March 20 of every year celebrates Pakhala, an unpretentious, fermented rice staple from Eastern India. Fermentation is quite the rage and being home-bound during the pandemic I dove headlong into it– kefir, kombucha, yogurt and the likes. These need starters, so necessitate some discipline to get into a rhythmic cycle (to maintain the microbe/SCOBY robustness).
Pakhala and amazake need no such swaddling! Just mix cooked rice with water and let stand overnight to ferment. Brown rice was used for the main course and Japanese koji rice for the dessert. Absolutely delicious. Enjoy!
Pakhala: Mix plenty of water with leftover cooked rice and let ferment overnight (at approx 110 F). Shown here with side dishes- crushed peanut chutney, crushed flaxseed tortilla chips chutney and snow peas salad (see below).
Amazake: I recently discovered this through “Japanese Superfoods” by Yoshiko Takeuchi. Amazake uses koji rice which is preprocessed rice, i.e., steamed and already inoculated with the starter. Koji rice can be purchased– like any other variety of rice grain– from Japanese grocery stores (or over the internet). Then the fermentation process at home is identical to that of pakahla (at an even warmer temperature of approx 140 F). Amazake turns out to be surprisingly sweet. This is usually served as a drink, but here I serve it as a thin pudding or kheer (see below).
NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
- Pakhala day in India coincides with Winter/Spring here– really not the hottest of times. Nevertheless. An electric fermenter that lets you control the temperature is a good doodad to add to your bag of toys.
- Pakhala can be served in two ways. The traditional way is to include some of the fermenting liquid with the rice grains and a little salt to taste and the side dishes, actually on the side.
Or, as a Rice Salad. Drain the fermenting liquid and mix the side dishes with the rice. Top with diced red onions and serve immediately to retain the crispness of the three side dishes. I owe this salad version to my culturally diverse tasters!
- Crushed peanut chutney: Coarsely crush 1 cup peanuts with 1 pod of garlic, 1 green chilli and salt to taste. Then mix in 2 tbsp of finely diced onion.
- Crushed Flaxseed Tortilla Chips chutney: Coarsely crush 1 cup broken chips with salt to taste. Then mix in 2 tbsp of finely diced onion.
- Snow peas salad: Dethread the snow peas. All this salad takes is some knife skill. Finely julienne. C’est tout.
- Amazake kheer: Mix 1/2 cup amazake (rice grains and liquid) with 1/2 cup milk (nut, soy or dairy) and a drop of vanilla (or a dash of cardamom), to tease your palate.
Shown below are: koji rice, amazake and the amazake-kheer.
Shown below are pakhala and the side dishes: