My mor milagai post on Instagram started a conversation between me and Radha, another Tambram schoolmate of mine. She mentioned how well it combines with fermented rice. This morning I had a bowl of rice that had now been fermenting a good 30 hours. I could see fermentation bubbles on the surface and it had that distinct funky smell. I had intended it for something else which the overcast skies put a spanner in. I could have made panta bhat, the Bengali version that has been on the list, but I also wanted to chip away at the mor milagai stash. No, it is not stashed away in my, now infamous, refrigerator #2 but might as well eat through the rest of the pantry while I am on #missionpantryclean.
This fermented rice used to be a popular breakfast dish in all parts of the country where rice is the staple. Known variously as pazhayadu, tangalanna, or yennai chadam, it was a great way to not only prevent waste but actually improve the nutritional content of the cereal. Fermentation, as we all know, increases the bio-availability of nutrients especially the B vitamins, as also calcium, and certain other trace minerals. Ayurveda bestows rice fermented like this with cooling properties, just what you need in the coming summer months. Hooray, for fermentation!
I gave the Sourdough loaf a rest and instead ate this, a different fermented food, for breakfast today. It checks all the boxes for me – rice, fermented, and spicy! Try it, it is zero-work. Nearly.
Yennai Chadam with Mor Milagai
Leftover cooked rice (I used matta rice, parboiled red rice from Kerala)
To serve, for 1 portion of rice you will need
2 mor milagai (green chilies that have been soaked in salted buttermilk for a couple of days and then dried in the sun), available at your friendly neighbourhood South Indian grocery store
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing
salt to taste
1-2 tbsp gingelly (til) oil (unroasted sesame seed oil)
Soak the cooked rice (leftover is fine) in a bowl (terracotta was traditional) in enough water to cover it. Keep the bowl covered with a loose-fitting lid. Allow to ferment 24-30 hours, or till the time you can smell the sourness and see the surface covered with bubbles. You may retain the water and lightly mash the rice in it if you are looking for a porridge like consistency. I chose to squeeze it out. Lightly salt the rice (keep in mind that the dried chilies are very salty) and transfer to the serving plate.
Heat the oil on medium heat and fry the chilies till quite dark and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. To the hot oil add mustard seeds. Cover quickly with a lid or you will have a helluva cleanup job on hand as the seeds will splutter all over your kitchen. Once the spluttering stops, remove the lid and add hing. Add curry leaves and cover quickly (for the reason mentioned earlier). Remove lid once the crackle has died down a bit and stir the curry leaves around for half a minute more. Pour the fragrant oil over the rice. Serve the chilies alongside.
To eat crush the chilies into the rice with your fingers and mix everything mashing it all together with a light hand.
Variation: Instead of mor milagai, add buttermilk and mix in green chilies, shallots, and curry leaves that have been coarsely pounded. Or go Bengali all the way with onion, green chili, and a drizzle of pungent raw mustard oil.
Let me know what you think.