Mama’s Punjabi Recipes —- Masaladaar Bhune Pyaaz ka Pulao (Spicy Sauteed Onion Pilaf)


This is the second pulao recipe that I use and it is tasty and unique because the rice comes out looking brown, but it is not made with brown rice. The rice still has the distinct taste and aroma of regular basmati rice and because of the way it is made, the pulao has an additional taste of spiced onions. It is also a very Punjabi dish made this way on special occasions.

Chawal (rice) are a basic ingredient in many Indian cuisines, irrespective of which part of the country you come from. But for special occasions like weddings, rice is usually prepared as a pulao (pilaf), which can include vegetables or various meats. Biryani is another rice dish similar to pulao, but introduced to India by the Mughals.

Pulao is a method of cooking adopted from the Persians. Pulao is a dish in which rice is cooked in a seasoned broth. In some cases, the rice may become brown depending on the use of onions, a mix of spices and meat or vegetables, depending on the local cuisine. A variation of it can be found in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, East Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The brown color of the onions runs off on to the rice which is why I call this “brown onion rice”. When served with garam masala (see previous recipe IAN Dec. 7, 2012).


• 2 cups chawal (rice) (preferably Basmati rice)

• 2 medium pyaaz (onion)

• 4 cups pani (water)

• 2 tbsp olive oil or any other oil you prefer

• 1 teaspoon garam masala (black pepper mix)

Namak (salt) to taste


1. Soak the rice for 30 minutes in cold water.

2. Peel the onion and cut into thin, long slices.

3. Heat the oil in a medium sized pot and place the onion in it, stirring till they are dark brown.

4. Add the salt, garam masala and water and bring to a boil.

5. Drain the rice, then add to the pot and bring to a boil again. Now cover the pot and reduce the heat to very low.

6. When the rice fills the pot, check that there is no more water on the bottom. Turn the heat off and leave the pot covered for 10 minutes.

7. Serve warm with plain yogurt, daal or rajmah (red beans) or eat simply with Indian pickles.


Shakuntla Malhotra recently returned to Houston after a six-week vacation in her homeland India. She is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.