Zarda, the epitome of classic Pakistani desserts, and one that holds nostalgia for so many.
As a child I wasn’t a big fan of Zarda, but I’ve learned to appreciate the nuanced flavors of it as I’ve grown older. Green cardamom and cloves work so well with the natural flavors of rice, but for me, the best part about Zarda is the addition of candied fruits (tutti frutti or ashrafiyaan). I love the little bits of chewy candied fruit that come with each spoonful, and they add such pizzazz aesthetically speaking.
Zarda is incredibly easy to make, and requires just a handful of ingredients. Most of the ingredients are staple pantry ingredients, save for the parboiled basmati rice (Sela chawal) and the candied fruit (tutti frutti or ashrafiyaan), both of which can be found at your local South Asian grocer. This recipe is one that I come back to often, and is loved by all those whom I’ve made it for. I hope that it becomes a favorite in your home as well ❤️
Pakistani Sweet Rice/ Zarda
- 1½ cups parboiled basmati rice (Sela rice), soaked in cold water for at least 2 hours
- 8 cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Orange or yellow food coloring, optional
- ¼ cup clarified butter or neutral flavored oil
- 6 green cardamoms
- 6 cloves
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup candied fruit
- ½ cup sliced almonds or pistachios
- ¼ teaspoon Kewra essence (screwpine)
Combine water, salt, and food coloring in a large vessel and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Drain the soaked rice, and add to the boiling water. Cook until the rice is done. Strain and set aside.
In the same vessel, heat clarified butter (or oil) over medium heat. Add cardamoms and cloves and cook for 1 minute. Add strained rice, sugar, candied fruit, sliced nuts, and Kewra essence, and mix gently.
Cover, reduce heat to low, and steam the rice for 30 minutes, making sure not to remove the lid during this time.
After 30 minutes, remove from heat, gently fluff the rice and serve.
Adapted from Food Fusion.