May 7, 2012

Birthday Dinner II- The Menu and some rice devotion- "Piaja aau podina matar palau"

Intimate birthday dinners lit up with happy faces and resonant with friendly banter make up for some lifelong cherished memories. To my absolute pleasure, I got to celebrate my special day with not just one but two of them - albeit a week and hundreds of miles apart. Indo-Chinese flavors and techniques ruled the roost for friends in SF while friends in LA had been pestering me for an Indian meal for quite sometime.

Now what better occasion than a birthday to commemorate with Indian tastes and flavors? So with a firm resolve and a patient guide (read: my Ma), I took on the challenge. 

The challenge - Three courses, three days, seven dishes and five guests. 

I had to give in my best to create magical memories of Indian food. I took the onus onto myself to introduce my friends to spicy gravies,an aromatic pilaf & creamy dessert, quite quite different from the regular Indian fare in restaurants here in LA. Finalizing the menu, I stuck to some of my most favorite Odia delicacies. I had to trust my strong food memory of each item when I last had it back home.I truly believe that food memories can last a lifetime and most of these recipes have been recreated based on just that. The second factor in consideration was the awful time constraints since entertaining is not my full time job (though how I wish it was..Sigh!).

Keeping all these constraints in mind and specific requests of guests at hand, I settled for an appetizer, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian main dish each, three side dishes and a dessert.The menu was made sure to have coherent items and to my utter delight,all of them were a hit with my guests.  I will post each of these recipes one post at a time. A quick addition -all of these recipes have been adapted from my Ma’s huge reservoir of quick and delicious recipes.

Truly, there's no greater bliss than seeing a contented, blissful face glowing with a mouthful of your food.

The Menu:


Homemade roasted spicy tomato salsa inspired by an Odia specialty of Bilati Baigan podaserves as the perfect accomplice to store bought tortilla chips.

Main course:

Vegetarian: “Kobi kasa” or Cauliflower in a thickened tomato gravy.

Non-vegetarian: “Kukuda kasa” or Chicken in a thickened tomato gravy.

Side dishes:
Piaja aau podina matar palau” or Rice pilaf fragrant with whole spices and sweetened with fried onions, mint and fresh peas.

"Methi Daali Tadka" or Toor dal (lentils) simmered with a tempering of tomatoes, garlic and kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves).

"Dahi Baigana” or Fried egg plant pieces and onions marinating with yogurt with a tempering of mustard seeds and chilies. My favorite of the lot.


A typical Odia dessert “Chaula Kheeri” or Smooth creamy sweetened rice pudding flavored with rose water, saffron and cardamom powder with the crunch of almonds.

Pure Rice devotion - "Piaja aau podina matar palau"

The first post dedicated to this dinner will sing glory ( I am serious!) of the main side dish (makes sense?), the "Piyaja aau podina matar palau" or Fried onion and mint peas Pilaf. This pilaf is a close cousin of Biryani but of course without the usual pomp and show that accompanies the preparation of the royal dish. Its very easy to put together, very very tasteful, and a definite crowd pleaser. The aroma of the pulao is quite titillating to the appetite and if need be, could be eaten all by itself.

"Piyaja aau podina matar palau"

The freshness of mint accentuates the crunchiness of fried onions and sweetness of peas, all of which form a harmonious union with the fragrant Basmati rice to leave a food memory you will cherish for a long time.

Ingredients: (Serves 4-5)
Basmati rice - 1 cup
2 T Oil/Ghee
1 tsp Cumin seeds or Jeera
Whole spices – 1 Bay leaf, 2-3 pieces of cinnamon, 7-8 black peppercorns.
½ cup green peas
½ cup mint chopped
½ cup fried onions
Salt to taste
1/8th tsp sugar

1. Soak rice for 20 minutes.
2. Add jeera and whole spices to oil. Once fragrant,add in the peas. 
3. Boil 1 ¾ cups of water and season it with salt and sugar. 
4. Wash the rice thoroughly till water runs clear and add it to the boiling water. 
5. Simmer for 10-12 minutes and when done, stir in the fried onions and mint.

Time saving tip: When planning to make this pulao, the onions can always be fried well in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Facing a time crunch, I prepared the fried onions for the pulao and the raita together 2 days in advance. So on the D-day, all I had to do was to mix it in with the pulao. Its really that simple.

Try this recipe and you will definitely thank me for introducing this sweet, fluffy,elegant pilaf that's a heavenly companion to many a spicy curry or a sole winner by its own right.

Just be sure to save some for you for later,else you will regret it ;)
More in the next few posts.
P.S: I am sending this entry to :
 - "Guest Quest" hosted by Amina
 - "Walk through memory lane" by Jayanthi and Gayatri.
 - "Mom's recipe" hosted by Sravs. 
 - "Show me your hits:Rice" hosted by Sangee and Vardhini.
 - "Bon Vivant-Rice recipes" hosted by Sumee
- " Kid friendly dishes" hosted by Vardhini of Cook's joy.


  1. Just like how I am awe-stuck with your writing, your guests must be spell bound with your dishes. They look absolutely fantastic, beautiful pictures too. Thanks for linking and hope to see many more of your cherished memories.

    1. I feel flattered Jayanthi! :) Thanks a lot to you for hosting the event :)

  2. love the blog... love your style of writing too...
    yummy food too... and oriya stories... I am hooked!

    1. Thank you so much! Your blog is quite a inspiration...I am following it already!

  3. All your recipes look amazing ! thanks for the lovely blog ;-)... and your recipes are great inspiration !!!!
    thought You might like this

  4. Wonderful writing dear and super delightful dishes !!! Thanks for linking Appreciate it :)

  5. Wow... what an assortment of dishes.... your guests must have been truly impressed... thanks for linking with Guest Quest...

  6. Yummy dishes and gorgeous clicks. Thx for linking.


  7. THnx for linking once again.. I love your blog space, very clean and nice


Each kind, encouraging word gives me the impetus to put more into this space, so thanks a lot for browsing through and stopping by to say a word! :)