10 most popular rice dishes from south India

It’s the quintessential stereotype – full meals at a South Indian restaurant with copious amounts of smooth, polished white rice served in multiple courses (from SambarTo rasam quail). But not all South Indian meals are “complete meals”. Whether it’s a quick dinner, a handy ‘dry’ option for a lunchbox, or a special festive dish, one-course rice meals are an integral part of southern Southeastern menus. India. And we don’t just talk biryani here. Variety of rice, mixed Rice; these are some of the descriptions of the South Indian (especially Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) obsession with rice dishes which are also unique dishes. Some rice dishes (like Bisi Bele Bath) should be served piping hot while others (like Vaangi bath) also work well at room temperature.

Not everything is made with the same variety of rice. Small grain Seeraga Samba which is an essential ingredient in biryanis in Tamil Nadu in Kaima (aka Jeerakasala rice) which is used for Malabari biryani and Kavunni Arisi (a unique black rice grape) which is almost unique to Chettinad cuisine, there are distinctive rice varieties in the region that differ in flavor, texture and even color.

We choose ten of the most popular South Indian rice dishes:

1. Puliy terminal

Often referred to as tamarind rice, this rice dish tastes quite different from Andhra (here Pulihora) in Karnataka in Tamil Nadu. Served for festive occasions and also as a “Prasad” temple in many temples in the region, Puliyogare generally presents a strong blend of spices with tamarind and the unmistakable aroma of gingelly oil.

For the recipe, click here – Puliyogare.

The interplay of lots of spices and generous amounts of sesame oil gives this dish a rich, almost complex flavor.

2. Coconut rice

Not all mixed rice recipes are spicy, this lightly flavored rice is one example. The rice is sautéed (after cooking) with an equal amount of freshly grated coconut, cashews and sweet spices. This dish is also served for festive occasions and is best enjoyed with Avial or a spicy sauce.

For the recipe, click here – Coconut Rice.

10 Most Popular South Indian Rice Dishes - Coconut Rice

Easy to prepare coconut rice with urad dal and cashews.

3. Bisi Bele or Sambar Rice Bath

Sambar Satham (Rice) is an essential part of every “business lunch” or thali in Chennai restaurants. This is a lighter version compared to the Bisi Bele Bath – nothing beats the versions in Bengaluru and Mysuru (where the rice is sometimes topped with a few Boondi), which contains more spices and generally more generous amounts of ghee.

For the recipe, click here – Bain Bisi Bele

10 Most Popular South Indian Rice Dishes - Bisi Bele BathBisi Bele Bhaat or Bisi Bele huli anna is one of the traditional karnataka recipes, prepared in almost every kannadiga household.

4. Sesame rice

Incredibly quick and delicious (unless you don’t like the tangy flavors of sesame), this mixed rice version gets most of its flavor from white sesame seeds and gingelly oil (used for tempering). It’s almost as good with brown rice and it’s the perfect quick fix if you get stuck with ‘leftover’ rice.

For the recipe, click here – Sesame Rice.

10 Most Popular South Indian Rice Dishes - Sesame Rice

Steamed rice mixed with a blend of spices, a tangy tamarind-based pullikacchal masala and the added crunch of peanuts.

5. lemon rice

A regular at most school and college lunch boxes and not without reason. It’s the perfect quick fix on days when you sleep too long or can’t find food in your fridge. All you need is the juice of one or two lemons and the usual ingredients (which include turmeric, curry leaves, URAD dal, mustard) to “temper” the rice with it. Jamie Oliver is also a fan, recommending it as a side dish for Indian and Thai curries.

For the recipe, click here – Lemon Rice

10 Most Popular South Indian Rice Dishes - Lemon Rice

A quick and easy serving of lemon flavored rice with a host of spices.

6. Karuvapellai Satham

Healthy, but delicious! Curry leaf rice with all the goodness (vitamins, calcium and iron) and flavors of curry leaves, it is a popular mixed rice option throughout Tamil Nadu. You can also replace the curry leaves with coriander leaves; the result – an even brighter green version that is just as tasty.

10 Most Popular South Indian Rice Dishes - Curry LeafA typical Tamil Brahmin recipe without onion or garlic.

7. Bagara Annam

Arguably Telangana’s most famous rice dish after the ubiquitous Hyderabadi biryani. Bagar is the Urdu word for tempering (or seasoning). Bagara Annam is the perfect foil for some of the region’s chicken or mutton sauces. It is usually cooked with Basmati or Sona Masuri rice, just like a pulao with generous amounts of cilantro and mint leaves.

For the recipe, click here.

10 most popular rice dishes from south India - pulaoBagara Baingan is a popular dish from Hyderabadi.

8. Brinji rice

There is enough evidence to suggest that Brinji rice predated the biryani In Tamil Nadu, the dish takes its name from the main spice (brinji leaf – bay leaf in Tamil) which is used to flavor this dish. Some culinary historians suggest that this rice (like the biryani) is influenced by Mughal cuisine. It is vegetarian and is characterized by the use of coconut milk and the way the vegetables are marinated with the spices to give the dish its rich flavor and aroma.10 Most Popular South Indian Rice Dishes - Bay Leaf RiceThe flavor of bay leaf along with other masala ingredients give this rice a rich flavor. 9. Vaangi bath

It is synonymous with Mysuru where the dish is an integral part of wedding menus. The key ingredient of the dish – the bottle-shaped green brinjal is commonly found in these regions. It is rich in flavor and manages to maintain itself despite the presence of a bunch of spices that come together in a unique Vangi Bath Masala, available in Indian supermarkets. It is best with a Mosaru Bajji (Raitha), Sandige (crispy rice) or Happala (Papad)

For the recipe, click here – Bain Vaangi

The flavor of bay leaf along with other masala ingredients give this rice a rich flavor. A perfect dish for the holidays. ten. Curd Rice

Premixed curd rice (also known as Bagala bath) is not only incredibly quick to fix, but is a summer favorite as well. There isn’t a way to do this. Some homes offer a “very compact” version with very little curd, while others offer a version with a thick, creamy curd. It is common to add hot milk with the curd for a different consistency and flavor. You can also play with the flavors by adding dry roasted chilies or finely chopped green peppers or make it a sweeter version with fruits like pomegranate and green grapes.

For the recipe, click here – Rice with curdled milk

10 Most Popular South Indian Rice Dishes - Curd RiceAn easy-to-make rice pudding recipe. Tempered with mustard seeds, red peppers, dals and curry leaves.

About the Author:

Ashwin Rajagopalan is a cross-cultural training expert and lifestyle writer. When he’s not writing about food, he’s thinking about gadgets, trends, and travel experiences. He enjoys communicating across cultures and borders in his weekday avatar as a content and editorial consultant for a global major and one of the only intercultural trainers in India.


The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, adequacy or validity of the information contained in this article. All information is provided as is. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV assumes no responsibility in this regard.

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