Lemon Brown Rice

This image courtesy of Brave New Pictures, Inc.

The first time I had this dish was in the home of two of my close friends from South India, Padma and her younger sister Kshema. I still remember how my tongue and lips burned. I’d never eaten anything that spicy before. But I couldn’t stop eating it, either. It was delicious. Most lemon rice dishes are made with white basmati rice, but I’ve swapped that out for brown rice and even for quinoa. The result was just as good as the original recipe.

NotesSplit Gram (Chana Dal): Chana dal is the split and skinned version of the black chickpea. It looks like and is often confused with split peas and the split version of toor dal, so label containers well. This split lentil or bean is used often in South Indian dishes and spice blends.

Asafetida (Asafoetida, Hing): Also known as devil’s dung, asafetida is quite fragrant and incredibly pungent. It is collected from the large roots of a tall, smelly herb as a resin-like gum that is then dried and sold in solid lumps or as a powder. Uncooked, asafetida has a strong, overpowering smell, so it should always be stored in an airtight container. The key to using asafetida is to add a little bit to heated oil in order to break it down before you mix it in with your dish. Asafetida is believed to aid digestion and to help prevent gas, especially when used in bean and lentil dishes. Don’t worry about the smell—it goes away as it’s cooked, leaving you with a warm, even flavor that tastes a bit like leeks to balance out your dishes. You just need a pinch, because a little goes a long way.

6 cups (1.42 L)


Total Timeunder 1 hour

One Pot MealYes

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian



  • ¼ heaping cup (48 g) split gram (chana dal), picked over and washed (see Notes)
  • Juice of 4 small lemons
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon chutney powder
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ½ teaspoon asafetida powder (hing) (see Notes)
  • 4 whole dried red chile peppers, broken into pieces
  • 10 fresh curry leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, slightly crushed
  • 2-4 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon peeled grated ginger root
  • ½ cup water, or as needed
  • 6 cups (1.14 kg) cooked brown basmati rice
  • ¼ cup (40 g) unsalted raw peanuts, dry roasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced


  1. Soak the split gram in boiled water while you prep the remaining ingredients.

  2. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, turmeric, salt, and chutney powder. Set aside.

  3. In a deep, heavy pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

  4. Add the asafetida, dried red chiles, and curry leaves. Cook, stirring constantly, until the leaves curl slightly, about 1 minute.

  5. Add the mustard and coriander seeds. Cook until they pop, about another minute.

  6. Add the drained split gram. Cook for about 1 minute, until the lentils are lightly toasted.

  7. Add the lemon juice mixture, green chiles, ginger root, and water. Heat to a gentle simmer, about 1 to 2 minutes.

  8. Add the rice slowly and mix well.

  9. Add the peanuts and cilantro. Serve as a one-pot meal with a side of coconut chutney or soy yogurt raita.


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