Tomato Rice (Tamatar Biryani)

We made this rice for Raghavan Iyer—Cookbook Author, Magazine Writer, Culinary Educator—and I’m thanking him for writing this recipe. – pauljoseph

We are in love with pauljoseph’s Tomato Rice—it’s loaded with aromatics and layers of heat but so easily made for a simple side or lunch. With pauljoseph and Raghavan Iyer’s precise instructions, the rice comes out perfectly cooked and soaked through with the flavorful tomato broth. You can vary the spice with the type of chiles you choose (Thai are much spicier than serrano), and whether you remove the seeds and heat-packed white ribs—bear in mind that the spice will continue to build as you eat. If you can’t find whole mace, substitute 1/8 tsp ground mace or even skip it and let the other spices carry the dish. – A&M

1 cup Indian or Pakistani white basmati rice
2 tablespoons Ghee or butter
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
6 green or white cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks (each 3 inches long)
2 blades mace
1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon shredded fresh ginger
4 medium-size cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 or 3 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, cut lengthwise into thin strips (do not remove the seeds)
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

Place the rice in a medium-size bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with water, to cover the rice. Gently rub the slender grains through your fingers, without breaking them, to wash off any dust or light foreign objects (like loose husks), which will float to the surface. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now fill the bowl halfway with cold water and let it sit at room temperature until the kernels soften, 20 to 30 minutes; drain.

Heat the ghee in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and mace. Cook until they sizzle, crackle, and smell aromatic, 15 to 30 seconds. Then add the onion and stir-fry until it is light brown around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.
Mix in the ginger, garlic, and chiles. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. (You don’t want the garlic to brown because its nutlike crunch is important to the rice’s texture.) Stir in the tomatoes, with their juices, and the sea salt and turmeric. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the drained rice and toss gently to coat the grains with the tomato sauce. Pour in 1 1/2 cups water, and stir once to incorporate the ingredients. Bring to a boil, still over medium-high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated from the surface and craters are starting to appear in the rice, 5 to 8 minutes. Then (and not until then) stir once to bring the partially cooked layer from the bottom of the pan to the surface. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes (10 minutes for a gas burner). Then turn off the heat and let the pan stand on that burner, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve. (Remove the cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks before you serve it, or just remind folks to eat around them.)

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