Mamta's Kitchen

Pilaf - Pulao Rice

Sada Pulao

Mamta Gupta

This plain, but gently fragrant rice can be served with various curries. It is made in almost every North Indian home, with minor variations. It makes a nice change from boiled rice for special meals. Pulao is spelt as Pilaf or pilau in UK. Serves 6-8


  • 500 gm. basmati or any good quality rice

  • 1 tbsp. oil or ghee

  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds

  • 2 large cardamoms*

  • 2 bay leaves*

  • 5-6 cloves*

  • 5-6 black pepper corns*

  • 1 small piece of cinnamon stick*

  • 1 litre water**

  • Salt to taste

  • * Use 1 heaped tsp. Garam Masala if you do not have these whole spices

  • A few strands of saffron, soaked in 1-2 tbsp. warm water

  • Pan with a tight fitting lid

  • garnish

  • 1 medium sized onion, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 2 tbsp. oil, to fry the onion


  1. Wash and drain rice in a sieve.

  2. Boil the water separately (put the kettle on).

  3. Heat oil or ghee in a pan.

  4. Add cumin seeds and all the whole spices marked * and let the cumin seeds splutter/crackle.

  5. Add rice and stir-in gently for a 15-20 seconds, to coat each rice grain with oil.

  6. Add salt and then boiling water. I tend not to measure water and use just enough to cover the rice and 1/2 inch/1.25 cm above the rice.

  7. Let the rice come to a brisk boil for 10 seconds.

  8. Add garam masala here, if not using whole spices earlier.

  9. Add saffron and lower heat to minimum, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Try not to peek in every few minutes.

  10. Meanwhile, fry the onion in a little oil until medium to deep brown.

  11. Once cooked, fluff up the rice with a fork.

  12. Serve hot, garnished with fried onions. Take care not to break the rice when lifting out into a serving dish.

  13. Rice can be garnished with and a few fried cashew nuts, almonds etc.

  14. Optional: If you soak 1 tea bag in the boiling water and use this tea-water to cook fried rice, it gives a delightful brown colour to it.


  • **To give it colour, you can add 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder when you add rice to the pan. Or, you can add 1 cup of strong, black tea to the total amount of water you are using; a trick I learnt from a young servant my mum used to have when I was living at home. He had previously worked an a roadside 'Dhaba' as a general dogsbody.

  • BBQ Biryani Pulao/Pilaf: Cook rice as per your recipe. Make small parcels, one parcel per person, each wrapped in aluminium foil. Place them on BBQ for a few minutes to heat, 5-10 minutes, turning over once. Serve the parcels straight from the BBQ.

  • Also see: Vegetable Biryani, Soya Chunk Biryani, Chicken Biryani, Quick Biryani, Lamb Fried Rice from Leftovers, BBQ Selection and Marinade Selection.

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