Lemon rice | Nimboo Chaawal | Elmichampazham chaadam

Have I told you earlier about A?

A is a buddy of Mr. P, so close that I quite often call him ‘sowtan’! 🙂 To most people, A at first sight, seems an over clean (he has this odd hobby of checking his cuffs and flicking non-existent dust particles quite often), no-nonsense guy and most probably his one liners will make you cross and put you off him. Once the ice is broken, A will have you doubling with laughter with his quick wit and presence of mind, and you will find yourself forgiving him for his constant digs and end up revelling in them.

One Saturday morning A landed in our house when I had just wrapped up the kitchen for the day. I had a good book to devour and had no inclination to cook much. It so happened that I only made a simple vegetable pulao and some raita to go with it, that day. A was surprised to see the kitchen closed and asked, “Aaj kitchen bandh?” (Is the kitchen closed today?”). I told him what was on the menu and about the book as he is a voracious reader himself. This is what he had to say. “I had warned P about this. Marrying a Palakkad Iyer has its own hazards. Your menu will be limited to rice and rasam on Monday, rice and sambar on Tuesday, lemon rice on Wednesday, tamarind rice on Thursday and coconut rice on friday. On weekends, since it is a somewhat special day you will get treated to tomato rice on Saturday and pulao on Sunday. For special occasions you might turn lucky and get to eat fried rice. But whatever the day, the last course will be thair saadam and dessert will be rice payasam!” 🙂 I hardly ever make mixed rice though I do love tamarind rice and coconut rice a lot but when hit by time constraint or sheer laziness I usually resort to these flavourful and tasty, yet easy dishes. So while many end the standard cliche “when life hands you lemons..,” with exoticas like lemoncurd, lemon cheese tart etc., I simply end it with mix up lemons and rice. For the record, A cannot do without his plateful of rice and dal for dinner!

A dish for all times – may I say? In Tamil ‘elmichampazham’ is the word for ‘ripe lemon’ and ‘chaadam’ means ‘rice’, hence the rather long, tongue-twisting title.

Recipe: Lemon Rice / Nimboo Chaawal / Elmichampazham chaadam


Rice (preferably ambemohar) – 1 cup
A ripe, big, juicy lemon – the size of a table tennis ball


Turmeric powder / haldi – A pinch
Asafoetida / Hing – A pinch
Salt as per taste
Seasame oil / Til ka tel – 1-1.5 tsp.
Mustard seeds / Rai dana – 1/2 tsp.
Bengal gram / Chana dal – 1/2 tsp.
Split black gram dal / Urad dal – 1/2 tsp.
Broken cashews or peanuts – 1 tbsp.
Curry leaves – 1 Sprig, chopped
Ginger – 1 inch, chopped fine
Green chillies – 1, chopped fine


Cook rice in 2 cups of water until fluffy and all the water is absorbed. Let cool completely. If sticky add a little oil and fluff gently with a fork when cool. Adding a little lemon juice while cooking also helps in grains remaining separate.

Meanwhile, chop the ingredients listed. Heat sesame oil in a heavy, wide wok (kadai or cheenachatti).

Crackle mustard seeds. Add dals, cashews or peanuts and roast till cashews change colour.

Add ginger, green chillies and curry leaves. Remove the wok from fire.

Sprinkle turmeric powder and salt all over the rice. Squeeze juice from the lemon and pour evenly over the rice.

Add the rice to the seasoning in the wok. Mix gently with a brass or wooden spoon or with a fork, taking care not to break up the rice.

This dish is best enjoyed with potato chips, rice crisps or other fritters and pappadams.

Now, shut that kitchen, get back on that chair, lean back, relax, enjoy the book.

Ladies and gents, boys and girls – Lunch is served!


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • Barbara

    Lemon Rice sounds fabulous Sunshinemom…and a nice way to remember your father in law.

  • subhie

    lemon rice looks yummy..frst time to ur blog..ur have wonderful collection"

  • Red Chillies

    Looks pretty and yummy. One of my favorite dish to make as prasadam during festivals.

  • Aparna

    Finally got here again! I'm getting old, I think.
    Love the copper bowl in which the elmichampazham chaadam is in. 🙂
    Both us being P.I.s I guess we're ok with those hazards!!!

  • Nithya

    YUmmmmmmmmmmmm… the pic is amazing. You really have the photographic sense. keep it going. 🙂

  • Sunshinemom

    Anushruti, welcome to my home:).

    Vijitha, Nayi naveli dulhan, kaisi ho? Am using Canon, Rebel XTi. Glad you like the pics! That's how it should be – blissfully married:)

    Hannah, thanks! Coming from you, the comment about photos made my day!

  • Hannah

    I'm not sure what's more appealing… the actual recipe, or the photo! Both make me want to get in the kitchen right this second and whip some up! 🙂

  • Vijitha Shyam

    hey harini
    Thanks a lot for the comments. I am here in ur blog after a long time. Lovely pics yaar! awesome. Which cam r u using? How do u manage to get those pics. I really loved the donut pics.

    How r things at ur end? I am doing gr8. Blissfully married! 🙂 All is well at my end.

  • meeso

    Those are great pics, the rice looks awesome!

  • Anushruti

    Looks delicious. One of my favourite ways to eat rice.

  • Divya Vikram

    Beautiful presentation. Love the bowl. This is one of my comfort foods!

  • Soma

    Lemon rice is the easiest to say:-) LOL at A…

    This is a favorite in my home too, esp. on lazy days. I love the cashew pieces in it.

    That is one gorgeous picture of the podi! love the colors used in the picture.

  • Navita (Gupta) Hakim

    Nice post..hub too has a friend whom I call 'sautan' …lol..
    love lemon rice, thanks for shraing the recipe. 😉

  • homecooked

    Your pics are gorgeous! I love rice in any form 🙂 We used to make lemon rice while goign on journeys. brings back fond memories 🙂

  • K

    Lemon rice looks good Harini. Its been long since I visited your blog due to so mnay reasons. The pictures look awesome.

    Heard about the swine flu there. Take care!hope it passes soon.

  • Uma

    this is the ultimate comfort food. looks so tempting 🙂

  • Parita

    Hmm i heard abt swine flu yesterday from mom, they too have brought masks, i heard that tulsi leaves and nilgiri are very effective for flu, no harm in having these 🙂
    Lemon rice is a classic and you have done justice by taking some gorgeouc clicks!

  • jayasree

    Lovely clicks…Lemon saadam is so easy to whip up for lunch box too..

    All the TV channels are telecasting all possible news on swine flue. I doubt if it will create awareness or more panic. Anyways, stay safe.

  • Saee Koranne-Khandekar

    What pretty pictures! And where did you get that pretty copper dish from? Yea, the swine flu dress code is hilarious–I just made a small post back on my blog as well.

  • Bhawna

    LOvely pics of lemon rice. welcoming and tempting.

  • Lakshmi Venkatesh

    Looks very real and awesome.

  • Shri

    I love the cute vessel that you served the rice in..Beautiful pics as always!

  • Usha

    Perfect classic and is always welcome in my home, lovely pics. I heard about the swine flu fears there, stay safe !

  • Preeti Kashyap

    lemon rice looks yummy!…so not true when they say Iyers only cook sambar,rasam and kalanda chaadam…Its high time they peek into our blogs….Nice of you to support the cancer cause… and true that no disease can crush one's spirit…be careful of swine flu!

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