Quick Moti Pulao (Pearl Pilaf)-Restaurant Secret Recipe for Durga Puja/Navratri

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“Aaj dhaner Khete roudro chhaya-e lukochuri khela re bhai – lukochuri khela”  – (The fun game of hide-n-seek in the sun & shade of the paddy field…)

These beautiful lines(part of a song) by Tagore reminds me of my childhood. We were three sisters – me & two of maternal cousins who I spent the initial 10 years of my life with. It was enriching & full of activity. Now that I see my little niece who can barely hold her herself together demanding an ipad, I can’t help but wonder if how the days have changed. For us luxury was either a trip to the zoo or a Bengali spread at lunch with Pulao, beguni (Eggplant fritters), pathar mansho (Mutton gravy), something sweet my mami’s tomato chutney. I know that makes me sound like hundred and two years old but how simple & charming were those days! Gone!

Before I fly off to my memories, let’s get on with the recipe of the day, Pulao. I am sorry if I come out as an Indian Classic dish maniac to you but I can’t just help but try these evergreen recipes. But this time I took a step ahead & whipped up something my family hardly makes – Moti pulao (Pearl pulao).

Weird name?? Well, the word moti which means pearl in hindi comes from the pearl-like cottage cheese/paneer balls. They are either stuffed or plain flavoured. They look good, yes. But they also taste delicious with the saffron sweet-ish rice!

Quick Moti Pulao (Pearl Pilaf) - Restaurant Secret Recipe #Indianfood #maindish #Quickmeals #under30recipe #easyrecipe #Restaurantrecipe #Rice #Pilaf #Motipulao #Indianfoodblogger

What irked me the most for years is how the pulao made at home in the comfort of my kitchen never seemed to be the same as those we are served in fancy restaurants. I have tried endless versions of similar kind of pulaos & 70% of the websites online  are all good but alas not the restaurant-like. Note that by no means do I want to say the homemade ones are any bad but….well! you know what I mean, don’t ya?

So after a good number of try & massive help from my maa, here’s a restaurant trade secret just for you. It certainly was an ‘eureka’ moment for us in the kitchen!!

Quick Moti Pulao (Pearl Pilaf) - Restaurant Secret Recipe #Indianfood #maindish #Quickmeals #under30recipe #easyrecipe #Restaurantrecipe #Rice #Pilaf #Motipulao #Indianfoodblogger

Here’s the recipe of the day for you. Go crazy!

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  • Difficulty: ”Medium”
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Ingredients you will need :

For Moti (Pearl) or small cottage cheese balls –

  • Cottage cheese/Paneer, mashed, 200gm
  • Cornflour, 2-3 tablespoon (Read Tips below)   

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  • Sugar, ¾ teaspoon
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Elaichi powder, ¼ teaspoon
  • Soaked Raisins, 1 piece for each ball

For Rice –

  • Basmati rice, semi-cooked, 4-5 cups (Read Tips below)
  • Oil, 2 tablespoon (For boiling the rice initially)
  • Ghee, 3-4 tablespoon
  • Salt, to taste,
  • Sugar, to taste (I used about 2-3 tablespoon)
  • Saffron, few strands
  • Warm milk, 2 tablespoon
  • Mild Rose water , 1 tablespoon (The secret touch, shhh!)
  • Dry fruits (Cashew nuts, raisins), handful
  • For tempering : Whole Garam masala
    1. Black cardamom, ½
    2. Small green cardamom/elaichi, 3-4 pieces
    3. Cinnamon stick, 1-2 (1 inch piece)
    4. Cloves, 3 pieces
    5. Bay leaves, 2 large ones
    6. Nutmeg, a few strand

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For garnish –

  • Dry fruits
  • Some green herb like fresh coriander (NOTE : Herbs are ONLY used for garnish. Pulao traditionally DO NOT contain leafy ingredients)
  • Few extra cottage cheese motis.


Method :

To make the motis / cottage cheese balls –

  • In a plate, mash the fresh soft cottage cheese/paneer to fine paste. No lumps.
  • Add enough corn flour to make the dough firm enough to be deep fried. This is crucial to prevent breaking of the small balls while frying.
  • Add the seasonings of sugar, salt, elaichi powder to taste. You can vary the measurements according to your taste.
  • Stuff one soaked raisin each in a small few millimeter size dough balls.
  • Make small firm balls by rolling small pieces of the dough between both your palm.
  • Your pearls or motis are ready. Now deep fry them in a (heavy bottom/deep) Kadai till they turn golden brown.
  • Drain excess oil in kitchen paper & keep aside.

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To make the Rice –

  • Cook the washed basmati rice with some salt & oil in a pan/Handi until it’s semi-cooked. The important thing to remember is you don’t want them completely mushy & soft since they will need sautéing & stirring later on fire too. So, neither too soft nor to raw!
  • In a pan/kadai, heat some ghee & add in all the ingredients under For Tempering.
  • Wait till the flavours are released, add in the rice & give good stir. Be gentle!
  • Adjust the seasoning of sugar, salt.
  • Add in the dry fruits. Mix.
  • In warm milk, soak the saffron strands & add in now.
  • Cook for a minute or so. Put in the dash of rose water & give one final stir.
  • Serve along with vegetarian side dishes or you could also make Chicken or mutton along with this.

Quick Moti Pulao (Pearl Pilaf) - Restaurant Secret Recipe #Indianfood #maindish #Quickmeals #under30recipe #easyrecipe #Restaurantrecipe #Rice #Pilaf #Motipulao #Indianfoodblogge

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I hope all you lovelies enjoy the festive season of Durga Puja/Navratri. Stay blessed & spread love & peace this auspicious season.

Love & Luck,
Roy ❤ ❤

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13 thoughts on “Quick Moti Pulao (Pearl Pilaf)-Restaurant Secret Recipe for Durga Puja/Navratri

  1. Wandercooks says:

    Oh gosh I can almost taste this now – what a gorgeous mix of ingredients! Saffron rice is our favourite from restaurants but we don’t often cook it at home. But with moti it sounds totally addictive and we definitely need to try this asap! Thanks for your experiments to find the best recipe! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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