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South Indians love to nibble puliyogare in mid-afternoon as a pick-me-up. The name, which is Halegannada, is the marriage between puli, or sour, and ogara, or rice, an apt name for a snack made of steamed rice mixed with a host of flavors. Members of the Iyengar community are especially fond of puliyogare, which is offered during Diwali and other festivals.
Coriander, red chilli, and curry leaves are di rigueur for Huli anna, or tamarind rice, as it is also called in Karnataka. Tamarind juice is an essential ingredient, as is coconut, cumin, and turmeric. Most cooks also add nuts of some kind; most common are peanuts. A pinch of hing, otherwise known as asoefetida, a few mustard seeds, and of course tamarind juice add a little extra zing.
Visitors to the Sri Vaishnava temples that populate South India will find puliyogare to be plentiful. For fans of this aromatic dish who are living on other continents, the only option may be to create the dish at home. It has a number of ingredients, and preparation is somewhat complex, but nothing else satisfies like it.
With a little know-how, a home cook can create a treat that will convince even the most homesick South Indian that home is where the hearth is. Roasting is the essence of this rice snack. The coconut is roasted first and set off by its lonesome. Next, the chillies, curry leaves, and asoefetida are roasted in ghee if it’s available. If not, butter will do; the coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds must also be roasted.
The next step is to roast the nuts. Some cooks include urad and channa dal. If so, these too are roasted until the kitchen has filled with a delicious, spicy perfume. Once everything has cooled, the spices are combined with the coconut in an herb grinder and pulverized.
The roasting isn’t over, however. After adding ghee or butter to the hot skillet, a few more mustard seeds, a handful of nuts, and some sesame seeds are roasted together with a little more red chili and some additional dal. The home cook must pay attention; when the seeds pop, it’s time to add tamarind juice and wait for it to boil. To this is added powdered spices, and the liquid is cooked down to a sticky paste.
The mixture keeps in a refrigerator for up to a month. Chances are good, though, that it won’t have the chance as long as there’s a steady supply of steamed rice around. Once the paste is made, it’s easy to mix up a daily snack of puliyogare.