a south Indian summer staple
India experiences a fair share of blazing hot weather that coincides with delicious succulent summer fruits such as a variety of melons, lemons, limes, Indian gooseberries, papaya, custard apples, litchi, and of course, mangoes. Many of these traditional summer fruits are now popularly available across the world in local markets , produce suppliers and even plain old farmers' markets. In the US market, the most commonly available mangoes include Altufo, Kent and Champagne varieties. Some suppliers will carry my favorite too - the Alphonso mango.
India remains also truly blessed with several different varieties of Mangoes. There are tart ones, fleshy ones and fibrous ones; some are teeny-tiny round golf-ball sized and others are large, weighing between 16-20 oz! They carry the flavor of the region they are grown in and are much sought after in the market.
Whenever a heat wave coincides with freshly available mangoes, cold curd-rice appears at tables in India, most frequently at lunch. *In India, and in this recipe, curd or curds refer to freshly made yogurt or Greek yogurt. It must not be confused with curdled products or as a descriptor of texture (such as a reference to small-curd cottage cheese).
Another reason for the popularity of curd-rice lies in the Ayurvedic principle of treating ones' body to seasonally appropriate meals composed to help ones' body negotiate the extreme weather changes.
In this principle, freshly made yogurt is cooling to the body and thus beneficial in the summer months. Yogurt also helps ones’ digestion. Ghee and rice also bear similar cooling properties. Ayurveda also states that mangoes are considered warming to the body and must be consumed in combination with cooling ingredients, such as yogurt, milk, or even by merely pacing out its inclusion in ones diet. The combination of yogurt (or curds) with cold rice, spices and a delicate inclusion of mangoes helps compose a well balanced treat. Not to mention that though the texture and consistency of Curd rice is similar to Thai mango rice, the flavors that develop with treating the yogurt with extra care and allowing them to develop – transforms simple summer ingredients into an elegant delicacy.
Cold Curd Rice, with Mango is my take on a traditional version of a south Indian staple.
Makes: 4 servings
Prep-time: 10 minutes plus 30 minutes to pre-cook rice
Cook-time, Ease: 10 minutes, plus 1 hr to cool, easy
1 tbsp. ghee
1 tsp. mustard seeds
5-6 curry leaves
¼ tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
½ cups Greek yogurt, unflavored, whisked
2 tsp. cilantro / coriander leaves, chopped finely
Salt, to taste
¼ cup water, as needed
½ cup or more, cubed pieces of sweet mango, reserve a few for decoration (see preparation method here)
2 cups cooked rice, completely cooled
Note: For this recipe choose mangoes that are ripe or just ripe, not over-ripe or else they will break down completely into the mix. When available, use firm textured mangoes such as Champagne or Altufo. ‘Just-ripe’ Kent mangoes do well too.
Cook the rice as per directions and allow it to cool completely. Once the rice has cooled, spread it in a large serving dish. Choose a wide and compartively shallow serving dish to assemble the finished curd rice (similar in depth to a brownie pan) versus choosing a deep narrow pot. Cover the cooling rice with a kitchen towel and set aside.
Whisk the yogurt to smooth in a large jug. Set aside a few mango pieces for decoration in a glass container and seal with plastic wrap (ripe mango browns quickly when exposed to air or when stored in metal containers).
Warm the ghee in a small saucepan. When it heats up, add mustard seeds, curry leaves, jalapenos, ginger and sauté on medium low until this mixture sizzles and the mustard seeds have popped. Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room tempreature.
Add the cool, tempered ghee into the whisked yogurt. Sprinkle with cilantro / coriander leaves, salt it to taste and mix well. Add in the cubed sweet mango pieces and stir well to ensure the fruit is well coated with the seasoned yogurt. Add a little water if required to make it to the consistency of a thick shake.
Carefully pour this mixture over the rice in the pan. Lightly mix in so that the yogurt seeps through and reaches the bottom of the pan. Work carefully to not break the grain. Cover with cling warp and cool for 1 or more hours in a refrigerator.
Serve in cold bowls or cups with the reserved mango pieces; enjoy chilled.