Bugha Chawal: Sindhi Style Rice with Caramelized Onions and Whole Spices
It wasn't until I landed in Bombay that I got introduced to Sindhi food and learned about the Sindhi diaspora who have faithfully cooked the food of their homelands over generations. It's amusing how I still call Bombay as Bombay, and not with its modish name, Mumbai. Bombay was named Mumbai in 1995, much before I arrived in the city to make it my home. I had grown up in other cities of India knowing it as Bombay, and it remained the same for me irrespective of what the world chose to call it. Sindhis and their attachment to their home-cooked food is much like my connection to Bombay — no matter where the Sindhis live, they tend to cook the food they're habituated to.
Displaced from the Sindh province in Pakistan, this ethno-linguistic group lives on both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border in the present times. While the Hindu and Sikhs from Sindh migrated to India, the Muslims stayed behind in Pakistan after partition of India in 1947. In both sides of the border, Sindhis have further moved and settled in new lands and continued to create food that is reminiscent of what they left behind.
The third or fourth generation of the migrant Sindhis would have probably never visited the land their ancestors came from yet you will be amazed by how rooted they are to their traditional cuisine. I befriended some Sindhi friends in Bombay, and their homes inaugurated a completely new flavour base for my taste buds. Few years later in Bangalore, I got acquainted with a friend who is more family and enriched my understanding of Sindhi food more. It was he who reminded me of bugha chawal recently when I told him I was making sai bhaji, another everyday dish made in Sindhi homes.
Unlike other diaspora cuisines like Punjabi (Punjab province spread on both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border before partition) or Parsi (ethno-religious group who migrated from Persia to India), Sindhi food isn't mainstream in restaurant food. The Sindhi food recipes you would find on the internet today owe significantly to the younger generation Sindhis who have passed the secrets of their own kitchens or shared from the kitchens of their mothers, sisters or aunts. This recipe is one such example. It was my landlady, Auntie A hailing from a migrated Punjabi family of Karachi and quite accustomed in Sindhi cuisine, who taught me how to cook bugha chanwara or bugha chawal.
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Drawing upon the caramelization of onions and the fragrance of whole spices, this tempered rice is a game changer in your mundane daily meals. Sindhi cuisine is exemplary of how various food flavours and textures can amalgamate to make that perfectly nutritious and tasty platter.
Typically eaten with sai bhaji, a mishmash of greens and vegetables swimming in a broth of lentils, bugha chaanwara plays the role of peas pulao or the Maharashtrian phodnicha bhaat (tempered rice). Although bugha chawal is quite different from a pulao or plain tempered rice.
This rice pairs very well with both creamy and subtle gravies or even with a hot bowl of dal fry. I eat it as is too, with a bowl or curd and some papad when the rice lover in me seeks a version of rice bereft of vegetables but loaded in spice.
It's extremely easy to make and there are hardly any chance of error, even if you're a newbie in cooking and end up with a sticky sort of rice instead of all-grains-separate texture in the cooked rice.
1 cup rice
1 tbsp oil
1 bay leaf
1 black cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
1 medium sized onion
1 tsp red chili powder
Salt to taste
Wash and soak rice for at least half an hour.
Heat oil in a pot or wok, and add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cloves and let them become fragrant.
Add the onions and fry till they become golden brown. Then add red chili and fry until they turn dark brown.
Add about 2 cups of water and salt generously and let the water come to a boil. Then add rice and stir everything well.
Cover and let it simmer on low to medium flame until rice is completely cooked.
Serve it hot with your favourite curry, dal or the quintessential Sindhi sai bhaji! Checkout the related posts below if you're looking for a dish to go with this rice.
If you make this recipe and enjoy it, leave a comment or tag me on Instagram and share pictures of your creations! I'd love to hear from you and see how you enjoy this recipe!
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