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Shariya Rice/Sharia Rice (Traditional Arabic Rice)

February 25, 2014

Shariya Rice/Sharia Rice is a lavish spread.

Love this traditional Arabic rice toasted in ghee (clarified butter) with raisins. I never fail to get this from supermarkets here in Doha.  Easy and simplest to do it at home, but I love the original cooked by Arabs themselves.  (Aren’t we all best in our own home turfs first?)

Reminds me of ‘ghee rice’ of my grandma in those days.  My grandma used to melt 1-2 kg butter to make ghee ( it was called ‘Oothukkuli butter named after the small village of Oothukuli in Tamil Nadu, famous for its rich, thick, creamy butter).  Vaguely remember, a small leaf probably betal leaf, being dropped into the ghee.  Or perhaps a single curry leaf?  Not sure.  That part of memory is hazy.  In the same wok that she would melt the better and make ghee,  my grandma would roast rice with salt that would carry a rich aroma (with the residual ghee).  I loved this rice too very much, and waited every month for this ritual of making ghee rice.  (The ghee thus made would be stored in air-tight container for use through out the month in cooking).  There was no Indian cuisine in those days without ghee but GHEE SIMPLY DOES NOT EXIST FOR US SOUTH INDIANS, atleast in last 20 years.  We moved away for health reasons.  North is still unwavering I guess with its addiction to ghee.  Our vegetarian roots sometimes makes it necessary for us to draw fat from dairy products – and milk and curds (yoghurt/dahi) and buttermilk and lassi and ghee (clarified butter) are the chief sources of fat and vitamin A and calcium.

Differences in north and south Indian ghee:  We are like 2 separate nations really in many ways!  Their ghee is thick and yellowish.  Ours is not done until the ghee is brownish, black like very thin cooking oil.  The south Indian ghee looks graying/brownish just like our skin lolz.  Whereas i have seen ghee in north Indian homes – it is buttery, yellowy!  They don’t use it in thinnest molten form the way we do.  They dab thick chunks instead on everything – parathis/chapathis whatever.  Now I get to see ghee only in wedding feasts.

Shariya Rice with rich ghee takes me back to old time memories thus.  Missing the brownish, grayish ghee from younger years suddenly now!  Our roasted ghee rice in molten butter/ghee thus would be dark brownish in colour and somewhat greasy.  Whereas Shariya rice looks plain and does not use completely molten ghee i guess.  Or ghee is not heated upto vaporizing point.  Butter is melted to ghee state, that’s all and remains that way.

I am saying this because, at first I used to wonder how come ghee rice is grayish-brownish in Chennai whereas it is so plain and clear here in Doha?  The molten form of ghee must be the reason I guess.

Ingredients:

Basmati Rice – 1 cup

Vermicelli – 1/4 cup (broken)

Butter – 1 cup

Salt

Raisins – a tbsp

Water

Method:

Rinse rice well, toast lightly in a pan and cook with water in the ratio: rice : water = 1 : 1.5 (preferably in electric rice cooker).  Salt the rice at this stage.

Toast separately the broken vermicelli to brown.

Heat a wok with butter, let it melt, and toss the raisins into it.  Wait for the raisins to turn golden brown.  Add the browned broken vermicelli now and saute for a minute.  Add a little water and salt.  Do not overcook vermicelli – let it remain crisp.  Add the cooked rice next and turn well. Mix evenly and thoroughly.   Switch off the flame.

We have Shariya rice (Sharia rice) now, the traditional Arabic rice which is pleasantly sweet thanks to the raisins.  The molten ghee makes it heavenly.  It is essential to ensure that the crispness of the vermicelli is maintained when the dish is done.  The rice also must not be overcooked.  As such the basmati rice carries an inherent flavour so that must make this rice so delicious.  Best main course to serve guests. Goes well with any side-dish/subzi, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, dry or gravy, but I like Shariya Rice plain – as it is, without any accompaniment. The full richness of the rice can be quite absorbing!

PS:  I understand that Shariya rice is cooked normally with both vermicelli and rice together in a covered pan/wok with water and salt, into which later on a tab of butter could be tossed and mixed.  I am not for this because, from using vermicelli regularly in Indian kitchen/cuisine, I know it cooks too fast and rice cooks slow.  In which case, the crispiness of the vermicelli might be gone totally when the dish is done. I therefore prefer both to be done separately and mixed at a later stage.  Or the mixing can be done when a little moisture/water is still remaining in the cooking vermicelli.

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