Fermented rice

Pazhaya sadam (fermented rice) is a classic version of overnight oats popular in the west. It has been the staple food for working class here in India, but this humble meal is in vogue even among elites in the recent times. This is mainly because people prefer to take simple nourishing meal over a lavish meal followed by a number of pills of different shapes & colors.

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Pazhaya sadam & neeragaram

Fermentation of rice in other cuisines:

Fermentation of rice is a ubiquitous custom not only practiced in India but also in other Asian countries. Fermented rice is taken as a staple breakfast in almost every state of India. It is known as Panta bhat (West Bengal, Assam, Tripura & Bihar), Pakhala (Odisha, Jharkhand & Chhattisgarh), Saddhi annam (Andhrapradesh), Pazham kanji (Kerala), Pazhaya soru (Tamilnadu), etc. Fermented rice is also used in other Asian cuisines to prepare Amazake (Japan), Jiu Niang (China), Burong Isda (Phillipines), Tapai (Indonesia), rice wine in most of the southeast Asian countries, etc.

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Fermented rice in other Asian cuisines

How to ferment rice:

We believe that it is safer to soak the left-over rice in water than refrigerating it for later use. So, we soak the cooked rice in fresh water overnight allowing the fermentation to take place.

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Pazhaya sadam

Next day we can take fermented rice water (neeragaram, meaning liquid food) for breakfast & fermented rice (pazhaya sadam, meaning stale rice) for lunch.

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Side dishes for fermented rice:

Vegetarians here like to take sweet & sour pazhaya sadam with pungent shallots & green chillies and others with sun-dried fish curry. I like to serve nutritious pazhaya sadam with sun-dried chillies (mor-milagai), chilli fritters (milaga bajji), spicy brinjal curry, herb chutney (or pickle) and some mango chunks to make this dish more enjoyable.

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Perfect accompaniments for pazhaya sadam

Now lets look into the health benefits of pazhaya sadam & neeragaram.

Benefits of taking fermented rice:

  • Easily digestible: Fermented rice is predigested (broken down into simple compounds). Hence it is easy to digest and light on the stomach.
  • Strong Immune System: It contains millions of good bacteria that fight against disease causing bacteria, thus it helps to keep our immune system strong.
  • Healthy gut: This probiotic rice protects us from disease causing microbes to grow in our intestines.  So healthy gut obviously means strong immune system which in turn promotes our overall well being.
  • Absorption of nutrients: Since rice is broken down into simpler compounds during fermentation, minerals & other micro nutrients are readily available for absorption. Besides these nutrients, Vitamins B6, B12 (boon to vegans) & K are also made available as by-products of this process.
  • Body coolant: We can take fermented rice water (neeragaram)ideally taken during summer to keep our body cool & hydrated.
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Pazhaya Sadam

Indian fermented rice:

We just need to soak the cooked rice to initiate the fermentation process and leave it covered overnight. I like to pour water in the ratio of 1:2 (rice:water) or more. We need to use an earthenware or any other vessel that does not react with the food kept inside. After the fermentation, rice turns ripe, tender and easily soluble in water. So we can mix and dissolve the rice into water as much as possible and separate the liquid from rice as shown below.

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How to ferment rice

How to serve neeragaram:

We used to add overnight soaked fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) along with chopped shallots & green chillies and salt into the fermented rice water. It is found to exhibit a significant decrease in blood sugar when neeragaram with methi seeds is taken regularly. We prefer to add methi seeds during summer than winter, as these keep our body cool. I prefer to drink neeragaram than taking pazhaya sadam. It tastes divine, makes me feel hearty & active all through the day and above all it is the easiest breakfast that keeps me in good health.

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How to serve neeragaram

How to serve pazhaya sadam:

We usually mix pazhaya sadam with curd & salt. I like to  add chopped shallots (chinna vengayam) into the rice and then add the tempering (optional) at the end as shown below. Pazhaya sadam tastes best when served with suitable accompaniments.

