Chettinad’s Black Rice Pudding, locally known as Kavuni Arisi, is a popular breakfast item served during weddings and festivals and is often regarded as a special import. Chitra Ramu, owner of Chennai-based Chettinad Restaurant, Mango Tree elaborates, “The best quality black rice is grown in countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. So, when family members staying in these countries would travel home for a wedding or festival, they would bring back black rice with them, which would then be cooked and served as a wholesome breakfast during festivities.” When cooked, the black rice transforms into a gorgeous violet hue.
In older times, the Chettiyars travelled to these countries for trade and commerce, and returned with artifacts, spices, utensils and goods like black rice. Kavuni Arisi was an exotic pudding then, which is slowing garnering attention now. Attempts have been made to grow this variety of rice in the Chettinad belt. “While I haven’t tasted the black rice that grows in Manipur, which I hear is excellent, but the ones locally available here aren’t up to the mark,” says Chitra, who sources the black rice for her restaurant from the South-east Asian countries mentioned earlier as quality affects the final sweet treat. “The black rice from abroad is thinner, longer, richer in colour and more glutinous, which renders itself well to this pudding. The Indian variety found in the South is fatter, variegated and isn’t sticky enough; not to mention the poor colour pay off,” adds Chitra.
Black rice grains
The chewy yet soft, and mildly nutty flavoured Kavuni Arisi is extremely nutritious—rich in iron, vitamin E, fibre and antioxidants; with black rice giving tough competition to brown rice in the nutritional race. “Kavuni Arisi isn’t a thali item. Rather, you can start your day with this health boost. It is a sweet that is served at breakfast along with idli and pongal,” adds Chitra and offers an heirloom recipe of the Chettinad specialty.
- 200 g black rice
- Sugar/jaggery to taste
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- ¼ of a coconut, grated
Kavuni Arisi or Black Rice Pudding topped with coconut cream and mango puree
- Rinse the black rice twice and soak it in ample amount of water overnight. Don’t be surprised if some colour begins to run.
- The next morning, transfer the black rice, along with the water that it was soaked in, into a pressure cooker. We don’t discard the water because the coloured water will enhance the final hue of the pudding. Add more water and pressure cook till 4 to 5 whistles, but be careful not to burn the rice.
- Check to see that the rice has been cooked to perfection. Stir and it should appear to have a thick consistency, with no extra water. Transfer it into a bowl.
- While the rice is still hot, add sugar or jaggery to it, according to your preference. The heat will melt the sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add ghee and stir well. Note that at this stage, the rice should not be cooked further as, along with sugar, it could lead the pudding to attain a runny consistency.
- Top off the pudding with freshly grated coconut flakes. If you prefer, the coconut shavings could be roasted as well. You may also choose to garnish the Kavuni Arisi with coconut cream and mango puree or slices. You may choose to refrigerate the Chettinad Black Rice pudding as it is best served chilled or at room temperature.
Images courtesy: Chitra Ramu and Shutterstock