Parsi brown rice, or vagharela chawal, is not brown rice from the health food shop. The brown in this dish comes from caramelised jaggery and onions. But it is not as sweet as you might think.
Even with this caramelised onions and sugar, this rice is not sweet but has just a tinge of it that is perfect with dhansak. Lightly golden in colour, mildly sweet and fragrant from the whole spices that release their aromas into hot ghee, this rice recipe is a must-try. It goes with a lot of dishes.
This dish is a traditional Parsi recipe.
It is simple to make and could well become your go-to recipe when plain rice isn’t enough. There are really only two things you need to do well. When you add the rice to the spice mix, make sure you stir it well and allow to cook a little. This will ensure that each grain is well coated with ghee and spices. The other important thing is to not add too much water, as you do not want this to become an onion flavoured rice pudding.
- Wash the basmati rice in several changes of cold water until the water remains clear. Cover the rice with cold water and set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain when ready to start preparing the dish.
- Using a thick-bottomed pot with a tight lid, heat the ghee over medium-low heat. Add the cassia, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, star anise and bay leaf. Fry until they become fragrant.
- Add the sliced onions and the salt. Stir and fry the onions for ten minutes or until they are deep golden and softened. Stir frequently as you do not want the onions to burn.
- Add the jaggery and stir. Continue frying and stirring the onions and jaggery to ensure even browning. The sugar and onions will caramelise and turn a deep brown.
- Once the onions have browned, remove a tablespoon of them and set these aside on absorbent paper. They will become crisp by the time you use them to garnish the completed dish.
- Add the drained rice and gently stir to cover the grains with the ghee, onions and spices. Add 1 litre of water and stir. Bring the water to a boil, cover tightly, then reduce heat to very low. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Turn the heat off. Uncover the pot and quickly fluff rice with a fork. Cover the pot with a tea-towel and replace the lid. Do this as quickly as possible because you do not want to lose heat or steam. Leave the rice to finish cooking in its own heat for a further five minutes.
- Uncover the pot and fluff the rice if needed. Remove the whole star anise and cassia stick. Garnish with the reserved onions and serve.
- 400g of uncooked rice is approximately two metric cups.