This Vibrant South Indian Rice Dish Is Packed with Cabbage, Peanuts, and Lime

updated Feb 5, 2021
Chitra's Chitranna (Shredded Cabbage, Lime & Peanut Rice)

A variation of nimbekai chitranna, made with shredded red cabbage and carrots lightly sautéed in oil and then tossed with cooked turmeric rice, fried peanuts, lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Serves4

Prep55 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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Credit: Photo by Madhumita Sathishkumar

Nimbekai chitranna, or lemon peanut rice, is a specialty of South Karnataka made with lemon, coconut, peanuts, and cilantro.” Truly, though, there are numerous variations of chitranna. At its heart, it’s a rice dish that’s usually sour in nature and flavored with fried spices and curry leaves. The sour can come from many sources, not just lemon — lime, green mango, or tamarind are also used.

This is my own variation of chitranna, made with shredded red cabbage and carrots lightly sautéed in oil and then tossed together with cooked turmeric rice, fried peanuts, lime juice, and chopped cilantro. The colors are so vibrant, and since cabbage and carrot are available all year round, this dish can brighten up even the most grey and cloudy days. 

Credit: Photo by Madhumita Sathishkumar

Chitra's Chitranna (Shredded Cabbage, Lime & Peanut Rice)

A variation of nimbekai chitranna, made with shredded red cabbage and carrots lightly sautéed in oil and then tossed with cooked turmeric rice, fried peanuts, lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Prep time 55 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the rice:

  • 1 cup

    basmati rice, preferably Dehraduni

  • 1 3/4 cups

    water

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

For the cabbage:

  • 1/2 cup

    fresh, frozen, or dried unsweetened grated or shredded coconut

  • 1/4 head

    small red cabbage (6 to 8 ounces)

  • 1

    medium carrot

  • 1

    fresh green Indian or serrano chile, or 1 dried red chile (such as Guntur Sannam, cayenne, or arbol)

  • 1

    medium lime

  • 2 tablespoons

    fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

  • 2 tablespoons

    plus 1 teaspoon mild-flavored oil such as canola oil, divided

  • 1/4 cup

    raw, skin-on or unsalted, roasted peanuts

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    black mustard seeds

  • Pinch

    asafetida (hing) powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    chana dal (dried split chickpeas)

  • 1 teaspoon

    skinned urad dal (dried split matpe beans)

  • 5

    fresh curry leaves

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • For serving: sambar, plain yogurt, and achaar (like Brooklyn Delhi)

Instructions

  1. Make the rice: Place 1 cup basmati rice in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse under running water until the water runs clear. Place in a medium bowl, add enough cool water to cover by 1 inch, and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain through the fine-mesh strainer.

  2. Transfer the rice to a medium saucepan and add 1 3/4 cups water and 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and cook until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.

  3. Fluff with a fork, then transfer to a baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Let cool while you prepare the cabbage.

  4. Make the cabbage: Thaw 1/2 cup grated frozen coconut, or add a little hot water to 1/2 cup dried coconut to plump up and rehydrate.

  5. Finely shred 1/4 head red cabbage with a mandoline or sharp knife (about 2 cups), peel and grate 1 medium carrot on the large holes of a box grater, and place both in a medium bowl. Trim and finely chop 1 Indian green chile or serrano chile (remove the seeds and membranes first if you want it less spicy), or stem and break 1 dried red chile in half. Juice 1 medium lime. Coarsely chop 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish.

  6. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1/4 cup peanuts and stir until fragrant and golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

  7. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add in 1 black mustard seed. When it sizzles and pops, add 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds and a pinch of asafetida powder. Immediately cover the pan when the mustard seeds start popping. When the popping starts to subside, add 1 teaspoon chana dal and 1 teaspoon urad dal. Stir to coat with the oil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often so they evenly toast, until they turn a reddish golden-brown color and smell nutty, about 1 minute.

  8. Rub 5 fresh curry leaves between your fingers a little to release their natural oils and drop them and the chopped or dried chile into the pan. Immediately cover the pan, as moisture from curry leaves will cause the oil to spurt. Once the sputtering stops, stir to evenly coat everything with oil and continue to fry for 10 to 15 seconds.

  9. Add the cabbage, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Increase the heat to medium and cook, tossing occasionally, until the vegetables are cooked through but still have a little crunch, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cooked rice and remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to evenly combine. Add the coconut and cook 1 minute more. Remove from the heat.

  10. Add the fried peanuts, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and stir to combine. Garnish with more chopped cilantro. Serve hot with sambar, yogurt, and achaar on top.

Recipe Notes

Rice: Long-grain jasmine rice can be used in place of the basmati rice.

Make ahead: The rice can be cooked up to 1 day and refrigerated.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Chitra Agrawal’s Weeknight South Indian Cooking Guide

This recipe is part of our weeknight South Indian cooking guide, designed to bring the vibrant and colorful cuisine of South India into your kitchen. Head to the intro piece to read more from Chitra, and check out all of the recipes below.

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Huli is a spicy lentil and vegetable stew served daily in Karnataka homes, usually with rice. This is a quick, one-pot version, made with baby spinach and red lentils.
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This is the special potato palya or potato stir-fry that is filled into masala dosa, though it can also be eaten on its own. The potatoes are spicy and tangy and cooked with a little butter until they are soft enough to melt in your mouth.
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Cilantro Coconut Chutney
Coconut chutney is the quintessential South Indian condiment. It's usually served with idlis, dosas, or fried appetizers, but is equally delicious on a sandwich or just mixed with hot rice.
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Chitra's Chitranna (Shredded Cabbage, Lime & Peanut Rice)
A variation of nimbekai chitranna, made with sautéed shredded red cabbage and carrots tossed with cooked turmeric rice, fried peanuts, lime juice and chopped cilantro.
Go to Recipe
Credit: Kitchn