Recipe: Ersatz South Indian rice with yogurt

Murraya koenigii (curry leaf) tree
Murraya koenigii (curry leaf) tree

Another quick way I’ve been using curry leaves lately is in a dish of spiced rice and yogurt, which is sometimes called “curd rice.” The idea and basic spicing comes from Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan (one of my favorite Indian cookbooks). The steps are simple:  cook some rice, add chopped vegetables (cooked or raw, depending on the vegetable), fry spices in oil, mix the oil and spices with the rice, then serve with plenty of plain yogurt.

Ersatz South Indian Rice with Yogurt

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian


Rice, Vegetables and Yogurt

  • 3 cups cooked basmati rice
  • 1 cup vegetables: fresh tomatoes, cooked carrot, cooked peas, sauteed onion, fresh chilis, etc.
  • Salt to taste
  • Plain yogurt
  • Roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Spice Mixture

  • Cooking oil
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp black gram dal (washed urad dal), picked over, rinsed, and well dried (see note),
  • 2 tsp chana dal, picked over, rinsed, and well dried (see note)
  • 1 dried red chili
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
  • 6-12 fresh curry leaves, washed and well dried


  1. Gently mix the vegetables into the cooked rice. Add salt to taste.
  2. Combine the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dals, chili asafoetida, and curry leaves in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Before cooking the spices, have a pot lid handy in case the mustard seeds splatter violently. Heat about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a small skillet over high heat. When hot but not smoking, add the spice mixture and shake the skillet to distribute. Cook, stirring or shaking the pan, until the mustard seeds pop (usually under a minute), then pour over the rice. Gently distribute the spices through the rice.
  4. Garnished with the optional cilantro and chopped nuts, and serve with plenty of plain yogurt.

Recipe Notes

Note: it makes sense to wash and dry enough dal to make several South Indian recipes. Thoroughly rinse the dal in a sieve, shake off excess water, and then spread them onto a cookie sheet. If your gas oven has pilot light, put the pan into the oven for a few hours, moving the dal around on the sheet every now and then to fully dry them. After they have cooled, store them in glass jars in my spice cabinet.


  1. recipe lover — You can definitely leave out tomatoes (I certainly will when tomatoes are out of season). Flexibility is one of the beauties of this recipe: use what is in season and available.

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