Thursday, 23 August 2012

Saamai/Varagu/Thinai Soru - Little Millet/Kodo Millet/Foxtail Millet Rice

                    Born with two brothers, we were like 'three peas in a pod'. But when my only remaining bro breathed his last a month ago, I am left without a sibling's shoulder to lean on and although the grief is heavy in my heart, I know 'this too shall pass'.
                   My father is a good story teller. Not just any story, but stories of his childhood days  and his carefree life with his parents whom he lost when he was only a small boy. I love listening to him explaining in great detail about this old man, a highly respected person, who lived on the foothills of the 'Sathuragiri hills' surrounded by wide, emerald green field, coconut trees and thick forest. One such story is, how my grandpa had once killed a large python which was lying on the path ready to strike, when he was on one of his hunting trip with a friend and apparently its skeleton was displayed permanently on the walls of a local school for the kids to observe its anatomy and as a child, I would always ask, "can we go and see now?" and he would say," I don't know if it is still there, it's been years!". It may or may not be true, but this old man, whom we never saw, still earned our admiration.

                                                                             Saamai Soru - Little Millet Rice
                   My grandpa's great love story for which he almost got killed, that earned him a name and fame that even now people would instantly recall him with respect on the very mention of his name. The stories about the numerous cows and the wild looking bull that he reared in his house that never allowed anybody to touch it except my grandpa, his beloved pets the parrot that disappeared after his death and the dog that followed him to his grave and died a week later.
                  Stories of my father's childhood days, when he would carry coconuts, jack fruit and mangoes to deliver to his sisters and the days he would carry food to his mother working in their field along with the others. Stories that led me to another world and made me wish they would all come back alive again and they still seem to create the same magic in his grandchildren, who love to hear from him talk about his past and his large family that he was lucky to have only as a child.

                                  My aunt and my father would fondly recall the days when their parents would distribute the grains after the harvest  and how his mother would store the remaining saamai in large pots. My father almost salivates when he talks about the saamai rice, that his mother would serve them all with mutton curry or dried fish curry. My aunt who is 77 years old, recalls the days when they would munch on kudiraivali rice (uncooked) as they passed by and how nutty and delicious it would be and to her it's 'kurdavali' and not 'kudiraivali', as that's how they used to call it and how they would nip off young and green ragi and kambu from the field and chew on the sweet tasting millets. She calmly accepts the fact that these millets are now as expensive as basmati rice and quickly adds these millets were grown in their field along with rice and were available all the time.

                         Sometime ago, when a farmer expressed his misfortune in a newspaper, of how due to the recent storm, he had lost all his crops and was facing a huge loss which would have otherwise fetched him a fifteen thousand profit that year, I felt, the amount of annual profit he was talking about was far more agonising than the damaged crops! It's pathetic that, these farmers who toil hard in the hot sun, year long to provide food for all, are left to be satisfied with a meagre profit, while considering the fact that it's just a month's salary for many who hardly move their finger. Should we blame the political system or we the consumers who are ready to pay for anything that comes with attractive offers and endorsed by glamorous actors, but unabashedly bargain with petty traders for a rupee or two, whose life depends only on their daily earnings. I wish this huge difference is cleared and the farmers get to sell their products directly to the people and earn what they deserve and that day I will be happy and ready to pay even a huge price if it reaches the right hands.
                       Saamai Soru - Little Millet Rice                                                                             Varagu Soru - Kodo millet

                                                                                                Thinaichoru - Foxtail Millet Rice
            Before I go into recipes that uses saamai, varagu,thinai or kudiraivali, I guess many will want to know how to cook saamai, varagu, thinai and kudiraivali as rice and use it like white rice. I have given the proportion that works for me, once tried you will know how to cook according to your need.
To cook saamai, varagu and thinai I use a proportion of 1:3, that is

Saamai or Varagu or Thinai   1 cup   ( see glossary for image )
Water                                        3 cups

Rinse the millet well before using and check for grits if any.
Combine millet and water and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, close and cook for about 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat after 10 minutes and open only after 30 minutes.
Stir slightly and serve like rice with sambhar or spicy curry or rasam or curd and vegetables.

Millet will double up in volume once cooked. A cup of millet will serve two to three people.
After 10 minutes there will still be some water which cooks the millet fully during the resting period, so don't open until the prescribed time.
If you want to use the rice a little dry for making tomato rice or lemon rice or pulao, you can reduce the water by half a cup.

                                                                                        Varagu Soru - Kodo Millet Rice

But, millet cooked with three cups of water will become dry and fluffy when it cools down completely which will be good enough to make any mixed rice. But on the other hand, I find the millet cooked with less water a bit nutty and crunchy as some of them will not be cooked properly. Since I prefer properly cooked rice I stick to the above said proportion, which as I said might look a bit moist initially but becomes dry when cooled down, but my mother uses two and a half cup water to cook as she prefers that. Whatever, try and follow a method that suits you best.

                                                                                     Thinaichoru - Foxtail Millet Rice

I don't add salt to millet, when served with some curry, but if serving plain with thuvaiyal( chutney) or just pickle then add salt while cooking.
These millets can also be pressure cooked.
If using pre-soaked millets then you can use only two cups of water to cook in the above said method.
These millets can be cooked like rice to make pongal or uppuma or kanji, exactly the way rice is used. But just adjust the millet and water proportions, three cups of water will be sufficient enough for most of the recipes.



