There are some dishes so relative to your childhood that when you taste them, you feel transported back in time. Zarda, also known as meethe chawal is one of those dishes for me. I fondly remember my grandmother quickly making a small batch after early dinners, when she craved the carb laden, saffron laced dessert. It’s bright yellow color and sweet taste make it a perfect dish to serve for a Vaisakhi gathering.
Vaisakhi is a harvest festival of Northern India. The new year festival is a celebration of the seasons harvest with prayers for abundant future crops. For the Sikh community it’s an especially important day as it marks the birth of the Khalsa. Prayers are offered at Gurudwaras, for good harvests and the auspicious shades of saffron is worn. The yellows and oranges represent the spirit of rebirth and sacrifice and are colors of joy and celebration. When Vaisakhi is celebrated in Punjab, the golden yellow wheat fields are ready to be harvested and mustard fields are in full bloom. The community is in a mood of celebration while kitchens are filled with authentic recipes.
Zarda or meethe chawal is a traditional sweet rice dish made with cooking rice, sugar and saffron and is commonly made during religious and cultural celebrations in North India. The name Zarda comes from Persian and Urdu word “zard” which means “yellow”. Traditionally saffron is added for the yellow color but some add additional color for a deeper hue. The sweet rice dish is often served at celebrations, dinner parties and during festivals.
Zarda can be garnished with cashews, pistachios, almonds or raisins. I love that this dish takes very little prep work and can be made ahead of time.
- a few saffron (kesar) strands
- 1 1/3 cups basmati rice
- 3 tablespoon butter or ghee
- 1″ stick cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 4-5 cardamom pods
- 1/8 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 2 tablespoon milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup crushed pistachios
- 2 1/3 cups hot water
Dry roast the saffron in a small pan for 15-20 seconds. Add the milk (should not be cold) and set aside.
Wash and soak the rice for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve.
In a deep pan heat the ghee, add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods and rice and sauté for 5-6 minutes.
Add the saffron mixture, sugar and hot water, cover and let cook for 15 minutes.
Uncover, add almonds, raisins and cardamom powder, cover again for 7-8 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.
Fluff the rice lightly with a fork.
Garnish with crushed pistachios and serve warm.
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