Vangibhath ~ Rice with roasted and spiced eggplants

I am dishing out today one of my Dad's favourite food. A meal of vangibhath and wafers was sure to have him clicking his tongue in satisfaction later. I hope you will like it too.

Rice is a staple in South India. Naturally we do much more with rice than just have it plain. You will be surprised at the variety of spiced rice preparations that restaurants down South offer. It is mind-boggling. Vangibhath is one of the famous rice preparations from the state of Karnataka. Though the dish bears its origins in Maharashtra but with time the Karnataka version has evolved into a unique dish by itself. The taste is quite different from the Maharashtrian vangibhath (vangi meaning eggplants and bhath meaning rice).

Earlier I used to purchase vangibhath powder during my bi-annual visits to Bangalore but the store bought powder loses its flavour soon. Later I started pounding my own mix at home. I follow Vedavalli Venkatachary's recipe in the book "How to Cook?" with minor modifications based on my taste. I recommend the book (published by Lifco) highly to anyone who is interested in South-Indian cooking as it is concise and clear in instructions and I have had success with most of the dishes I tried from it.

Recipe: Vangibhath ~ Rice with spiced eggplant
Based on Vedavalli Venkatachary's recipe in 'How to cook?'
Preparation Time : 30minutes including time to cook rice and prepare spice powder
Serves : 4-5 persons
Recipe Level: Medium
Recipe/Post by: Sunshinemom


For the rice:
  1. 1.5 level cups, any aromatic rice (like basmati or ambemore), soaked for 20 minutes
  2. 3 cups water to cook rice
For the spice powder:
  1. 3 Dry red chillies (Sukhi lal mirchi), if you are using byadgi variety. If using spicier variety reduce as per taste.
  2. 2 tsps. Coriander seeds (Dhania)
  3. 1 tsp. Blackgram lentils - husked (Urad dal dhuli)
  4. 1 tsp. Bengalgram lentils (Chana dal)
  5. 1/8 tsp. Asafoetida (Hing)
  6. 1 tsp. sesame oil or sunflower oil
  1. 1 tsp. Mustard seeds (Rai dana)
  2. 1 sprigs of curry leaves (kadi patte)
  3. 10 cashewnuts halved
  4. 1 tsp. oil
250g Small purple, round,firm brinjals/eggplants/aubergines (Baingan), chopped as shown below
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. Sunflower or Sesame seed oil (I like to use the latter)
Method to prepare:

Preparing the rice:

Rice for vangibhath
Rice for vangibhath
  • Pick and rinse rice, soaking it in just enough water for at least 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile heat the water in a pressure cooker. When boiling, add the drained rice and a tsp. of oil. Stir and put on the lid and whistle. Cook for 4 minutes on high. Reduce and cook for five minutes on reduced heat before putting off the gas. Set aside to allow the pressure go down naturally. After about 15 minutes open the lid and carefully spread the rice on a wide plate with a fork so as to not break the grains. Set aside to completely cool.
  • Alternatively, you can cook it uncovered in an open vessel till just done. The grains should be cooked through but firm and separate.
Preparing the spices
  • Heat a teaspoon of oil in a wide wok. Roast all the spices separately, except asafoetida, till aromatic and till the colour of grams and spices changes to reddish brown. Remove and stir well adding the asafoetida. The curry leaves should be roasted enough to remove excess moisture by wilting but the colour should remain green. (See picture below)
Spices for brinjal rice (Vangibhath)
Roasted spices for Vangibhath
  • Cool and pound into a fine (not superfine) powder in a coffee grinder and set aside. See picture below;

Vangibhath podi
  • Cut the brinjal vertically. Lay it face down and cut lengthwise into three or four equal pieces. Hold them together and slice horizontally into thin wedges, as shown.
Eggplant wedges
Preparing the vegetable
  • Keep in salted water till needed. I like to keep it in a thin tamarind extract to retain the colour and prevent oxidation. Retain a tsp. of the water and discard rest or use up for some other dish.
  • Heat the rest of the oil and crackle mustard seeds. Next add split cashews and fry till golden. Add curry leaves and let wilt. Drain and add sliced wedges of brinjal and fry till the vegetable is firm and just cooked. This should take about 3 minutes. I always add 1/2 a tsp. of salt to quicken the process. It is optional but adding only a tsp. of thin tamarind water (the one used for soaking the brinjal slices) towards the end adds a tang. Roast till dry.
  • Add the spice powder and mix well.
  • Remove from heat and add the cooled rice.
  • Mix well till the spices cut uniformly into the rice and serve with wafers or pappadams.

