A rice preparation from the west of India, ‘Kolambi Bhaat’ is similar to pulao where the spices are mixed with prawns and the rice is added at a later stage. Rice within the maharashtrian communities is known as ‘bhaat’ or even ‘tandul’ meaning grain of rice. There is such massive variety of rice dishes across regions of India and most are based around communities, cultures as well as seasonal ingredients through the year. White rice has been a staple ingredient in most regions of India more so in the summer months when temperatures are soaring.
As much as biryanis are a popular part of India cuisine, pulaos are largely quicker to make in busy households, with communities having their unique version of it. This ‘bhaat’/ rice preparation is similar to a family recipe I used to eat when I was younger. My mother would make her own spice blend with poppy seeds, black cardamom and red chillies. My recipe below is a slightly different version of it. Being seafood lovers nothing made a meal better than ‘Kolambi Bhaat’ with fresh prawns and ground spices. Unlike a prawn curry where I would always look to use large prawns, in rice dishes it would be easier to have the smaller varieties as they absorb the spices whilst clinging to the rice grains.
For most Biryanis and pulao dishes I use basmati rice. I find its aromatic fragrance is perfect in Indian dishes with longer separated grains.
The masala base here is made with powdered spices and goda masala which is a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cassia and coconut all roasted until nutty and light brown. Then ground to a powder. A lot of Asian stores now stock a ready variety which is easy to use. If of course you can’t get hold of it feel free to swap it with regular garam masala. In terms of quantities make sure to alter the garam masala based on how spicy the powder is. The flavour and taste will be marginally different but you will still get a delicious end result to this rice dish.
In a bowl add the prawns along with the turmeric powder and pinch of salt. Mix and set aside for 10-15 minutes. In a small sauce pan add the basmati rice along with the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all the water has dried up. Turn the heat off and put the lid on. Let it rest while you make the base for the Kolambi Bhaat
In a blender add the garlic and ginger along with a splash of water and blitz to form a fine thick paste.
In a heavy bottom sauce pan heat the oil add the asafoetida and let it sizzle for a few seconds. Add the cinnamon, green cardamom pods, cloves, bay and cumin seeds. Fry and let them release their aroma for a couple of minutes. Now add the onions and fry for 5-7minutes on medium heat. As they start to change colour, tip in the garlic and ginger paste. Fry for 2 minutes as it cooks through.
Add the chopped tomato and fry for 4-5 minutes. Stir well making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom and mash slightly with the back of the spoon. Add the tomato puree along with the powdered spices. Stir well and cook the spices for a further 3-4 minutes.
Add the prawns and coat them in the spice base. Let them cook for a 3-4 minutes until they turn pink. Season to taste. Add pinch of sugar, curry leaves and lemon juice. Using a fork lightly fluff the rice and stir gently into the prawns mix making sure it’s warm through.
Turn the heat off and cover to rest for a few minutes.
Serve warm garnished with green chillies, roughly chopped coriander and grated coconut.