A cooling climax...

India is famous for its variety of spices.  For Indians, food without spices is almost like a person without a name!  Spices like cinnamon, cardamom, red chillies, turmeric, coriander and cumin seeds (to name just a few) - all go into the making of blended spices or masalas as they are known.  The use of the masalas vary depending on the region or state you are located in - garam masala is popular in northern Indian states, sambar and rasam podi in southern Indian states, goda masala in the state of Maharashtra, and so on.

To offset the effects of a spicy meal, most Indian meals are accompanied with a side of curd (yogurt), either in its original form or as lassi or chaas (buttermilk).  But as far as southern India is concerned, the meal must end with thayir saadam (curd rice).  Give a bowl of thayir saadam to any South Indian and chances are you'll be thanked with a big smile.

Curd Rice (simple)
Thayir saadam (curd rice) is a mixture of rice and curd (plain yogurt).  It provides the much-needed cooling climax to an action-packed 'spiceful' meal.

Curd Rice with add-ons and pickle
There are different versions of thayir saadam, with different add-ons, apart from the curd and rice itself.  Curd rice with vegetables (tomato, cucumber), tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves and eaten with spicy pickles makes the meal appetizing and filling. Then there are 'fruit and nut' versions of curd rice - with cashews, grapes or raisins, pomegranate.  Raw mango pieces give a tangy twist.  As if the main meal were not spicy enough, some folks enjoy a spicy version - with finely grated ginger and chopped green chillies!  If you're a crunch lover like me, you will find freshly tempered mustard seeds and urad dal irresistible!

Although thayir saadam is considered the final course of a South Indian meal, it can be a meal in itself.  No wonder it is a popular dish to take along for travels!

However, if you're trying to cut down on carbs, thayir saadam is not for you.  But you can still enjoy thayir (curd) without the rice.  Include the add-on vegetables or fruits and tempering with a little oil (optional) to make it a South Indian thayir pachdi or raita.  

Another way to enjoy curds is in the form of thayir vadai (or dahi vada). Garnished with minced onions, cilantro and tangy chutneys, this makes a mouth-watering meal.  But this is not for the calorie conscious.

Whatever food you may eat, it is good to have sufficient daily intake of curd for it is not only easily digestible, but it also helps absorb nutrients from other foods.  Curd has 'good bacteria' that helps you strengthen your immunity.  It is the perfect alternative source of calcium for those who are lactose intolerant.  Regular consumption can help ward off arthritis and osteoporosis in the long run.

  And for some, curd rice can even be a good way of expressing one's creativity!!

Finally, here is my favourite recipe of Thayir Saadam:

 1 cup rice, boiled and mashed,
 3/4 cup plain yogurt or curd, beaten well,
1/2 cup water
salt to taste

OPTIONAL Add-ons (quantity as desired):
grapes, halved or raisins,
pomegrenate kernels,
apple, chopped
cucumber, finely chopped
tomato, finely chopped
raw (green) mango, finely chopped
cilantro (coriander) leaves for garnishing

OPTIONAL Tempering:
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 green chilli (optional)
curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp grated ginger (optional)

MIX well the mashed rice and beaten curds.  Add necessary amount of water to make it thinner as required (you will need to add water just before serving as the rice absorbs the water quickly).  Add salt to taste.  This is the very basic thayir saadam.

Add in the vegetables and fruits.  Can be served like this (if no tempering is required) or stored in the refrigerator for a day.

The tempering must be done just before serving.  Heat the oil in a small pan.  Add mustard seeds.  When they begin to splutter (or crackle), add the urad dal.  Stir until the white urad dal turns light brown.  Add curry leaves, green chilli and ginger and stir couple of times before removing pan from the flame.  Add to the curd rice mixture.  Mix well and enjoy!


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