Piqued for poongar

The very mention of red rice has us looking to Kerala for its sumptuous and gratifying rosamatta variety.

Published: 20th January 2021 06:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th January 2021 06:34 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The very mention of red rice has us looking to Kerala for its sumptuous and gratifying rosamatta variety. While the neighbouring state has plenty more to offer, our rice-rich Delta region is not without its own. From red kavuni and mapillai samba to kaivara samba to kuruvikar, these indigenous rice find themselves more takers amid the urban milieu’s still-standing love for organic food and homegrown health. Poongar rice isn’t far from this favour.

Poongar is traditionally red unpolished rice that is grown in parts of Tamil Nadu. However, unpolished and semi-polished versions are also available, where the husk and bran layers are removed during the milling process, explains dietician Preethi Rahul, while talking about the benefits of this kind of rice.

Farmer’s pick
“From a farmer’s standpoint, this rice has the special ability to withstand and grow in drought as well as floods. It is also disease-resistant. These attributes of the rice could be due to high peroxidase content,” she shares.

Nutritional value
“This rice is believed to be high in micronutrients like iron and vitamin B12, which is why it was probably found to be beneficial by our ancestors, particularly for women. Poongar is consumed by women after puberty and is believed to avert ailments associated with the reproductive system.

Farming communities do mention that consuming this rice regularly before pregnancy does facilitate normal vaginal birth, however, there is no proven research to support this,” details Preethi. Ferulic acid, coumaric acid and anthocyanins are some of the key antioxidants in poongar rice, which explains why this rice variety is good for the management of diabetes, obesity and heart diseases, she adds.

In everyday life
This rice has to be soaked for at least four-six hours for it to get soft. Hence, it is more suited to be incorporated in breakfast foods like idli, dosai or idiyappam than be consumed directly as rice, advises Preethi. However, she notes that some vegetables have to be added to the meal to improve the fibre content and make it complete.

One-pot rasam rice


  • Poongar rice: 1 cup, par-boiled/ boiled/raw
  • Dal of your choice: 1/4 cup
  • Tomatoes: 2 big or 3 small, chopped
  • Coriander: a bunch, chopped
  • Curry leaves: a few
  • Turmeric powder: a pinch
  • Rasam powder: 2 tsp
  • Green chilli: 1, slit
  • Garlic: a few pods, crushed (optional)
  • Ginger: a small piece (optional)
  • Lemon juice and salt as per taste
  • Sugar: a very small pinch

For tempering
Mustard Cumin seeds Fenugreek seeds Curry leaves Asafoetida Freshly crushed pepper + cumin seeds


  • Soak the dal in hot water for minimum half an hour. Soak the rice, separately, in water for at least one hour.
  • In a pressure cooker, add the rice and dal; to it, add a pinch of turmeric powder, rasam powder, coriander leaves, curry leaves, green chilli, garlic, ginger and tomatoes.
  • Add five cups of water and cook for five whistles over medium flame.
  • When the cooker is ready to be opened, use a whisk (or ladle) and mix well.
  • Add salt as required.
  • Adjust consistency with more water as per your requirement. Add a pinch sugar, bring it to boil, cook for few minutes and turn off the heat.
  • For tempering, fry all the ingredients in two tablespoons of ghee. Pour it over the rice.
  • Squeeze some lemon juice over it and garnish with fresh finely-chopped coriander leaves.
  • Serve hot, drizzled with ghee and along with chips or potato roast or any other roasted vegetable.

by Shanthi Ramachandran


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