Thursday, April 16, 2015

Orange Zarda- Citrusy Sweet Rice

Zarda- Rice cooked with sugar, Ghee (clarified butter), aromatic spices and nuts is a traditional Pakistani/Indian dessert which is commonly served at weddings, religious festivals and celebrations. This rich dessert is said to be a part of Mughal cuisine and Zafraan (saffron) was added in the preparation of this sweet-dish to obtain that Zard (yellow in Urdu and Persian) color. But now-a-days, yellow food coloring is used as an easy and cheaper alternative to get that beautiful, soft yellow hue.

My Dad loves Zarda! It is one of his most favorite and requested desserts but for its richness, my Mom doesn't make it that often. Rest of the family is not that fan of it either but once in a while, we do enjoy having it. Luckily, we all have a sweet tooth therefore, no fussy eaters at ours when it comes to desserts. We love to eat anything sweet (well, that would be an exaggeration but we do love desserts :D)

So, upon my dad's request Zarda is made on some weekend dinner but it is one of the must dishes on our Eid-ul-Adha's (a Muslim religious festival) menu. When my mother makes delicious meat dishes like Gosht ka Pulao (rice cooked in meat stock along with meat pieces) Qourma (rich and aromatic meat curry). Namkeen Gosht (meat cooked in a special way by using minimal spices), Karahi Gosht (a special way of cooking meat curry in a wok) etc when we hold a family dinner at ours and a three days celebration continues by feasting and remembering Allah and the less fortunate ones.

If you are a regular follower of my blog then you would be very much aware of this fact that I always try to experiment with the flavors just to make the same old dishes a little more exciting, interesting and flavorsome. Specially, I love incorporating fruits into any regular desserts or baked goods to turn those ordinary flavors into something more special. Therefore, how could have I not done anything with this traditional Meetha (dessert in Urdu) to give an additional kick to those monotonous flavors? I sure did :D 

I introduced Orange to the rice and they instantly fell in love and the marriage of these two ingredients turned out to be a beautiful success! The aroma arising from this succulent union that was aided by some spices, ghee and nuts exuberated the entire kitchen and excited the senses. Upon indulging into the lusciousness of this marvelous stunner of a dish, the smacking flavors danced to make it more palatable and there we are totally knocked out! 

Enough of the drama, I think! But on a more serious note, you'd definitely love this new kind of Zarda (which will be orange (naraungi in Urdu) in color so will we be calling it Narunga?! confused @) and will surely be making it again and again!

Shall we see how it is made then? Lets get Unleashed Cooks! :D

Orange Zarda- Citrusy Sweet Rice

Rice: 2 cups (soaked in water for half an hour prior to cooking)
Sugar: 1 1/2 cups
Ghee/Butter/Vegetable Oil: 1/4 cup
Orange Juice: 1/2 cup
Orange Peel: of 1 medium sized orange (thinly sliced) 
Cloves: 6
Green Cardamoms: 6
Yogurt: 2 tbsps
Orange food coloring: 1/4 tsp (Increase/reduce the amount depending on the strength of the food color)
Mixed Nuts and Dry Fruits: 3/4 cup (any of your choice)
Water: for boiling rice

  1. Take a wide, heavy bottomed pot filled with water enough to boil the rice.
  2. Add orange food coloring, 3 cloves and 3 green cardamoms to this water and bring it to a rolling boil. 
  3. Once the water starts boiling, add the soaked and drained rice to it along with the orange peel and give a gentle stir. Boil the rice till they are 3/4th done
  4. Drain the rice into a sieve and run tap water over them to stop the cooking process by cooling them down completely.
  5. In the same pot, heat ghee/butter/oil and crackle the remaining cloves and green cardamom into it till the aroma is released.
  6. Now add sugar, orange juice and yogurt to the pot and stir for a few seconds.
  7. Once the sugar crystals are dissolved into the liquids and this syrup starts boiling, add the cooked rice to it.
  8. Add some nuts and dry fruit to the rice and mix everything together with a light hand. (I used boiled and peeled almonds and sliced coconut)
  9. Cook till the syrup evaporates by gently mixing the rice a couple of times.
  10. Now lower the heat to the lowest and put the rice on simmer after sprinkling some nuts and dry fruits on top (reserve some for garnishing) and by covering the lid with a tea towel. 
  11. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes or till the rice is cooked completely.
  12. Turn off the flame, remove the lid, fluff the rice gently and dish out.
  13. Garnish with the remaining nuts and dry fruits and serve.

Prepared boiling water 
Soaked Rice

Fresh orange peel

3/4th cooked rice

Nuts and Orange Juice
Prepared Syrup

Ready to simmer-cook
Cooked rice

Zerda/Narunga ready to eat. Enjoy! :)

Serves: 6-8
  1. For best results, use Basmati long grain rice but Saila rice can be used too. This type of rice needs more soaking time and doesn't break easily while cooking hence, a better choice if cooking in a large quantity.
  2. If fresh orange juice or peel is not available, packaged juice and dried peel can be used instead.
  3. Yogurt is used to prevent the rice from sticking but you can use lemon juice as a substitute too. Just use 1 tsp of juice in the quantity of rice mentioned in this recipe.
  4. A few drops of orange essence can be added too to enhance the aroma of this Zarda.

That's all my dear readers! :) The amount of sugar, ghee/butter/oil and nuts/dryfruits can always be adjusted according to your taste and desire. I hope you enjoy making and having it. Until next time, keep sharing the goodness of this greatest blessing, that has been bestowed in abundance upon us the lucky ones, with the less fortunate ones.
Thank you and please remember in your Du'as/prayers! :)

*Not be duplicated, rewritten or published without permission- Thank you! 


  1. What a fun recipe! Love the color, too! Thanks for linking up to #MonthlyMasala!

    1. You're most welcome, Whitney! And thanks so much for making me a party of #MonthlyMasala :)

  2. I always learn so much about your culture whenever I read your blog posts. You're such a great storyteller!

    1. I'm so glad to hear that, Byron :) Although I don't consider myself as a great storyteller but I'm happy that you got to learn about my culture from my blog! :D
      It's always lovely to hear from you!
      Thank you!

  3. I can't wait to try this, Madiha. I have made a few dishes from your country - like Biryani. Although it is a quick, vegetarian version, I still found the flavours to be amazing!
    I will be going to a wedding in Karachi in September so I will have lots more inspiration from there as well as your blog. Love it!

    1. That's amazing, Robyn! I hope you have a great experience while visiting and do try to come to Lahore for a better culinary experience :)
      Would love to hear from you regularly!
      Thank you!