South Indian Yogurt Rice ('Thayir Saadam')
South Indian Yogurt Rice is a staple meal that requires staple ingredients: yogurt, cooked rice, spices, and oil. The comfort of a cool, creamy porridge is pared with an aromatic spice blend made powerful through a simple tempering technique often referred to as 'tadka.' The beauty of this recipe is that it involves whatever you have on hand. If you are hard-pressed to find urad daal, incorporate something else crunchy like cashews. If you have cilantro leaves on hand, add them! If you are not interested in adding any chili peppers, don't! The yogurt and rice are the base, and your creativity is the cream on top.
Servings 4 people
- 2 cups cooked Basmati rice
- 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon urad dal white gram lentils
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder found at Indian grocery stores
- 4-6 curry leaves torn in halves
- Cilantro leaves
- Roasted cashew halves
- Dried red chilies
- Grated ginger
- Mango, lime or tomato pickle to serve
In a large bowl, combine the rice, yogurt, and salt, kneading them together with your hands. Make sure you include enough yogurt so the mixture has a creamy, not dry, texture.
Prepare the tadka, or tempering spices. In a small saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the lentils. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to start popping. Immediately add asafoetida and urad dal. Stir briefly. Turn off the heat and add curry leaves. If you choose to add other garnish, such as cashews, ginger, or chilies, add them in now. Stir to combine.
Add the tempered mixture to the yogurt rice bowl. Finish with any additional garnish (cilantro is the perfect addition). Serve cold at room temperature. We suggest serving with mango pickle, and something crispy (roasted potatoes, papad, or for the Western diet - potato chips).