According to mythology, it’s also time when extra-terrestrial beings, spirits, witches and ogres make their way to Earth — but as our ancestors have always told us on the festive occasions of Halloween and Deepavali, good always wins over evil.
It is said that Ram, while returning to Ayodha after a great victory and 14 years in vanvas, stopped at various places on the way for people to show their appreciation in various ways.
The best of food was made, lamps were lit and firecrackers were burst, but an important part of all the celebrations especially in South India was a special ladoo made with black rice. Since it was rarely available, it was served only to kings and emperors so legend goes that the ruler of one of the kingdoms ordered for these special ladoos to be made and served in honour of Ram’s victory.
Mythology aside, history shows that black rice originated in China, where a tale around it was spun. It was called the ‘forbidden rice’ because it was only saved to serve monarch and royalty; it wasn’t meant for the common man. Apparently, it entered India in the hands of a Chinese traveller and sowed its root in Assam and West Bengal, from where it further travelled south.
Black rice or kavuni arisi as it is known in Tamil Nadu was traditionally made into balls after hand-pounding and being mixed with jaggery. Later, nuts and dry fruits and spices like cardamom were added to it. Over time, the custom of making kavuni arisi ladoos for Deepavali came about. It is not commonly sold, but is made in certain households during the festival of lights.
According to online sources, black rice contains more Vitamins B and E, niacin, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc compared to white rice. It is rich in fibre and the grains have a nutty taste. The dark anthocyanins (water-soluble pigment) not only act as antioxidants but also activate innate detoxifying enzymes. Since it has medicinal properties — it helps prevent diabetes and makes the skin healthier — I would recommend it is the best ingredients to make sweets with.
Kavuni arisi ladoo
Prep time: 30 min
Cooking time: 15 min
Cal per serve: 190 cal per serve
Serves: 4-5 pax
Recipe: heritage royal
Black rice (kavuni arisi) 1 cup
Jaggery 1/2 cup
Coconut 1/4 cup (grated)
Green cardamom powder 1 tbsp
Almonds 15, powdered, peeled and chopped
Cashew nuts 9, chopped finely
Sugar/honey: 1 tbsp/2 tbps
Clarified butter (ghee): 3/4 cup
Preparation and Method
- Wash and soak black rice for two hours.
- Then, drain water, spread over a muslim cloth and leave for an hour.
- Heat a saucepan, add black rice and dry roast for four minutes on low flame. Roast till you get a nice aroma.
- Add 1 tbsp ghee and roast for five minutes; turn off heat and let it cool.
- Heat a sauce pan, add 2 tbsp ghee and roast cashews, raisins and chopped almonds. Remove nuts and keep aside.
- Heat a saucepan, add 1 tbsp ghee add coconut; roast till light brown.
- Put roasted black rice in to a mixer jar and grind to fine powder.
- Add jaggery and sugar/honey and finely grind the black rice mixture.
- Dry grind the dry fruits and nuts into a powder.
- Add this mixture to the rice powder in a saucepan.
- Add roasted coconut mixture and sauté on a low flame for three minutes.
- Add hot ghee and mix well. Remove it from the stove and cool.
- Now, make lemon-size ladoos out of the mixture.
- The kavuni arisi urandai/ladoo is ready.
- Place it in an airtight container and consume within six days.
— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes