A traditional rice dish, misti polao is much loved by the Bengalis of western Bengal. ''Polao'' originates from ancient Persia, which was brought to India by the Muslim invaders. This dish is also known as Pilaf/Pilav/Pilau/Pulav/Polaoo. Before the coming of the Muslim rulers, India also had a tradition of eating fried rice. The Sanskrit word ''pollanno'' which loosely means rice prepared with ghee/clarified butter. Modern day Polao/pulao is completely different from what originally came from Persia and is a pretty popular dish in India and each region makes their own version.
Bengali misti polao is a specialty of western Bengal which now forms the state of Paschim Bangla/West Bengal in India. For want of a better description you could say that it is Bengali fried rice. But this is no simple fried rice that your neighbourhood take-away serves you. Like most Indian recipes, it is rather complicated, needing a light hand and years of experience.
Bengalis make this rice dish during family celebrations and festivals. I associate polao with festivals like Poila Baishak and Holi and celebrations like birthdays. It is also served in most wedding feasts. The polao has a distinctively sweet yet savory taste and is super fragrant because of all the ghee and garam masala which is used in cooking it. In a well made polao each rice grain stands, there is no lumping or sticking together of rice. A little extra moisture or a little extra cooking time can easily mess up all the hard work.
This polao is served with both non-vegetarian and vegetarian side dishes. I am sharing with you my mother's recipe for misti polao. I have grown on eating this dish on special occasions. After plenty of tries finally I have got the polao almost right. Oh well almost but not exactly.
1. 2 cups of Gobindobhog/Basmati rice
2. 3 cups of water
3. Whole garam masalas-- 1 inch cinnamon, 4 cloves and 4 pieces of green cardamom, all lightly crushed
4. 2 tea spoons of garam masala powder
5. 2 bay leaves
6. 2 tea spoons of ginger & garlic paste
7. 2 tea spoons of coriander powder
8. 2 tea spoons of turmeric or half a tea spoon of yellow food colour could also be used
9. Salt to taste
10. 6 table spoons of sugar
11. 10/12 cashew nuts and raisins for garnish
12. 4 to 6 table spoon of ghee and groundnut/sunflower oil, each
13. 4 green chillies, broken in the middle (can reduce the nos of chillies according to heat tolerance)
1. Wash the rice till water runs clear, then soak rice for 10 mins in water. Soak the raisins in the bowl of water.
2. Drain the water, spread rice on a plate and leave to dry. Make sure that the rice grains are completely moisture less. My mother slight inclines the plate and leaves it beside the table fan. It dries out in 20 mins or so.
3. Heat oil in a pressure pan, lightly fry the cashew nuts and keep them away, now in the same pan add the crushed whole garam masalas, add the rice and stir with a light hand, making sure that the grains do not break.
4. After a couple of mins add the ginger & garlic paste, stir lightly and mix well.
5. Now add the turmeric & coriander powders, chillies, bay leafs, mix lightly and fry for a couple of mins.
6. Add sugar and salt and stir lightly till sugar dissolves, then add 3 cups of water and 3 table spoons of ghee and the garam masala powder.
7. Put on the pressure cooker lid and cook till one whistle. Switch off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool down.
8. Once the pressure cooker lid can be opened, carefully transfer the rice in a broad dish/tray (otherwise rice will form lumps), spread out the rice and add the rest of the ghee and garam masala powder.
9. Garnish with cashew nuts & raisins.
Bengali misti polao is ready!
I am submitting this recipe for Bloggers' Buzz competition. Wish me luck guys :-)