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How to serve pazhaya sadam

Recipe notes:

  • It is not a good practice to refrigerate fermented rice.
  • You can use brown rice (or un-polished rice) for fermentation to enjoy the benefits of rice to the fullest.

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  1. Very nice and well explained the health benefits of fermented rice. I remember, my grand mother used to add water to the leftover rice and ferment it overnight with lots of water and next day morning she used to add carom seeds (ajwain), raw onion slices, salt and small curd or buttermilk. It tastes devine especially with ajwain. Sometimes she used to serve avakaya pickle with it. Yum! Thank you reminding me of my favourite breakfast which is lost with the time!

    1. Oh! Thats nice! Though I have never added ajwain seeds into the fermented rice, I could very well imagine the lovely flavors in here and I would love to try this next time, mostly in the summer. 🙂
      Thank you so much for reading this post & sharing your account on this traditional breakfast.

  2. koreans enjoy fermented rice drink called makkoli
    its more of a light liquor, so youd get tipsy
    but because its rice water thats sweet, its like the only tipsy beverage i can drink (seniors love it!)
    interesting post!

    1. Ours is nonalcoholic, it is left for fermentation overnight, so children also take this. ?
      Glad you liked this post. Thank you!

  3. My mother had ‘pazham kanzhi’ as we call it in Malayalam, for breakfast. It sustained her through the grueling summer and the active days at school, she often said. With the summer here and the vacations around the corner, time to try this very tasty and healthy alternative. Thank you for the reminder, Megala, and to have the fermented water as breakfast seems like a great idea.

    1. Yes, they are indeed super foods and I love to take simple “grab n go” kinda breakfast like this. Thanks for your kind support.

    1. The pleasure is all mine. 🙂 Thanks a million for reading my posts.

  4. This is totally new to me!You never stop to amaze me with such a informative and innovative recipes.!!!

    1. Thanks much! It is boiled rice. Have you ever got an opportunity to taste fermented rice?!

        1. Oh, great ! I would love to hear from you how you like it. 🙂 Thanks !!

      1. Our saddi annam is almost similar to your recipe. We don’t add methi seeds n onion. We soak left over rice in water overnight. Next day morning before serving we add salt and consume it for breakfast.
        Saddi annam is called taravani in Godavari Dist., where they add little amount of curd and salt along with leftover rice. Taravani is served with sun dried chilli or avakaya.
        There is another variation to saddi annam. It’s called kooti neellu means food with water(True translation). This is prepared only in earthen pots. When rice is cooked in a vessel, remaining ganji(rice water) is transferred into an earthen pot and salt, little curd are added. Left over rice is added to the ganji.
        Next day morning people used to consume either liquid or rice with ganji. Again when rice is cooked ganji is added to the remaining mixture. This process continues. This stays good for one month also.
        Thank you!!

        1. This is amazing and sounds healthy, thanks a bunch for sharing your way of making fermented rice.

  5. Well explained megala, I like your pots & presentation. We ferment rice and serve with raw onion & mango pickle. Your version looks so tempting ?

  6. Wow, such an informative post! This is the first time that I an hearing about fermented rice – but I am for sure floored by your presentation, the health benefits and the recipe!❤

  7. My father always talks about this – my grandmother used to make them since it is considered healthy and digestible as you mentioned (he calls as “Palanchoru”). And be brags how tasty it is compared to fresh rice and curry. I barerly remember eating this – other things like bread and buns took over our life.
    I would love to make this/eat when I go back on holidays. Love your beautiful crafted pots
    You remind me a lot of traditional foods that I have almost forgotten :).

    1. I’m glad that I have rekindled those forgotten traditional foods in you. Hope you could try this soon and do let me know how you like it. Thank you.

  8. This isn’t something I’ve heard of before and I like the sound of it. I have had no luck with overnight oats though so not sure I’ll get the hang of this either!

    1. Glad you like it, thank you. Hope you would get a chance to try your hand with some other fermented food soon. 🙂

    1. Yes, it requires to be steamed or cooked again, because left-over rice may have harmful bacteria in it and may lead to food poisoning. Thanks for reading this post.

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