Basanti pulao or Bengali holud pulao


Basanti pulao or Bengali holud pulao

Also known as Mishti Pulao, this dish of Basanti Pulao is a Bengai festive delight that is made during auspicious occasion of Durga Puja or Bengali new year. A fragrant rice dish along with the goodness of raisins and cashew nuts give a royal touch to this Pulao recipe. Unique flavours with a sugary touch makes this dish a must try at home.

Bengali Basanti Pulao brings with it tales of a grand celebration. It’s a festive dish that’s extremely popular among the Bengali community and there is nothing that speaks of a celebration than this fragrant pulao made to give a sweet touch to your meal. You can use saffron for that gorgeous yellow colour, but since its not readily available at my place, my family uses turmeric in its place. The aromatic spices used to give it a lovely heady aroma that you’re sure to fall in love with. Dry fruits are also added to give it a royal touch with undertones of sweetness. This Bengali pulao is quite different from other savory pulao as it has a cacophony of unique flavors that play around in your mouth from the very first bite.

Tradition of bassanti pulao:

The yellow Basanti pulao has the origins from Shahjahani Zard Pulao and the Hindus embraced it. The Zamindars were influenced by the Murshidabadi and Bangladeshi Nawabs and hence they used saffron in their pulao too. Soon it became an aspirational dish for commons and as saffron was expensive, holud or turmeric became a convenient substitute. Zard pulao is perhaps the only vegetable pulao recipe documented as there are other pulaos with vegetables but albeit with meat in it.

For the sugar part, the explanation could be that as mentioned in the book Nushka e Shahjahani – Pulaos translated by Salma Hussain from the royal kitchen of Shahjahan had a heavy use of sugar; as much as 750 grams of sugar was used in 1 kg of Pulao. As a matter of fact, during those days it is said that the kebabs were also floated in sugar syrup. The thought process which perhaps worked here could be that sweetness normally cuts the richness of the meat and who would’t like Pulao with kosha Mangsho or chaap.  


Polau, a family favourity has been a part of “Nabami” (navaratri), at my “mamabari” ( maternal uncle’s place) for as long as I remember. However, us being “Bangal”, my Didun( Grandmother) was an ardent lover of spice. A very few dishes which were prepared in her kitchen had a better part of sweetness in them, but I don’t complain about that. As a result i grew up to love the spicy masala polau which she prepares with Niramish mangsho ( recipe given in my blog).

I was introduced to basanti polau for the first time by a friend of mine who is a Ghoti. I was quite skeptical about trying it at first because I wasn’t much inclined to sweet dishes (except deserts) from my birth. However as I loved Kajubadam( cashew) ,I picked up a spoonful of rice with a kaju in it and I was instantly surprised. The slightly sweet rice dish was a instant hit to my tastebuds accompanied  by frangrance of ghee and gobindobhog rice. And to my very surprise, there was a part of my heart which said “mmm…doesn’t this taste better than masala polau?” and no offence to my Didun, till date I would prefer basanti polau over masala polau any day. Returning to my first tasting of basanti polau, my friend couldn’t have more than two spoons of the polau becaus I was the one who finished the entire box and was burping at the end.


Ingredients –

Gobindobhog rice- 1kg

Cinnamon – 1.5 inch

Green cardamom – 5-6

Clove – 6

Cashewnuts – 50gm

Raisins – 50g

Bay leaf – 4

Turmeric – 1-1.5 tsp ( as per your wish)

Salt – 2-2.5tbsp ( as per your taste)

Sugar – 3-4 tablespoon ( as per your taste)

Vegetable oil – 1.5 cup

Ghee- 2-3tbsp


Method :

1.      Wash the rice once and sprinkle with turmeric powder. Mix thoroughly.

2.      In a kadai, heat the oil. Add cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom and bay leaf. Once the tempering releases aroma, add the washed rice mixed with turmeric into it and sauté for a few minutes until one side turns slightly brown.

3.      Add twice the amount of water as that rice in the kadai. Add the salt, sugar, cashew nuts and raisins and cover the kadai with a lid.

4.      Bring the water to a boil.

5.      Open the lid and stir the rice to the bottom to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick. if you want you can add extra salt and sugar at this point.

6.      Bring the flame to low, and cover with a lid.

7.      After about 10-15 minutes, open the lid and check the rice. If its still not softened, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

8.      After the rice is cooked thoroughly, add ghee and cover.

9.      Serve hot with a spicy dish of your choice. I prefer niramish mangsho, but it will go well with Chanar dalna( cottage cheese curry) and Fulkopir dalna ( cauliflower curry) too.


Pro tips:

1.      Try to measure out the rice in cups before washing. This will help you to measure the water in term of double the cups later in the recipe.

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