Special Notes/Tips:
  • Every cooker behaves differently. Time it the same as you will for a pulav or biryani. The rice should be just cooked and the grains separate.
  • This tastes best served at room temperature.
  • Add the spice powder a tbsp. at a time and reserve some of the powder. Add if needed. This measure serves perfect but spice levels vary from person to person.
  • Same with oil.
  • You can add other vegetables as well but then it would not be 'vangibhath' though it tastes good.
  • I always serve pappadams or wafers.
  • The recipe looks elaborate because I have broken it down but it is extremely easy. You could prepare the spice powder in advance. It can be frozen and stays fresh for about a month.
  • The tamarind water is optional. I like it.

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Zarda or Meethe chaawal
Meethe chaawal / Zarda / Sweet Saffron Rice

As an Asian, in particular - a Tambrahm, my love for rice needs no reason, excuse or introduction. If I am told, "you really love rice, don't you?", I simply say, "Well, I am Tamilian." That justifies it all. Try as much, you can't shake off those genes and years of rice and rasam in one lifetime that easily! Given a choice between wheat and rice, I dive straight for rice, throwing the nutritionist's advice to the winds! It is this addiction that leads me to keep trying desserts that are made with rice. A whole month dedicated to rice at beyond curries gave me a chance to share this wonderful recipe I was introduced to by my neighbour.

My neighbour, M, makes meethe chaawal during Navratri, Diwali and other festivals. My version is a vegan and low-sugar version, and I make it at the slightest pretext - rainy days, Sundays, weekdays, sudden guests, whatever! I warned you - I am addicted. And I would love you to get as addicted as I am.

About the dish:
Many Indian dishes bear their origins to Mughals. The dish we know as 'meethe chaawal' is one such. Meethe chaawal is known as 'zarda' in Pakistan and gets its name due to the yellow colour of the dish, from the Persian word 'zarda' which means yellow. It is served on special occasions and is made traditionally using clarified butter or ghee. I am not in favour of artificial or store bought food colourings and hence use only saffron (kesar or zafran), but these days meethe chaawal comes in a sprinkling of colours, so if you would like to go ahead, then colour it wild. (as wild as green, yellow or orange can get!). This is a popular dessert in the Indian regions of Punjab, Sindh and Rajasthan.

Those who are vegetarian can substitute coconut milk with milk. Even if you use water instead of milk the taste will be good but I recommend coconut milk as it only tastes much, much better than milk, and that is not an exaggeration!

Recipe: Meethe chaawal ~ Zarda ~ Saffron Rice Dessert
Preparation Time : 20 mins, excluding soaking time for rice
Serves : 3 persons
Recipe Level: Very Easy/ Beginner
Recipe/Post by: Sunshinemom

1 level cup, basmati rice or any long grained rice, soaked for at least 30 minutes in water
3/4 cup Sugar
1 vanilla pod, scraped (optional)
A few strands of good quality saffron / kesar / zafran
1 + 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup light coconut milk (second extract)
4 Nos. Chhoti elaichi / Green cardamom, crushed roughly
4 Cloves / Laung
1 Bayleaf / Tejpatta (Optional)
3 tbsps. any neutral oil such as sunflower (vegetarians may use ghee)
1tbsp each of fried split cashew nuts, slivered almonds, pistachios and fried raisins

Zarda or Meethe chaawal
Meethe chaawal / Zarda / Sweet Saffron Rice

Method to prepare:
  1. Preparing the rice: Pick and rinse rice, soaking it in just enough water for at least 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Soak the saffron strands in coconut milk and set aside till needed.
  3. Prepare a syrup with 1/2 cup water and sugar heating till the sugar just dissolves completely.
  4. In a pressure cooker heat 2 tbsps. of oil/ghee and when warm add crushed cardamom, cloves, bay leaf. Saute till aromatic. Now add drained rice and saute for two minutes till the rice is coated with the oil and the spices are evenly distributed.
  5. Add 1 cup of water and the saffron soaked coconut milk. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the mixture. Stir well and when it comes to a boil add the sugar syrup and stir for a minute. Put the lid on and cook with the weight for exactly 4 minutes on high fire. Reduce to sim and let cook for another 5 minutes. Put off fire.
  6. Let the cooker cool naturally. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Open and stir gently with a fork to fluff the rice. It may be a little sticky but by the time you reach your dessert course it will cool down and separate, that is if you cooker behaves like mine!
  7. Before serving stir in the dry fruits and raisins.
  8. If you are not using a cooker then proceed upto 5. Cook on reduced heat, stirring gently till the water is absorbed. If needed you may add a tsp. of ghee or oil in the end. Not necessary but if it makes you feel better, go ahead.
Zarda or Meethe chaawal

Special Notes/Tips:
  • Every cooker behaves differently. Time it the same as you will for a pulav or biryani. The rice should be just cooked and the grains separate.
  • Sugar can be increased to one cup if you have a sweet tooth but this is perfect measure for my family.
  • This tastes best served at room temperature.
  • If you are having guests over have a second helping ready. It is quite delightful.

