This is a must have recipe on our menu whenever we are having vegetarian guests over. It is festive, yet simple to make.
Not only for vegetarians, but this aromatic and flavorful shahi pulao is going to make even the hardcore carnivores happy. It tastes amazing on its own, but when paired with some spicy coriander and mint chutney it becomes incredible. Serve along kachumbar raita to add some more texture to the plate. It also goes well with many kinds of curries like this chana masala, this malai kofta, or this matar tofu. For the meat eater friends, you can serve it along this no butter-butter chicken or this 30-minutes chicken korma.
What is quick cooking brown rice and why I used it for this recipe?
For this recipe I used quick cooking basmati brown rice. I had concerns about the nutritional properties of quick cooking version of brown rice as they are a processed form of brown rice. After doing some research here is what I found.
Quick cooking brown rice is simply brown rice that has been cooked and then dehydrated, which greatly shortens the cooking time. The good news: quick cooking (also known as instant) brown rice is nutritionally not that different from slower-cooking brown rice. Normal brown rice may contain slightly more nutrients that may be lost during quick cooking brown rice’s processing, but the instant version of brown rice is not a bad whole-grain option. Compared with refined grains (including white rice), they contain more antioxidants, such as vitamin E and selenium; more minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, copper, and zinc; and more fiber.
Here are some of the sources that I referred to:
The reasons I preferred using the quick cooking version for this recipe, rather than the normal brown rice are:
- When you are having guests over, it helps when your food isn’t taking too long to cook (usual brown rice could take up to an hour to cook)
- They come out very fluffy, which is crucial for the recipe (usual brown rice may come out sticky, and nobody likes a soggy pulao)
How is this pulao ‘Shahi’ (royal)?
Shahi (which translates as royal in english) used to be referred to the food of the kings and richer classes. Thanks to the abundance of resources and availability of ingredients, now even the normal people can feast themselves with shahi meals.
This pulao makes use of some extravagant ingredients, paneer (Indian cottage cheese), cashews, ghee etc. But what makes this pulao really stand out from others is the addition of some brown sugar, which caramelises beautifully and gives this pulao its rich taste and incredible flavor. Some people add raisins to their pulao as well, but I find them too overpowering when I get a bite of it in my spoon. Brown sugar coats the rice grains uniformly, playing very harmoniously.
The addition of spices like black and green cardamom, adds a lovely aroma while the fresh herbs make it taste refreshing. I like to keep mine mild and add only 1 green chili (mainly for aroma) but if you prefer it spicy you can increase the amount of green chilies in your shahi pulao. Although you can balance it’s somewhat sweeter taste by combining it with this spicy mint and coriander chutney which I always serve along with the pulao.
Ingredients at a glance
Important notes about the ingredients:
- Use quick cooking ‘basmati’ brown rice for the recipe as it is much more aromatic than any other variety of brown rice (I used Daawat quick cooking brown basmati rice ordered from Jamoona.com)
- You can substitute caraway seeds (shahi zeera) with cumin
- Brown sugar could be substituted with regular sugar
- Stick to using fresh herbs as the dried ones aren’t as flavorful
Brown Rice Shahi Pulao
- 200 grams (2 cups) Paneer (Indian cottage cheese)
- 1 big onion
- 1-3 green chilies (adjust to preferred spice level)
- a handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stems)
- 10-15 fresh mint leaves
- 3 Tbsp ghee (separated)
- 50 grams (½ cup) Cashew nuts
- 1 tsp caraway seeds (shahi zeera) (substitute: cumin seeds)
- 2 black cardamom
- 3 green cardamom
- 1 (3 cm) stick of cinnamon
- 1 tsp brown sugar (substitute: ¾ tsp refined sugar)
- 60 grams (½ cup) frozen green peas
- 180 grams (1 cup) quick cooking basmati brown rice (I used daawat brand)
- 1½ tsp salt
- 2 cups (500 ml) water
Preparation (7 minutes)
- Cut the paneer in cubes (approx. 2×2 cm). Peel and thinly slice the onion. Slice the green chili. Wash and finely chop the coriander and mint. Wash and drain the brown rice.
Cooking (30 minutes)
- Put a non stick pan on medium heat and add 1 Tbsp of ghee. Once hot, add cashews and fry for 2-3 minutes until they turn golden brown from all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add cubed paneer into the same pan on medium heat. Fry for 2-3 minutes until it develops a golden crust on top. Flip and fry on the other side also until golden brown. Fry the paneer only on 2 sides (not on all 4 sides), so it remains soft. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Take a big, heavy bottomed pot and put it on medium heat. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of ghee into it. Once it's hot, add the sliced onion and fry for for 3-4 minutes, stirring continuously, until it turns golden brown.
- Once the onion turns golden brown add the caraway seeds, black cardamom, green cardamom and cinnamon stick. Fry until fragrant (about a minute), then add the teaspoon of brown sugar. Saute for 1 minute, until the sugar caramelises.
- Now, add the frozen green peas, washed brown rice, chopped coriander and chopped mint leaves, salt and water. Mix well, and bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, open the lid. If you still see liquid at the bottom, increase the heat to medium and let cook (uncovered) until all the liquid has evaporated. Then switch off heat. Add the fried cashews and paneer and give a gentle mix to bring the ingredients together.