Pilau Rice with Saffron and Fresh Curry Leaves

You will adore this easy-to-make, light and fragrant pilaf - as long as you follow the instructions very carefully (it's a recipe of precision).

Special Ingredients and Acquisition Notes:

  • Basmati Rice. I used Kalustyan's Dehraduni Basmati Rice, Grade "A" Ex-Long Grain ($2.99 for 1 lb.).
  • Cinnamon Stick. Please use Kalustyan's Vietnamese Cinnamon Sticks ($2.49 for 2 oz.).
  • Curry Leaves ($1.49 for .5 oz.). You could leave out the curry leaves, or substitute bay leaves - but please believe that failing to use Kalustyan's refrigerated curry leaves amounts to a huge mistake in this dish!


  • 1 cup Basmati rice, preferably Dehra Dun
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ghee,or regular unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup very finely minced onions
  • 8 pods of green cardamom, cracked slightly
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 heaping tablespoon broken cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 firmly packed teaspoon of saffron
  • 6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock mixed with 3/4 cup water


1. Pour 1 1/2 cups of water into a measuring cup. Add the Basmati rice to the water. Let stand for 30 minutes.

2. When ready to cook, place the ghee in a high-sided sauté pan with a tight-fitting lid (any vessel about 10" in diameter that holds two cups of rice will do.) Place over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft (about 10 minutes.) Do not allow the onions to brown.

3. Drain the rice in a sieve, and run the rice under cold water from the faucet for a minute or so. Shake off the excess liquid, and add the rice to the cooked onions. Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick and saffron. Stir together for a minute or so, coating the rice with the butter. Turn heat to high, and add the curry leaves along with the stock-water mixture. When the liquid begins to boil, turn heat down to medium-low and taste the liquid carefully for salt. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Cover tightly and cook over medium-low heat until the rice is tender and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Keep off heat, covered, for 5 minutes, and transfer the rice to a platter with a fork, fluffing the rice as you go. Serve immediately.

Cook time: 
Makes 4 side-dish servings in an Indian meal

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