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Dum Biryani is a very exotic Rice dish , wonderfully spiced, delicately cooked and enjoyed heartily.

This is a slow-cooking method dating back to early sixteenth century Dum cooking was introduced to India by Mughal. Handi is the cookware used for Dum cooking. Dumpukht is derived from Persian meaning 'air-cooked' or 'baked'. The earliest documented recipe can be found in Ain-I-Akbar

Handi is a round spherical shaped clay pot. The bottom is thick. The top has a wide-mouth opening about 85% of the middle of the pot. The opening is supported by a very narrow neck that flares out to form broad rim. There is no handle so the pot is lifted by grabbing the rim. A clay saucer is used as a lid and placed on the top. The lid is sealed with hard paste made of flour and water. The Handi is left on the charcoal for several hours, till the food is to be served. The heat creates the steam, it condenses and rolls down the curved walls. 'Dum' means warm breath signifying the steam. The 'Pukht' means choking. 'Dum Pukht' means choking the steam and prevent it from escaping. .
Handiya is a smaller version of Handi
For Dum cooking:Par-cooked food is kept in Handi with minimal amount of water. The lid is placed and sealed with a paste of flour and water. The flames are put out, leaving a bed of hot coals. The heat creates the steam, the steam condenses and rolls down the curved walls. In other words, the steam is choked before it can escape, leading to the term 'Dum Pukht'.
For some of the dishes, the coals may also be placed on the lid to distribute heat evenly (Source: Here)

There are many versions of Biryanis, ranging from Meat to chicken and ofcourse the vegetable Biryani.The trick lies in cooking the rice just perfect and handling it with care while mixing with cooked vegetables, the flavors are then allowed to mix , as all the ingredients are kept in a handi for slow cooking.The result? A perfectly cooked biryani, with awesome flavors and amazing aroma, that will teleport you straight in the Mughal era, as you relish The Mighty Biryani.

Today's recipe is highly inspired by Sanjeev kapoor's Mushroom Dum Biryani, with ofcourse some changes here and there.


Recipe: Vegetable Dum Biryani (Slow cooked Rice with vegetables, herbs and Indian Spices)
Prep Time:20 minutes

Cooking Time:30-45 minutes

Shelf Life:Taste best when ate straight away from handi (Ok...not actually, but do consume right away)

Recipe Inspiration/Source:Sanjeev Kapoor

Recipe Level:Medium
Spice Level: High

Recipe/Post by:Alka

Button mushrooms, quartered 15-20 medium (I used 10)
Basmati rice, soaked 1 1/2 cups
Bay leaf 1
Cloves 4
Green cardamoms 2
Black cardamoms 2
Cinnamon 1 inch piece
Mace 1 blade
Salt to taste
Oil 2 teaspoons
Onions, thinly sliced 2 medium
Ginger paste 2 teaspoons
Garlic paste 2 teaspoons
Red chilli powder 2 teaspoons
Coriander powder 1 tablespoon
Black peppercorns, crushed 1/2 tablespoon
Cumin powder 1/2 teaspoon
Turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon
Tomatoes, pureed 2 medium
Skimmed milk yogurt, whisked 1/2 cup
Garam masala powder 1/2 teaspoon
Fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped 1/4 cup
Fresh mint leaves, torn 1/4 cup
Kewra water 4-5 drops (I skipped this)
Saffron (kesar) a pinch (I skipped this)
Skimmed milk 1/4 cup (I skipped this)

Add- ons:

