In Ayurveda, summer is a season where digestibility is lower than at cooler times of year. When the ambient heat is high, the body tends to be in the mode of dissipating heat, as opposed to concentrating it in the core during cold months. When this occurs, we digest heavier foods poorly. Hence eating a seasonal diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are filled with nutrients and water, often consumed raw in salads, makes it easier on the body. Heavier proteins like egg, dairy, dry beans, and meat must be eaten sparingly, and saved for the cooler seasons when these foods provide the necessary fortification, heaviness, and warmth after digestion.
In Ayurveda, stools are considered the repository of body heat, allowing the body to maintain homeostatic temperature within the range of a few decimal points everyday, all day! Much like the earth holds onto the sun’s heat after the sun has gone down, stools help keep the body warm even when there is no active eating and digesting going on. When a body becomes too hot, the natural tendency is to have a few loose bowel movements to get rid of the excess heat. Losing the stool allows the thermostat to be reset quickly. So when too much heat is created during the summer in the form of alcohol, peppers, hot spices and condiments, along with being outside on a hot day, a game of tennis in the afternoon, etc. guess what happens! 😁
Enter yogurt rice! This simple dish is ubiquitous in South Indian homes and restaurants, found tucked into even in the most fancy buffet tables, during the hot summer months. While this dish does have dairy, it is seasoned and lightened by addition of spices and water to make a easily digestible buttermilk from the yogurt. Mix this yogurt with rice and you have a cool and creamy one-dish meal that can settle even the most sensitive summer bellies. The probiotics in yogurt restore digestion rapidly. Often this dish is the only starrer in a light summer supper with a dabble of a spicy-sweet mango chutney as accompaniment. There are many variations of this basic dish, much like add-ins to a plain bowl of pasta.
It is comfort food in every sense!
1 cup cooked short grain white rice (cooked almost mushy)
1 cup full fat PLAIN yogurt, preferably home-made
1 small bunch curry leaves, washed
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 small green chili, washed and scored or chopped
Tempering Spices -1 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp hing or asafetida; often in South Indian cooking, a couple of teaspoons of a white lentil or split yellow peas (dry, uncooked), are added to this tempering mix to bring a crunch into the dish.
Salt to taste
4 Persian (or any seedless thin-skinned) cucumbers, diced small
Handful of washed cilantro chopped fine
TEMPERING – This is a process of quickly releasing spices into hot oil. Heat a few tablespoons of cooking oil in a skillet. Add the mustard seeds, white lentils if using, green chili, ginger and curry leaves. The seeds will state to pop and sizzle within a minute. Shut off heat and add hing. This add the unique South Indian Umami and crunch to most South Indian dishes. The oil allows the spices to easily release their flavor.
- Whisk yogurt with enough water to make it pancake batter-like.
- Mix yogurt and rice – using your dominant hand and fingers for an authentic process! This allows you to break up clumps of rice and render the dish smooth and creamy!
- Add salt, tempered spices, diced cucumbers and herbs. Fold them in well.
Enjoy with a dollop of mango chutney!