This is a classic flavored rice dish often served in India. I have not explored Indian cooking much, but was on the lookout for a flavorful alternative to buttered potatoes to serve alongside fish dishes. Fragrant Basmati rice spiced with turmeric and finished with lemon is a great side dish that pairs exceptionally well with fish.
As a bonus, some sources report that Basmati rice has a glycemic index of 52, which is much lower than high glycemic white rice (72) and even lower than most brown rice (55). Basmati is extremely low compared to my go-to buttered parsley potato side dish (80+ GI) that I normally gravitate to for fish dishes.
A quick search or the Internet will turn up many versions of Lemon Rice. The essential ingredients of the dish are long-grain Basmati rice, onion, oil, mustard seeds, turmeric, red pepper, and lemon. Most versions include peanuts for a contrast in texture. Some versions include garlic, some sliced chilies, and others more exotic combinations of spices.
In the past I have used pine nuts. I’ve considered adding white raisins or unsalted pistachios. But since I serve this as an easy to prepare side dish rather than a main dish, I have been sticking to the simplest preparation consisting of only the essential ingredients without the garnishes.
Indian Basmati should be used for this preparation. In a pinch, American Texmati rice might do, but increasingly I find that using the right rice for a dish makes huge difference in cooking time and outcome. Basmati is aromatic having a nutlike aroma and taste. This is not present a traditional American long-grain rice so stay away from Uncle Ben’s for this dish.
The preparation begins by toasting mustard seed in a dry pan for a few minutes before adding oil and diced onion that is allowed to sauté until it reaches the translucent stage. Turmeric is then added along with a pinch of red pepper flakes and peeled lemon zest. The mixture cooks for a few more minutes before removing the lemon zest and combining with cooked Basmati. Add your choice of optional garnishes such as peanuts and cilantro before serving.
As presented the recipe makes four generous side dish servings. It can be halved. Here it is served with Honey Glazed Seabass.
- 1 cup Indian Basmati rice cooked according to package directions
- 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or another cooking oil of your choice
- 1/2 medium yellow onion diced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 strips of peeled lemon zest
- Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Optional Sea salt
- Optional garnishes
- While the rice is cooking bring a sauté pan to medium heat. Add the mustard seeds to the pan and let toast for 1 to 2 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant.
- Add oil to the sauté pan followed by diced onion. Cook the onion for 3 to 5 minutes until limp and translucent.
- To the pan, add turmeric, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Lower the heat and let the flavors meld.
- When the rice is done, stir in the turmeric mixture until the rice is evenly coated. Add the juice of on lemon and stir to distribute. Add salt to taste if desired (though it is not really needed).
- Add optional garnishes if desired and serve.