  1. Grt. Where can i get these millets in chennai?

  2. I come from a village in near Oddanchatram. I am 53 live in Australia work as a plant scientist. I have gone through the edge of that period, in 1974-75 there was a drought rice is supplied in ration shop which had aweful smell. So we started eating these small millets which my father grew in his field. That time those small millets were ignored as poorman's diet!! Now they all healthy food and selling in the name of power food in western countries. We are famous for giving it up the good things for some reasons! Thanks for the information in your blog.

    1. Very true! People started to eat slimy and tasteless oats and cornflakes following the westerners, when we can feast on our own millets, which I believe is equally nutritious and tasty. Right from ancient times, south indian cooking has always incorporated all healthy ingredients in our food not just for taste but to protect us from getting ill too, but it's pathetic that we listen only when the western world announces that turmeric, cumin, pepper and neem leaves all have medicinal properties. We all have the responsibility to understand our rich health oriented food culture and I guess even now it is not too late.

  3. thanks for posting like this recipes for present life style in the past this foods where used in villages but now days it has been marketed in super high rates in hi fi hotels

    1. I never knew millet foods were available in hotels !

  4. i find this to be a healthy chat to converse our traditional food habits..n i really dont kno wat's wrong with our fellow indians to fall for western ideas & brands..its good to revive our ancestors knowledge towards a disease free healthy life..i too try this saamai soru n other items frm this week..(i have read in some historic novels that these millets give an awesome smell when it is fried)

    1. Millets like Sorghum (solam) and Pearl Millet ( kambu) gives out wonderful flavour when dry roasted and it will be irresistible to pop some into the mouth even when it is hot.
      Try my kambu urundai recipe, if you want to know how good roasted millet smells.

  5. i have started to cook millet rice. please put some more receipes on millet, varagu

    1. Rajini you can click on the label 'millets' which appears below the post for all my recipes on millet published so far. But for recipes like dosai, idly, upma, kitchadi, mixed rice or pongal, just follow your regular recipe, replace rice and use millet instead. It is that simple. In order to avoid repeating recipes, I have avoided posting such recipes which can easily be substituted with millet. You can always mail me if you still have queries.

  6. Spurred by a spate of articles propagating virtues of millet,I bought sample measures of Varagu & Kuthiriavali.My wife made Pongal with Kuthiraiva which was similar to normal rice Pongal,both in appearance and taste.But what beats me is why these millet should be priced higher than ,say Ponni rice? And I find from a chart that Wheat excels in overall nutritional parameters whereas millet is somewhat similar to rice.Nutrient profile comparison of millet with other food staples
    Synopsis[16] ~ composition: Cassava[17] Wheat[18] Rice[19] Sweetcorn[20] Potato[21] Sorghum
    Millet[22] Proso
    (per 100g portion, raw grain) Amount Amount Amount Amount Amount Amount Amount
    water (g) 60 13.1 12 76 82 9.2 8.7
    energy (kJ) 667 1368 1527 360 288 1418 1582
    protein (g) 1.4 12.6 7 3 1.7 11.3 11
    fat (g) 0.3 1.5 1 1 0.1 3.3 4.2
    carbohydrates (g) 38 71.2 79 19 16 75 73
    fiber (g) 1.8 12.2 1 3 2.4 6.3 8.5
    sugars (g) 1.7 0.4 >0.1 3 1.2 1.9
    iron (mg) 0.27 3.2 0.8 0.5 0.5 4.4 3
    manganese (mg) 0.4 3.9 1.1 0.2 0.1 <0.1 1.6
    calcium (mg) 16 29 28 2 9 28 8
    magnesium (mg) 21 126 25 37 21 <120 114
    phosphorus (mg) 27 288 115 89 62 287 285
    potassium (mg) 271 363 115 270 407 350 195
    zinc (mg) 0.3 2.6 1.1 0.5 0.3 <1 1.7
    pantothenic acid (mg) 0.1 0.9 1.0 0.7 0.3 <0.9 0.8
    vitB6 (mg) 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.2 <0.3 0.4
    folate (µg) 27 38 8 42 18 <25 85
    thiamin (mg) 0.1 0.38 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.4
    riboflavin (mg) <0.1 0.1 >0.1 0.1 >0.1 0.1 0.3
    niacin (mg) 0.9 5.5 1.6 1.8 1.1 2.9 4.7

  7. I published the recipe in 2012 and now I hear someone using it for the first time in the year 2014, such is the awareness about millet among people. When there is less demand and the production is less, naturally it tends to be expensive. Rice is not bad, as along as you don't eat the polished ones, (have you not heard about the benefits of vadikanji and Pazhaya saadham ) as a matter of fact, hand pound rice ( Kaikuthal Arisi) is much cheaper than ponni rice or even millet. Based on our geographic positions, the temperature of the region and how it affects our body, our ancestors have followed certain food habits and we have been largely millet and rice eaters for long. Wheat generates heat and it has never been a part of their diet. Ragi roti, koozh, kambu roti, koozh were the staple food, while godhumai roti is just a recent invasion in our food culture. From my understanding, intake of balanced food that suits our body is a wise approach, rather than just sticking to one particular food, which will result in the deprivation of essential nutrients from other food products.
    Just make sure it is organic and it is not processed.


Tell me what you think
Hiya all,
Finally on this day of october the 1st, 2012, I have decided to include the comment form, after a long gap of two years. But, I am going to be a bit selfish here and keep all those nice and lovely things that is said for me and only me to cherish and will be sharing any queries that requires clarifications and your experience about the food if you have tried my recipes. So, drop in a word if you have anything to say and thanks a lot for stopping by.
"Have a nice day"

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