Black Rice And Elephant Apples

India grows a mind-boggling variety of rice. Many varieties like the long grain Basmati and the short-grain Joha (of Assam), are fragrant. A friend got this black rice from the neighbouring state of Manipur. This one must be the most fragrant of them all. There are some whitish tinges here but the rice that we got earlier was a deep, rich burgundy. More of a wine colour rather than the colour one associates with rice.
Centuries ago, black rice was known as Forbidden Rice in China, and only the nobility were allowed to eat it. According to scientists, the cereal is low in sugar and but packed with healthy fibre and plant compounds which can prevent heart disease and cancer. (Source–

Even the water that the rice is soaked in turns into this shade of purple. A pudding made of this rice is a favourite in our parts. Some people like to soak the rice overnight and then cook. I usually soak it for an hour and cook with milk and sugar. The cooking process takes about 25-30 minutes. The aroma that wafts around the house is heavenly!

Voila! A little dry here but that colour stands out! This dessert is delicious! And because the rice itself has a unique flavour, I don’t like to add raisins and nuts the way we add them to the usual white rice pudding.

The Elephant Apple /Dellinea indica is a common tree in Assam. Locally known as Ou tenga (tenga means sour), the fruit is large and acidic.
The tree grows to a height of 15 mtrs and the season for tender fruit is the long, hot, days of summer. I took these pictures of the fruit at my sister’s garden in July. As with any acidic fruit, we make a dish of chutney using the Elephant apple. It’s a sweet and sour variation usually eaten at the end of a meal.

As you can see from this picture, the leaves are big and leathery with serrated edges.

Having sour curries in summer is supposed to have a cooling effect on the body. Which is why several acidic fruits and leaves are used as souring agents. In Assam ‘tenga’ is a must on the table especially when the days are hot and humid. The dish above has elephant apples and fish. The other ingredients that went into the dish are oil, green chillies, salt, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, and a bit of coriander powder. For the garnish I used serrated coriander locally known as maan dhania.

Food is a fascinating subject and the variety that every region produces, is amazing. Just as I love reading about food on the many blogs that I visit, whether unique or common, I find them all so interesting. I hope you’ve enjoyed going through this post, even if it’s only a little culinary slice from my part of the world.:)

About Kanak Hagjer

Hello from north-east India! I love to blog about all things floral and foliar and sharing the beauty of my region is what I am most passionate about!
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32 Responses to Black Rice And Elephant Apples

  1. Susie says:

    Hi Kanak, I too always enjoy reading about food and recipes on other blogs, especially yours. It’s always interesting to see what grows in your area and how you prepare it.

    • kanak7 says:

      Thanks Susie. Reading a comment like this always makes me want to share more about usual and unusual things from my region. Thank you for all your visits!

  2. islandgal246 says:

    What fascinating food Kanak! I have never heard and seen Black rice before. Can it be used for savory dishes? This could be a new food trend here in the west. Thank you for enlightening me.

  3. islandgal246 says:

    Kanak you know I love your blog, I find it a bit difficult to read your blog at times because of the background colour and the font size and colour. I don’t know how many of us are having this problem, but can you make the font bolder and a little bigger to stand out on that beautiful background you have?

    • kanak7 says:

      Helen, although I liked the background with all that resplendent green the thought that it could be a bit difficult to read did come to mind a few times. I’m glad you mentioned it. I’ve been looking at layouts (I’ve been thinking of changing the look) and came across this simple design where not the embellishments, but the content will be the focal point. I hope it’ll be easier for you and for many others. I can always try a different background later.

      About black rice in savoury dishes, I haven’t tried that out. Some people like to add a handful of black rice to regular white rice. A tinge of purple is after all, special.;)

  4. So interesting! We have black rice here, in the grocery stores. I’m going to have to try the pudding. Rice pudding is an old favorite here in the southern US, also. I’ll have to struggle to leave the raisins out!

  5. This is all so interesting, because we don’t have this food here. Black rice, I had been wondering about that!! We have a store called World Market and they sell this rice in little bags, I think they call it the rice of the emperors. I’ve never known what it is or why it’s black. They don’t seem to sell it in regular grocery stores here, either. Is soaking a requirement? I’m surprised it takes almost the same amount of time to cook as white rice. It reminds me a bit of wild rice, which is kind of black multi-colored. But that’s not technically a rice, it’s a grass. The elephant apples, I wonder why they are called that, do elephants really like them? Your dishes are so pretty and colorful! Wish I could taste them.

    • kanak7 says:

      Ginny, thank you so much! Wow, I never realized that this was called the rice of emperors. That is before I looked up online for more details about black rice. Although it’s grown in a neighbouring state, it isn’t always available in the markets here. And we don’t get it in regular shops either. Soaking is a requirement. I’ve asked others (when I first started cooking this dessert) and I’ve checked the Net. I’ve come across recipes where the rice is soaked overnight too.

