Cardamom Hill rice

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

The Cardamom Hills are a huge tropical forest world in southern Indians Idduki district of Kerala. Ranks of outsized cretaceous-looking plants flourish in the shade of tall trees and in the raised altitude of the hills, to produce tiny green fruits. Keralans pods are superior to others, for they’re harvested at the correct green, after the kringa stage, when all the immature white seeds are fully-fledged, fragrant and black. Cardamom makes this pilau rice drop-dead gorgeous.


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 12 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 large cinnamon sticks
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 500 g basmati rice, washed and drained
  • salt


Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, then add the spices and heat for a few seconds, or until they waft fragrant and begin to make popping noises. Stir in the rice, then add about 700 ml of water; you need enough to cover the rice by about 2 cm (the distance between the tip of your index finger to its first joint, is -literally - a handy measure). Add a good shake of salt, bring to a boil and bubble for 2 minutes, then cover with a well-fitting lid, turn down the heat to very low, so there’s barely a murmur, and cook for a further 7-8 minutes. Turn off the heat, leave for at least 10 minutes, then fluff through with a fork. Fluff through again when ready to serve.