This Indian rice side adds a deliciously tangy element to your meal!
Chitrana is an extremely easy rice-based recipe prepared with ingredients such as lemon, chilies, and pantry herbs and spices. A popular Indian dish, Chitrana is often prepared with leftover rice for morning breakfast or for lunch boxes, but also works brilliantly for shared family dinners and entertaining. There are a few exotic items you’ll need, but they can be picked up easily from the Indian section at your grocery store, or online.
Indian lemon rice is known for its combination of flavors, the most obvious contrast being the sour and spicy combination of lemon and chilies. The rice soaks up these bright flavors along with some lesser-known spices – curry leaves, asafoetida, mustard seed, and urad dal – to create a beautifully layered and visually exciting version of flavored rice that’s much different from plain steamed basmati or even turmeric versions. The use of peanuts is also enjoyable because they add a rounded, nutty element to the dish while also providing some much-needed crunchy texture!
How you initially cook the rice is up to you. Using leftover rice is extremely useful, and mirrors the Indian method of preparation. I always use the rice cooker to cook my rice, but if you prefer to do it on the stovetop that’s perfectly okay. One recommendation: if you’re cooking fresh, allow the rice to cool in the fridge before making the Chitrana, as it creates a better, more tasty final product.
Aside from preparing the rice, the recipe is straightforward, simple, and logical. Make sure to prepare everything ahead of time so that you don’t need to step away from the fry pan (there’s some sputtering and spluttering at times) to grab an ingredient when you can add each element as you go. You’ll find that once you pick up the rhythm, bringing the chitrana together in the frying pan will be an awesome treat to your senses – you won’t want to wait for the finished dish to devour it!
Indian Lemon Rice (Chitrana)
15m prep time
15m cook time
- 1 cup basmati rice
- Up to 2 cups water, for cooking rice
- 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped unsalted peanuts
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon urad dal
- 2 dried red chilies, seeds removed
- 2 green chilies, finely chopped
- 10-12 curry leaves
- 1 generous pinch asafetida
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Kosher salt and black pepper as required
- Thoroughly wash basmati rice in cold water, then rinse. Place into a rice cooker and cook until done (you can cook on the stovetop if it’s your preference). Once cooked, place rice in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool.
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil at medium temperature in a wok or large fry pan. Add the unsalted peanuts and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain, season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, then set aside.
- Combine urad dal, black mustard seeds, asafetida, and turmeric in a small bowl. Heat remaining 2 vegetable oil in the wok over medium-high, until it shimmers. Add the spice mixture and cook for 1 minute, covering with a lid to limit sputtering.
- Reduce heat to low. Add the 2 dried red chilis and the chopped green chillies. Rub the curry leaves with your fingers to release oils, then add to the wok and stir in after sputtering stops.
- Add the cooked rice and remaining kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon) to the wok. Cook, stirring, for two minutes. Squeeze the lemon juice into the chitranna, then add the peanuts and stir. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Veg Recipes of India