      The other day when I was talking about elephant apples someone jokingly said that the main course for the animals are banana plants and for dessert they head straight for elephant apples!!

  6. My mouth is watering, Kanak! A number of my relations lived in your country, so I have enjoyed the rich aromas of curry in its various forms all through my life. I wonder if you put cardamom seeds in with certain types of rice? They are so fragrant!

    Like Ginny, I was wondering about the name, Elephant Apples … but thinking about it, 15 metres must be the height of an ENORMOUS elephant!!!

    • kanak7 says:

      Caroline, oh yes! Cardamom is added to the regular rice pudding and also to pulao. I’m so happy to know that you’re familiar with Indian food I just replied to Ginny’s comment about elephant apples. Your guess is pretty good too;))

  7. leavesnbloom says:

    Dear Kanak

    I always love watching Indian cookery programmes on television. The taste from those dishes must be delicious and since I’ve a bit of a sweet tooth that black rice dessert would have to be my favourite.

    Sorry I didn’t get to comment on your post yesterday – my youngest ended up in theatre being operated on as an emergency and my mind couldn’t focus on reading a thing yesterday. He’s home again, all stitched up and recovering but it might take me a few days before I get into blogging mode again.

    • kanak7 says:

      Rosie, I’m so sorry to learn this about your youngest. I hope he’s feeling better now and I hope he’ll recover soon. Take your time Rosie….blogging would take a backseat for me too given those circumstances.

      About the plant you mentioned, it’s most likely to be Jatropha podagrica or the Buddha Belly. The stems look swollen hence the name B.B. Pretty common in gardens here. Easy maintenance and the blooms attract a lot of pollinators. My garden isn’t looking its best now. I have a few blooms here and there but I’m working on it. If you’ve noticed, there are no long shots of the garden on my blog. All that will change in winter when the construction mess will disappear.

  8. lotusleaf says:

    I would love to taste that pudding! I have not come across the elepanant apples. We too have similar sour fruits here, used to make chutneys and pickles.

    • kanak7 says:

      Padma, I recently came to know that elephant apples are found in Kerala also. The pickling season will start soon and I’d love to share several pictures later. I’m not too familiar with food from Karnataka.

  9. andrea says:

    Kanak, we also have brown, burgundy and black traditional rice in the uplands here, but it is scarce already these days. I’ve tasted some delicacies from it a few times before, but the one i tasted is not as fragrant as what you described. I would love to taste that too. How i wish we have plenty of those traditional rice still. I’ve just been to India once, Ooty in the south and i haven’t got used to your spicy foods. But i try a little bit just to taste!

    • kanak7 says:

      Andrea, you do have quite a few varieties of (coloured) rice! Thanks for mentioning them. Maybe in future, I’ll post the other varieties of rice that’s grown here. I think spicy food (if you aren’t used to it) needs some time. I hope you’ll come to India again.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Yes I knew black rice is good. Nice dessert you made Kanak. oh that sour curry… it has made me go hungry now he he… thanks for introducing all these delicious food 🙂

  11. mia says:

    Indian carrydishes are very popular this side of the world. I’m so lucky having a few ‘Kuar’s’ at work, providning me with lovely sauses and meals. I just love the taste of a speicy curry. Your dish sounds and look yummie too 🙂

  12. Carolina Mts says:

    The black rice story is quite intriguing. It certainly changes what I thought of rice pudding.

  13. Autumn Belle says:

    I have never heard of black rice. It is an eye opener for me. Your sour curry looks very delicious and nutricious.

  14. Natti says:

    Hello Kanak,
    I have invited you over to a game at my blog.

    Do visit and join in


  15. birdy says:

    Very interesting post Kanak. Never saw, never taste the black rice. The elephant apple tree is also not available in his part of the world. If I ever been to India, I will certainly try my best to find and taste all traditional foods.

  16. Elu says:

    Heard about black rice as a kid from Mana Di. Then forgot about it till I saw it in a stall in NEDFI HAAT in Gauhati. Looked yum. It’s taste must be like any sticky/viscous rice or what we say “maiju”,isn’t it? It’s been more than 3 years in Tripura,but i’ve seen only the white maiju here. Here some opt to apply the raw rice with a touch of oil & garlic paste before steaming. Didi Ma of Shillong prepared it with sliced veg.garnished with spices,nuts,raisins and aptly called it “pulao”. I guess that this prep.was initiated by the Princess'(both Rana & Shah)of Nepal who came as brides of the then King of the first decade of the previous century. “Alu achaar”,which is potato garnished with sesame seeds is another recipe introduced by them. After them, came brides from mainland India; but having some connection or other with Nepal. Each one introduced her own cuisine and you can bet that most of them developed a taste for fish of the dry variety.

    • kanak7 says:

      Elu, it is a bit like “maiju” but with a nutty taste. I haven’t really tried out different recipes with this rice. We get them in small amounts and and I’m happy with the “kheer”:))

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