The Bengali Mishti Pulao is something that I have always, always invariably overeaten. And that happens even with my own cooking.
When I was little, it was well-known in our family that “Rini loves Mishti Pulao”. So one time my grandmother and I went to lunch at a certain Kakima’s place. The kind lady had made my favourite – Bengali Mishti Pulao and Mangsho. I was about four, maybe five. I had a couple of spoons of the mishti pulao, and said to the unsuspecting aunt, who was probably looking to score some points with a five-year-old pulao connoisseur – “You do not know how to make Mishti Pulao, please learn from my Mama. She makes it the best.”
And I put my spoon down, much to the embarrassment of my grandmother. That was probably the last time we were invited over to that Kakima’s place.
My love for Mishti Pulao has rubbed on to LMN as well. And I am so proud about that. Last month when we were in India, my Mum made her signature Mishti Pulao and gave some to my daughter with little shreds of kosha mangsho. Undoubtedly LMN loved it. I think she even wanted some in her bottle!
Mishti Pulao is a sweet, aromatic rice dish for the blue-blooded. Its great on its own, but has the capability of taking you to Pulao Heaven if you eat it with slow-cooked mutton curry (or chicken curry), sometimes even chholar dal or alu-phulkopir dalna on that no-non-veg Shoshti day. Its so good, I could take it intravenously.
Though most of the times, I make my Mishti Pulao with high quality Basmati rice, you ought to make it with Gobindobhog rice, the short-grain rice every Bengali vows for. My Mishti Pulao even has fresh green peas in it, just like they serve in Bengali weddings.
Ingredients for Bengali Mishti Pulao are:
2 cups Gobindobhog or Basmati rice (washed and drained, kept in a colander/sieve for 10-15 minutes)
Half cup fresh green peas
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric powder
Handful of cashews
Handful of raisins
2 tablespoons ghee
2 + 2 green and black cardamoms
1 medium size stick of cinnamon
Quarter teaspoon grated nutmeg
Few drops of lemon juice
3 and a quarter cups of water
Add to the ghee the bay, cinnamon, cardamoms, and cloves in no particular order. Give them a minute to crackle and make the ghee fragrant. Now throw in the cashews and raisins. Make sure you turn the heat to the lowest mark, lest the cashew and raisins burn.
Mix all the ingredients with the rice. And move the rice around in the pan for 2-3 minutes on low-medium heat. Now add the salt and sugar. Mix and keep in the pan for a minute more. Its important to now turn the heat off lest the sugar melts and caramelizes the rice. That’s a spoiler.
Add the grated nutmeg and pour the rice into a microwaveable bowl, and squirt a few drops of lemon. Add three and a quarter cups of water, seal the bowl with a lid or cling wrap and microwave for 20-22 minutes.
Do a taste test and add more salt or sugar if needed. Serve the Mishti Pulao with Mutton Curry, Chicken Curry, Chholar Dal or eat on its own. And praise the Lord, for there is nothing compared to a bowlful of Bengali Mishti Pulao.