Elumichai Sadam (the Tamil name for Indian turmeric lemon rice) is a zesty and bright rice dish topped with crunchy peanuts that will spice up leftover rice in minutes.
Lemon Rice Ingredients
Elumichai Sadam, which translates to lemon rice, is a fairly straightforward and easy Indian dish to whip up for weekday lunches or dinners. The ingredients that go into it are simple and interchangeable based on what you have in your pantry. Here is the list of ingredients along with things you could swap out.
- Turmeric - Turmeric adds an earthy flavor to lemon rice but more importantly dyes it a beautiful yellow color. You could leave it out but you would be missing that iconic hue in your lemon rice.
- Lemon - My recipe calls for BOTH lemon juice and lemon zest. Lemon juice tends to diminish in flavor with heat so for extra lemon-y flavor and as an insurance policy in this recipe I've also included lemon zest. You can swap lemon for lime as well and leave out the zest if you don't have a zester.
- Rice - My go-to rice for lemon rice is basmati rice. It is a long grain variety in which the grains remain separate and fluffy when cooked which is ideal for lemon rice. However, any type of rice you have in your pantry will do. This dish also works great with leftover rice you may have.
- Peanuts - Lemon rice tastes so good with some extra crunchy bits for texture. I love whole peanuts with the skin on for a crunchy texture. However, traditional recipes use some split urud dal or other types of nuts like pistachios for crunch.
- Thai Chilis - Chilis add a slight heat to balance the buttery-ness and lemony-ness in the dish. My favorite go-to chilis for this dish are either Thai chilis, serranos, or fresno chilis. If you like less heat, substitute jalapeños or scoop out some of the seeds of your chilis.
- Mustard Seeds - Mustard seeds add a slight nuttiness and bitterness to balance the dish.
- Curry Leaves - Curry leaves are an aromatic like no other. They fill this dish with warmth and freshness. If you can't get your hands on curry leaves from the local Indian store, opt to swap them with fresh herbs like cilantro at the end of cooking. It won't taste exactly the same but will be a good compromise.
- Ghee - Ghee is like brown butter but with the milk solids strained to provide a longer shelf life and can be cooked at high temperatures. You can check out how to make ghee from butter in this blog post. However, in this recipe you can easily substitute butter for ghee for a delicious and decadent lemon rice.
Leftover Rice Makes for a Delicious Lemon Rice
Leftover rice is ideal for lemon rice. The grains of rice have fully cooked and remain separate so they easily toast on the stove without overcooking. The excess water from day old or cooked rice also diminishes, making it an ideal candidate to soak up the ghee and lemon flavor from the lemon rice. This recipe will transform day old rice that you are sick of eating into something buttery, lemony, and decadent.
Make Lemon Rice with Peanuts for a Crunchy Addition
Lemon rice is typically made with split urad dal for a crunchy addition. However, I know that most American households may not have that specific ingredient. So I developed my recipe with another crunchy addition - peanuts! The peanuts I use for lemon rice are whole peanuts with the skin on. I buy them raw so that I can freshly roast them at home and sprinkle salt on the top. The skin on the peanuts crisp making for an extra crunchy addition. You can alternatively swap in cashews for a great crunchy substitute.
Tips on making the best South Indian Elumichai Sadam
- Make a flavorful tadka - Elumichai sadam or lemon rice gets its flavor from a tadka or tempering of spices in a fat. This recipe makes a flavorful tadka by using ghee for the fat for a decadent flavor and warm spices like turmeric, curry leaves, and mustard seeds for the aromatics. This spiced ghee is what coats each grain of rice to brighten it with flavor and color.
- Add lemon zest for a lemon-ier lemon rice - Adding lemon zest is a game changer when making elumichai sadam. The flavor of lemon juice diminishes with heat, so with repeated reheating of this dish the flavor can diminish. However, lemon zest ensures that you will have a lemon-y dish, plus it utilizes more of your produce.
- Add peanuts for crunch - I love adding whole peanuts with the skin on as a crunchy addition for lemon rice. The peanuts add a nutty flavor, extra protein, and a nice textural component to the dish.
- Use your favorite fresh chilis - Lemon rice is so delicious because it is a perfect balance of tangy, spicy, and buttery flavors. Fresh chilis to me are crucial for a delicious lemon rice to get an herbal heat. If you are averse to spicy food, choose a less spicy chili like jalapeños and you can optionally remove some of its seeds.
What goes well with lemon rice?
Lemon rice is delish on its own but I also like dressing it up with some creamy dahi, Greek yogurt, roasted potatoes, or mango pickle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Turmeric is what dyes lemon rice yellow!
Ideally basmati or a long grain rice is ideal for lemon rice. Leftover or cooked rice makes for a great lemon rice as well.
Lemon rice lasts 3-4 days in the fridge. Add the peanuts to the lemon rice just before eating as they soften in the fridge.
Lemon rice goes well with dahi, greek yogurt, mango pickle, or masala roasted potatoes.
Lemon zest creates a lemon rice that is extra lemon-y. Lemon juice tends to diminish in flavor with heat so lemon zest is an insurance policy to make sure that the lemon rice has enough acidity.