaves.

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