basmati rice with yogurt and lime pickle

basmati rice, buttermilk & lime pickle

When it comes to cooking, lazy I am not. And I’m a full believer in those little details, so it’s not uncommon for me to run all over Manhattan and beyond to pick out the perfect ingredients for whatever meal I am currently making. Meat at a green market? Herring in Brighton? Locally produced milk at Fairway?

Some people, when they cook, just see what they have on hand in the kitchen and whip up something. This is how my mother and grandmother have cooked – and they’ve managed to do plenty with that approach. I, on the other hand, will clip a recipe and make sure I have every ingredient on hand for it. I’ll plan to make X on day Y and hold myself to that schedule. I can certainly cook free-style, but there’s something about following a recipe that excites me.

And so whenever I get something in my head, particularly when it’s a craving of sorts, I can’t get it out until I exorcise my demons so to speak and make the dish. For the last two weeks, I’ve been craving basmati rice with buttermilk and lime pickle – a dish my once-roommate taught to make. I use the term “dish” liberally, as this requires minimal amount of effort, which makes it no less delicious, and in my opinion even more satisfying. I’ve yet to make my first real Indian recipe and this suffices for the time being.

Lime Pickle

I’ve been planning on making this lime pickle by hand, but never seem to get around to it. I’m told, with the use of the asafoetida, it’s a pretty aromatic process. Of course, I couldn’t find lime pickle in stores anywhere and going to Jackson Heights wasn’t an option given the schedule. And so I craved, but had to just make do with other food, until I spotted it in Chelsea’s Garden of Eden and armed with a jar of Patak’s pickle, a carton of buttermilk and a puny, laughable, white-person-sized bag of basmati rice, I rushed home, only to find that we were having pasta for dinner that night. The following night, we had leftovers. And the night after we saw a movie and had sushi.

Until two nights ago, when I got home from a busy Sunday, and finally got to make the dish I craved for two weeks beforehand. It didn’t help that on Saturday, I watched “The Namesake” and looking at fried samosas on the big screen made me drool a little.

Basmati Rice

Within twenty five minutes of starting to cook, I was sitting down with a bowl of rice, having poured a little buttermilk into the steaming heap and depositing a dollop of the pickle on top. It was so simple, it was barely cooking. And yet, every spoonful was exactly what I needed: nourishment and comfort in every bite.

Basmati Rice With Yogurt and Lime Pickle


1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
Pinch of salt
Half a stick cinnamon
1 cardamom pod
2 cloves
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons lime pickle

Heat up rice, water, salt, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves until the
water boils. Reduce heat, and cover pot. Look for 20 minutes, or until
water is absorbed by rice, but be sure not to overcook the rice.

Spoon some rice in a bowl and pour over buttermilk. Add the lime
pickle. Mix the rice, the buttermilk and the pickle and enjoy.

Serves 2


  • Nitya

    A beautiful tribute to thayir chadam — the greatest food of all.
    Though, to mix things up for the seasons: it’s also pretty good mixed with buttermilk and ginger and green chilies and fried mustard seeds, refrigerated and eaten cold on a hot summer’s day. With pickle.

  • radish

    Nitya, thanks for the compliments and teaching me the name of the actual dish. I am definitely going to try it cold with all the add-ins!
    PN, I like Kalustyan’s, but to be honest, the immigrant in me is appalled by how much they want to charge me for a bag of cardamom among other things, when I can pay a fraction of that in Jackson Heights. It’s almost too clean there :) Besides, it’s always a good excuse to eat at Jackson Diner.

  • Krishnan

    To add to nitya’s suggestions. Its better to go with jasmine or boiled rice rather than basmati for thayir chadam, since basmati is very favorful and overwhelms the curd/yogurt taste. And try Kadag manga (baby mangoes in chili powder and salt solution) as the accompaniment.

  • olga

    Vandana – i’ve never made it! Always buy at an Indian grocer, but I think it’s easy to make, though does get REALLY pungent. Should I make it and post?

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