Thereaos a certain je ne sais quoi about this rice dish cooked in a stew (made from any protein or vegetables or both) that can be traced back a millenia to the Abbasid caliphate in Iraq. Why is a bite of pulao decadent one moment and much-needed comfort food the next? While the answer has proven elusive, the rapid and wide popularity of pulao and its various iterations (biryani, paella) is a testament to its ingenuity.

One can find a version of pulao from Tanzania to Xinjiang in China, each representing local quirks and tastes. One can even find pulao in Tobago, a Carribbean Island where it is called pelau and is made with crab. In Armenia, pulao is made with bulgur (cracked wheat) combined with pasta such as orzo or vermicelli.

People living in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan) will be more than familiar with maqluba (which means upside down in Arabic), a dish of rice, meat and fried vegetables such as eggplant and cauliflower. True to its name, the pot that the dish is cooked in is flipped upside down when maqluba is ready to be served.

The famed Spanish dish paella (made with round-grained rice cooked in a chicken broth or seafood stew) owes its creation to the pulao - or a version of it - popularised in the Iberian Peninsula by the Arabs. In fact, Arabs - through their dynastic conquests or trades - introduced rice, the essential ingredient in pulao and other such dishes, to the world. Where would oneaos cuisine be without pulao? I shudder to think.

A Kutchi interpretation of this familiar dish is comfort food at its best

Masoor aur Qeema Pulao

Masoor aur qeema pulao is a quintessential regional dish - it's different enough to wow you but familiar enough to be a comfort food. This pulao - a mix of qeema [minced meat], masoor dal [lentils] and rice is not as decadent a dish as mughlai biryani or shahi pulao but it makes an impact nevertheless. Originating from the Kutch region of Sindh, itaos one of many dishes from Kutchi cuisine thataoll make you fall in love with food all over again.


1/2 kg minced chicken/chicken qeema

1/2 kg rice (soaked for half an hour in water)

1 cup masoor dal (soaked for half an hour in water)

4 onions (finely sliced)

4-5 chopped potatoes

4-5 chopped tomatoes

3-4 large green chilies (cut in half)

1-2 lemons (sliced)

Finely chopped coriander (as needed)

2-3 star anise

2-3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon white zeera (cumin, whole)

7-8 black peppercorns

4-5 cloves (whole)

2 tablespoon ginger-garlic...

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