Friday, 15 March 2013

Moongil Arisi Kattu Saadham, Mambazha Kuzhambu - Bamboo Rice Parcels, With Aromatic Sweet and Spicy Mango Curry

                       A strong feeling of guilt engulfs me as I cook bamboo rice. Having robbed the elephants of its territory they freely strolled for years, we have also laid our hand on their favourite food "Moongil Arisi" ( Bamboo Rice ). The constant conflict between elephants and human beings upsets me a lot. Elephants are my favourite animal next to dogs and I hate to see them begging on the streets and suffering standing for long hours in the temple wagging its trunk a few hundred times a day, up and down, all in the name of blessings, touching our greasy heads and getting infected. How can an animal bless when it is stripped of all its dignity and magnificence, chained and  poked every now then by a sharp metal and forced to do a routine job. As much as I hate to see these animals in temples the least I do is avoid the so called "elephant blessings" and I never forget to feed them before I leave a temple. Do you know the elephant in Thiruthani temple loves Sarkkarai Pongal and does not like coconut. Remember that, the next time you visit the temple. I wish all these captive elephants are taken into a sanctuary and rehabilitated and the whole practice of using animals to entertain and abusing in the name of god be abolished and provide a corridor for the wild animals, removing all that block their way to navigate freely to avoid the elephant-man conflict. Elephants fascinate me a lot and I love reading about them. They are like human beings in bonding like a family, in their intelligence in thinking before they act, in remembering their paths and geographical locations , in mourning when a member of the family dies, in protecting when a member of the clan is in trouble. The more you learn about these animals the more you will fall in love with these loveable giants.

                       Bamboo forest  happens to be the breeding place of King Cobras, where they build nests and lay eggs, especially on the western ghats where they are found in large numbers, the leaves and shoots are the favourite food of Pandas, the stalks and seeds are the favourite of elephants, rodents and birds and an occasional delicacy for the tribal people when they collect the seeds from the flowers of an aged bamboo. By nature an old bamboo plant dies  after the flowering, leaving behind  the seeds ( rice ) that gets dispersed by natural means, paving way for new plants.
Bamboo rice is not commonly available due to the reason that it takes many years for an aged plant to flower, which cannot be predicted, as it may vary from few years to 100 years  for a bamboo plant to flower. Bamboo rice is an aromatic seed that smells like one of those familiar ayurvedic concoctions and it naturally gives the feeling of intaking a medicinal food. Though generally cooked as rice by the tribes, the following recipes are my novelty idea that everyone loves and asks for more.

                    Mantharai leaf, from mantharai tree, ( Bauhinia Tomentosa - Botanical name) commonly called as orchid tree or camels foot tree, has been a part of our food culture for a long time. I used to stock up dried mantharai leaves, to pack food for my better half when I had easy access to it. They came handy when banana leaf was not around. Juggling hot puliyodarai and sarkkara pongal from one hand to another, served in dhonnais made of mantharai ilai, is a nostalgic experience that none can deny, when thinking of the visits to the temples in south india.

I used these dried mantharai leaves to make the steamed rice parcels. Combined with the aromatic bamboo rice and the curry, the leaves on its part imparts a flavour to the rice, that hits our senses the minute it enters the  mouth. The rice parcel on the whole, tastes wonderful with a beautiful flavour that can only be experienced and cannot be told.

For Moongil Arisi Saadham / Bamboo Rice
Bamboo rice             1/2 cup (see glossary for an image of the rice)
Water                    600 ml

For the Mambala Kuzhambu/ Sweet and Spicy Mango Curry
Shallots                                         1/3 cup (sliced)
Ginger                                           1 tbsp (julienned)
Garlic                                            2 cloves ( chopped)
Green Chilly                                   2 ( slit)
Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon      2 pieces ( each)
Thick Coconut milk                          1/2 cup
Second Coconut Milk                       1/4 cup
Turmeric powder                             1/4 tsp
Chilly+ Coriander Powder                  1/2 tsp
Ripe Mango                                    1/2 cup ( diced )
Lemon Zest                                    1/4 tsp
Salt                                               1/2 - 3/4 tsp
Coriander leaves                               2 tbsp
Oil                                                 2 tsp

Bamboo Rice
Rinse the bamboo rice and add water. Cook for about 35 - 40 minutes and drain the excess water ( just like cooking regular white rice). Set aside.
Serve with curd or any other curry, if not making these parcels.

Mango Curry
Heat oil in a pan, add cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and curry leaves.
Add sliced shallots, green chilly, ginger and garlic and stir.
Add turmeric powder and chilly+ coriander powder, salt and stir. Add a tbsp or two of water, a tbsp of coriander leaves and stir, before adding the diced mangoes.
Add the second coconut milk,grated lemon zest and cook on medium heat until it thickens.
Add the thick coconut milk and cook on low heat for a few minutes until the curry thickens. Sprinkle the remaining coriander leaves and turn off the heat.

Making Bamboo Rice Parcel
Take a mantharai leaf, place about 3/4 cup of cooked rice in the middle of the leaf, top it with some of the mango curry, fold the leaf enveloping the rice with the curry and tie the parcel. Repeat the same with the rest of the rice and steam cook all the rice parcels in a steamer, for about 25 minutes.
Serve hot with appalam.


It is not too often that you come across bamboo rice, so use regular white cooking rice in place of bamboo rice and follow the recipe, but you will still miss certain unique flavours of this original version  and the experience of savouring the  aroma of the bamboo rice, the mantharai leaf, combined with sweet, spicy and the sour mango curry.  I guarantee that, people will ask for more and you will make these recipes again and again. When I say 'recipes', it means there's 'more' to come!


  1. Moongil arisi ( Bamboo Rice ) is available in the hills of yercaud as rice as well as in powder form. They are sold at the shevaroys super market.
    It is also available in kuttyappan naatu marundu kadai in krishnagiri.

  2. Where can this rice be purchased in Banglore and Mumbai


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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.
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