Once again, I found myself in Patel Brothers, the big Indian market in Jackson Heights, looking at something I’d never seen or heard of before. This time, it was samo seeds, also known as jungle rice and morio. These seeds are from a wild grass that grows in tropical Asia and are commonly eaten in times of famine. But samo is also eaten during a fasting period called Ekadasee, which occurs twice a month, once when the moon is closest to the earth and once when it’s the farthest. Samo seeds have an earthy flavor and once cooked, looks much like couscous or millet. Uncooked, they could almost pass for white grits.
I found a few recipes for samo seed pulav (pilaf) and this is one version below. I’m going to try a few different other versions, but for now, here’s a recipe for a basic samo seed pilaf, great for a side dish to just about anything.
Samo Seed Pulav
1 cup samo seeds
2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup peanuts, skinned
1 chile, minced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced small
Salt to taste
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup minced cilantro
1. Place the samo seeds in a bowl of water and let it soak for about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, rise, and drain well.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a wide pan over medium heat; add the cumin seeds and toast for a minute. Add the peanuts and sauté until they are browned. Add the chile and sauté another minute. Add the potatoes and sauté about 3 minutes more, stirring often to prevent sticking.
3. Add the samo seeds and cook, stirring often, to dry it out.
4. Add the salt and 2 cups water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer until water is absorbed and seeds are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Fluff up the grains with a fork, then mix in the lemon juice and cilantro. Serve hot or warm.