Last week I received a friendly email asking about using some of my recipes in a promo piece, and if I had a photo of “Chile Pepper Pilau.” Little did they know that this is the very first dish I ever cooked for Yogi Bhajan, back in 1971. My answer? “Nope I don’t have a photo, but I’d be happy to cook up a batch and take a few pics!”
I remember when I first learned to make this (from his directions, scribbled on a scrap of paper by his secretary), I thought it was quite mysterious, having to boil sliced up ginger in water, and using that “tea” to make the rice. And the spices, and all those fresh chiles!
I don’t think I had ever cooked with a fresh green chile before. Thus my journey into the Yogi’s World of Cooking began!
I made this dish everyday for Yogiji; it was his main food for several weeks. He said that basmati rice is good for your kidneys (unlike brown rice, which may be more plentiful in nutrients, but is very hard to digest and is taxing to the kidneys).
In those days cottage cheese was frequently on the menu. While I just about never buy or eat cottage cheese anymore, I still remember this dish being served with a nice big scoop of it. It was so delicious this way! I got a bit sentimental thinking about it, and when I went shopping to pick up the chiles I’d need for the dish, I just happened to grab a pint of cottage cheese too!
There are two ways to prepare this rice, plain (with lots of chile peppers), or with other vegetables cooked along with it. Prepared with other veggies, it really is a meal unto itself. Yogiji especially liked it with peas and mushrooms.
Here’s the gist of how to make this simple, cleansing, and delicious rice dish. I think it would be perfectly accompanied by steamed or roasted beets (so pretty, too!) and some marinated/baked tofu. That sounds so good, I think I’ll go make some right now!
Yogi Bhajan’s Chile Pepper Pilau
Yield: about 4 servings
1 piece of fresh ginger (about the size of your thumb), peeled
2-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
2 medium onions, chopped (or 1 large onion)
1 rounded teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
2 Anaheim green chiles, chopped
1 yellow wax hot pepper, chopped in thin semi circles
1 cup white basmati rice, well rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Slice ginger into slices of any size, about 1/8” or so thick. Add to water and boil for 10 minutes. Meanwhile prep other ingredients. Drain the ginger and save the “tea”. Finely chop the ginger. Measure the tea and if necessary add enough water to make 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons.
Heat oil or ghee in a 2-quart (or larger) sauce pan, wok, or other pan that has a lid, over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and ginger and sauté until lightly browned (8-10 minutes), Then make a little pool in the middle by pushing the sautéed onions aside, and add spices. Let them sizzle as you gently stir for another 2 minutes. Add chopped chiles and rice and stir and cook for a couple more minutes Now add the ginger tea and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and let steam for 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
If you wish, you may add a few cups of chopped vegetables when you add the rice. Suggested veggies are broccoli, fresh or frozen peas, sliced mushrooms, cauliflower, carrots, cauliflower, and zucchini or other summer squash.