Carrot 1
French Beans 3
Baby corns 3-4
Shelled peas (As many as you like)
A pinch of Kasuri methi
You can use the commercial Biryani pulav masala(1/4 tsp ) instead of Whole Garam masala if you wish to make it less spicy.
 Special Utensils:
Handi or Bean pot or Crock pot
Verbatim Of Sanjeev Kapoor's Mushroom Dum Biryani (Check the notes given below to read the changes I made)
  1. Bring four cups of water to a boil in a thick-bottomed vessel. Add bay leaf, cloves, green cardamoms, black cardamoms, cinnamon, mace and one teaspoon salt.
  2. When the water starts boiling rapidly, drain the soaked basmati rice and add.
  3. Cook for eight to ten minutes, stirring frequently or until the rice is three fourths done.
  4. Drain in a colander.
  5. Heat oil in a non-stick pan, add sliced onions and stir-fry over high heat for two to three minutes or until the onion turns translucent.
  6. Add ginger paste, garlic paste and sauté briefly.
  7. Add red chilli powder, coriander powder, crushed peppercorns, cumin powder and turmeric powder. Stir-fry briefly and add the pureed tomatoes.
  8. Continue cooking over high heat for another two to three minutes, stirring continuously or until masala is fairly thick.
  9. Add the whisked skimmed milk yogurt, garam masala powder and half the quantity of chopped fresh coriander and mint leaves.
  10. Stir well and cook for two minutes more.
  11. Add the quartered button mushrooms and salt to taste.(At this step I added chopped and boiled Vegetables like carrots, beans, peas, babycorns etc)
  12. Stir-fry over high heat for two to three minutes and remove from heat.
  13. Arrange the cooked rice and mushroom masala (with vegetables in my case) in alternate layers in an oven proof dish (or Biryani handi), sprinkling the remaining chopped fresh coriander and torn mint leaves, kewra water and saffron dissolved in skimmed milk after each layer.
  14. Ensure that the top most layer is of rice.
  15. Cover the assembled biryani with a tight fitting lid and seal the edges with kneaded atta dough (if required).
  16. Keep the sealed dish on a medium hot tawa and leave for ten to fifteen minutes. You can also place a few burning charcoals on the lid.
  17. Alternatively, leave the sealed dish in a preheated oven at 200 degree C for ten to fifteen minutes.
  18. Break the seal and open the biryani, just before serving.

Special Notes/Tips:
  • Instead of just mushrooms, I boiled some chopped vegetables and mixed with mushrooms to have a more filling Biryani
  • Instead of sealing with dough, I used aluminum foil to wrap around the lid.It worked well for me.
  • For Dum, I placed the handi over a griddle , which in turn was kept over the gas burner and the flame was kept on lowest mark and the mixture was dum cooked for nearly 13 minutes or so.
  • I skipped, kewra, saffron and milk, since I generally do not like to mix milk and yogurt in a single dish.But go ahead with these ingredients, these give a lovely flavor to the wholesome Biryani.

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This combination works out very well. I am a big fan of “Panner mutter masala”, that too home made. The sweetness of peas and the softness of paneer adds different feeling on each bite. A protein packed puluv. Hot or cold you can enjoy the taste. Though I follow the same ingredients for puluv, this one preparation is little different. 

Recipe: Mint, Peas, Paneer Puluv
Recipe Level: Easy/Beginner
Recipe/Post by: Viji

1 cup shelled fresh peas
½ cup paneer cubed
¾ cup basmati rice
1 cup coconut milk

To grind
1 onion
2 green chili
1 small wedge of ginger
1 bunch of mint leaves
A fistful of coriander leaves

To temper
1 tsp oil
1 tsp ghee
Cinnamon, cloves, bay leves, cardamom – 2 each

1 tbsp garam masala powder
Salt to taste

MW high peas for 3 minutes.

Fry the paneer cubes in 1 tsp oil till golden brown.

Cook the basmati rice with coconut milk and little salt in electric rice cooker. Spread to cool. 

In a skillet temper as given. Add the peas and grinded paste and saute till the raw smell goes. No need to saute for long time. Try to retain the green color and the fresh taste. Add paneer and spice powder and saute till blended. Now add the rice and saute everything blends well on medium heat. Serve hot or cold with raita of your choice. You will feel the freshness in each spoon. 

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Curry Leaves Pickle!

Posted by Srivalli | Tuesday, June 01, 2010 | , , , | 10 comments »

Of the many pickles, podis and the chutneys too, Curry leaves occupies an important place in our household. Athamma is known to dish out a podi as she fancies and chutney even in lesser time than you can blink. She is really so fond of these condiments.

So it is natural that we get rubbed off that interest. When in season, we make different dishes with Curry leaves. Notably the Curry leaf podi gets most done, and then Curry leaf mixed rice then of course this pickle.

Today’s special dish is what I learnt from Athamma, her signature Curry leaves pickle!

Curry Leaves Pickle

Ingredients Needed:
Curry leaves - 2 cups tightly
Red chilies - 20 long
Methi powder - 1/4 tsp
Mustard powder - 1 tsp
Tamarind - 2 lemon size
Salt - 2 tsp
Oil - 2 -3 cups


Curry leaves - 4 -5
Urad dal - 1/4 tsp
Hing a pinch
Red chili - 2-3


Saute each of the ingredients except the seasonings, seperatly in little oil till done. Remove, cool.

Then using a mixer grind Red chili, Mustard, Methi to smooth powder.

Add tamarind, run to smooth paste.

Heat oil and season with seasoning, then finally add the paste to the pan. Saute over low flame for 10 min.

Special Notes/Tips:

This can easily stay well for 10 days, but remember to have enough oil.

The quantity mentioned yields more than 2 cups of pickles, please reduce according to your needs.

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