Beyond Biryani: 5 Indian Rice Dishes You Need To Know About


Biryani probably takes the “best Indian rice dish” crown, or at least the “most popular Indian rice dish” one. We should know, we’ve sung its praises quite often.

However, biryani isn’t all there is to Indian rice-based cuisine. We’re not known as a chawal-loving nation for nothing, are we? The best part about rice is that it can be served as a dessert, main course, or even as an entree. Pretty awesome, right?

There are around 40,000 varieties of rice that are cooked all over the world. We’re willing to bet that India contributes heavily to that list. Here are some of the tastiest rice dishes we enjoy in all parts of India.

Rice Dish #1: The Zafrani Pulao

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Every time you’re eating a Zafrani Pulao, you are tasting royal food. That’s right: this pulao was once deemed fit for a king, a popular choice in the imperial kitchens of the Mughal empire. It’s name comes from its primary ingredient, saffron.

Mughal kings loved their food, and oh my, did they love this dish! It is rarely cooked in ‘common’ households, because the secret recipe remains only with a few noble families. The next time you get your hands on a plate of Zafrani Pulao, you just might be eating the original recipe that once pleased actual kings!


Rice Dish #2: Pulihora

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For this one, we travel a little south into the kitchens of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Given that it is cooked in all these states, you’ll also see pulihora called puliyodarai or puliyogare.

You probably noticed the common ‘puli’ in these names: this stands for tamarind, a key ingredient.  South Indian moms are often seen packing a lunch box filled with yummy puliyogare for their children. This tangy, tasty rice dish is often served as prasad in temples too.

Pulihora is made by mixing a number of spices including—you guessed right—tamarind. Southern cooks will tell you this tastes best when prepared with gingelly oil. Cashews and groundnuts are added as toppings. The mix of tamarind’s tangy sourness and the light heat of the spices: that, in a nutshell, is quintessentially South Indian.


Rice Dish #3: Jeera Rice

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Something every Indian needs to be familiar with. If you aren’t, shame on you. Also, read right on—we’ll enlighten you.

Jeera rice is an Indian dish consisting mostly of rice and cumin seeds. It’s an easily prepared tasty dish, especially popular in northern India. It’s prepared by heating cumin seeds in hot oil and then adding boiled rice and salt.

This dish tastes best when you use Basmati rice. Some restaurants garnish their jeera rice with onion rings. There have been mentions of jeera rice in ancient Indian recipe books. It’s another rice dish that was famous during the Mughal period.


Rice Dish #4: Bisi Bele Bath

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Aaand we’re back South again. This is one long culinary journey, huh?

Bisi Bele Bath is a rice dish that originated in Karnataka. Its name translates to ‘hot lentil rice.’ You make bisi bele using (of course) spices, masala, vegetables and dal. It acquires its unique taste after you add spices like asafoetida, curry leaves and nutmeg. This popular rice dish is sometimes topped with boondhi or papad.

Add ghee to bisi bele, and hungry Kannadigas will pop up from nowhere!


Rice Dish #5: Kheer

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This rice dish falls under the dessert category. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘ksheer’, which means milk. You make kheer using rice, sugar, ghee, and jaggery. Some cream is added; cue luscious, creamy goodness.

You can serve kheer piping hot, or as a cold dessert: garnish it with almonds, raisins, cashews, and pistachios.

If this article made your taste buds tingle—or aroused your foodie curiosity—then what are you waiting for? Get on Swiggy, and bring that ricey goodness home!

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