Friday, December 26, 2008

Zesty Red Beans And Rice (Rajma Chawal)

Vegetarian red beans and rice (Rajma Chawal) is a common dish in the northern part of India, specifically Punjab, Kashmir, and Hariyana. The dish is simple to prepare, yet hearty, making it a good vegetarian recipe for beginners. We usually eat it dinnertime, but it can be eaten earlier in the day. Over the years while living in America, we have modified the dish into a zesty vegetarian red beans and rice using ingredients found in our local supermarket.

As an overview, this meal requires 3 separate preparation sequences (detailed below in the Directions). The 3 parts are the red beans, the rice, and the tadakaa. The tadakaa is a special Indian preparation of spices. The spices are first heated in oil before being added to the main dish, which in this case is the red beans. However, tadakaa can be used in other lentil-based dishes for flavoring.

Ingredients (Serves 2 adults):
  • 1 cup red beans
  • 1 cup rice (Jasmine rice)
  • 1 teaspoon of butter
  • 1 can (12 fl oz) of V8 vegetable juice. You can also substitute this with your own diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of spices in a 6:3:1 ratio of coriander powder : chili powder : tumeric powder. We feel these spices are mild but feel free to adjust this to your own tastes
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 cups water
  • A pinch of asafoetida (optional)


For red beans:
  1. Soak the red beans in 4 cups of cold water 6 to 8 hours prior to cooking in order to soften the beans.
  2. After soaking, drain the water and add 3 cups of fresh water to the red beans.
  3. Heat the red beans on medium heat to boil.
  4. After the beans begin to boil, add the tadakaa (see preparation details below).
  5. Next, add the entire can of V8 juice.
  6. Keep the beans simmering 20-30 minutes after they start to boil. Stir occasionally. The beans are ready when they are soft. To test, remove one bean using a spoon and see if it can be crushed against a plate easily.
For rice:
  1. While the beans are cooking, measure out 1 cup of rice and rinse it.
  2. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of butter.
  4. When it begins to boil, carefully add the cup of rice.
  5. Cover the rice and heat it on low to medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Do not let the rice sit for too long, otherwise it will become sticky. The rice should have soaked up all the water. To test if the rice is ready, use a spoon to take a grain of rice and see if it easily mushable.
For tadakaa:
  1. In a small 1 cup pot, add the tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Start heating the pot.
  3. To see if the oil is hot enough, add 1 or 2 cumin seeds first. If the oil is ready for the spices, the seeds will dance vigorously in the pot. If not, wait another minute and add another seed. Repeat until the seeds are moving in the oil.
  4. Add the spices in the ratio described above.
  5. Add a pinch of asafoetida (optional)
  6. Stir it for 1/2 to 1 minute and then add the mix to the pot of red beans.

That's it! Your vegetarian red beans and rice are ready to serve! Simply plate the rice and add the beans in the middle. You can also add plain yogurt as a side, which has the effect of blunting the spices. Enjoy!