• Payal Maharaj

Mum's Classic Soy Pulao

So I don’t know what day it is anymore. I also think I have forgotten how to interact with people. I went for a walk today with mum and I stared at people wondering if it was ok to say a courtesy hello or not. It was slightly stressful not to mention awkward. In addition to that, there is this underlying feeling of misfortune or sadness even though everything looks and seems normal at first glance. It is unnerving and eerie. I feel that I read short stories about events like this in my literature classes in high school. It also reminds me of when I was growing up and a hurricane would have just passed through Fiji. We would emerge from our homes and assess the damage that was done with the same sense of misfortune and sadness. This time around however, the damage is not physical and cannot be seen with the naked eye. This time, the damage seems much deeper and perhaps far worse than the damage that any hurricane can cause. This global crisis is unprecedented and seems to have brought out both the worst and the best in people. My fervent hope is that we, the lucky ones who have remained mainly unaffected, come away from this more wiser, more mindful, more kinder, more caring and more loving. I hope that as things begin to normalize, we are able to assess the damage with our heart's eye and lend a helping and loving hand where needed. Now and in the future.

I feel extremely blessed and grateful that I am with my family. Some big decisions I made last year, brought me back to CA earlier this year so that I could be closer to my family. This was before there was a global pandemic. Looking back now, I can only imagine how terrible it would have been to be away from loved ones during this time. Sometimes making the right decision is not always apparent but things have a way of working out for the best. In a couple of days some more decisions will pan out and I am waiting with bated breath for the results of those decisions. Just have to have faith and believe that the best is yet to come.

And on that hopeful note, let us get to the recipe. This is a food blog after all (insert winky face). So side note to that, I am not sure why ppl use so many winky-faced emojis. I would really hope that they don't wink that much in real life. Eeek. Ok...ok...the recipe…today's recipe is for soy pulao. This is not something we grew up eating but learned to eat here as vegetarians. You can get dried soy chunks in the Indian grocery store and I am guessing other places as well. It is basically a big bag of what almost looks like pet food. Hmm. That is probably not the most appetizing description. But do not be fooled by how it looks. It is quite delicious when cooked properly and can almost pass off as meat. Almost. Definitely has the same chew and meatiness to it and it takes on many flavors quite well. So this recipe is quite similar to the chicken pulao recipe that I posted a while back. Basically, we sub in cooked soy chunks for chicken.

If you have not cooked with soy chunks before, it is quite simple. The soy chunks need to be reconstituted in hot water. This will make them super soft and they will increase in size as they soak up water. Takes about five minutes or so. Once they are soft and fluffy, we chop them into smaller pieces. It tastes better as smaller pieces but it is not necessary to do that. The next step is to removes excess water from the chunks. So squeeze as much water out as you can. We use our hands. Make sure the soy pieces are cool enough to handle! Once this is done, we are ready to cook!

Much like the chicken pulao, the soy pulao also gets cooked in two steps. First step is to cook the soy chunks. Start on medium heat, cook mustard seeds, cumin seeds, onions, ginger, garlic, curry leaves and chilis if using. Add garam masala and cook until aromatic. Add soy pieces, add salt, mix well, cover and cook until pieces begin to brown. As pieces begin to brown, turn heat to low and cook until water cooks off. Turn off heat and set aside.

Once soy is cooked, heat up ghee and cook whole spices. Add washed rice and toast for five minutes. Add pulao masala (refer to chicken pulao recipe for this), add water and salt. Cook until rice is half cooked. Add soy pieces, mix well and turn heat to low. Cook until rice is fully cooked and begins to brown at the bottom. Soy pulao is now done and chopped cilantro can be added in at this point.

Pulao can be enjoyed as is or we like to eat with a simple onion+vinegar salad and tamarind chutney. Enjoy!

Let me know what you think in the comments section below!


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RECIPE:

Serves 8

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour


Ingredients:

Soy pieces:

2 cups soy chunks, soaked, diced and squeezed

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

1/4 cup diced onion

2 tbsp crushed garlic

2 tbsp crushed ginger

Handful of curry leaves

2 Thai chilis sliced (optional)

1 tsp garam masala

Salt to taste

Cooked rice:

1/4 cup ghee*

3 cardamom pods

3 cinnamon sticks

3 cloves

1/4 cup diced onion

1 tbsp crushed garlic

1 tbsp crushed ginger

2 cups basmati rice, washed

3 tbsp pulao masala

6 cups hot water

Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Make pulao masala.

  2. Prep soy chunks. Soak in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Once the soy chunks are soft and cool enough to handle, chop into smaller pieces. Squeeze out excess water.

  3. Heat up oil on medium heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds and let sputter. Add onions and let edges brown. Add crushed ginger, garlic, curry leaves and chilis if using. Cook for 2 minutes or until aromatic. Add garam masala. Cook for one minute.

  4. Add soy pieces and salt. Mix well, cover and let brown.

  5. Once pieces begin to brown, turn heat to low and cook until released liquid is cooked off and soy pieces are cooked completely. Set aside.

  6. Start on the rice. Heat ghee on medium heat. Toast whole spices. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook as mentioned above.

  7. Add washed rice and toast for five minutes.

  8. Add pulao masala, mix well and add hot water. Cook until rice is half cooked.

  9. Turn heat to low. Add cooked soy pieces, mix well, cover and cook until rice is completely done and begins to brown at the bottom.

  10. Turn off heat. Add chopped cilantro and serve hot.

Note:

*This recipe can be made vegan by using oil or a vegan butter.


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