Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav| Fragrant Lemon-Scented Rice

Here’s presenting to you the recipe for Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav, a delightful rice dish that is fragrant with lemon zest and juice. You have to try this out to believe how divine it tastes!

Smells and tastes absolutely gorgeous!

What is Gondhoraj Lebu?

I was introduced to the majestic Gondhoraj Lebu on our trip to Calcutta, a few years ago. For the uninitiated, the name literally translates to ‘King of Scented Lemons’. This is no ordinary lemon, mind you, but an extraordinarily fragrant one, its almost oval shape its distinguishing feature. No wonder it is also referred to as ‘King Lemon’!

The Gondhoraj Lebu is the pride of West Bengal, where the lemon is typically grown. A slice of the lemon transforms a simple dal into something majestic. The skin of this lemon is particularly fragrant, and it works wonders when zested and added to lassi, desserts and the likes.

The beauty of a Gondhoraj Lebu from our neighbour’s balcony garden

In Calcutta, we encountered the Gondhoraj Lebu in many foods. It made an appearance in roadside puchkas, making them smell heavenly. I still remember the gorgeous Gondhoraj Ghol or Gondhoraj lemon-scented lassi we had the pleasure of having at Koshe Kosha in Calcutta. For a lemon lover like me, it didn’t take much to fall in this love with this perfumed fruit. I brought some back home with me, and they filled every corner with the scent of Calcutta for days afterward…

Sadly, these special lemons aren’t available very easily here in Bangalore, though I believe there are a couple of online sellers. I didn’t try them out. It was years after our Calcutta visit, some time in January this year, when a Bengali neighbour and dear friend of ours presented us with a Gondhoraj Lebu grown organically in his little balcony garden. It was the size of my palm! I couldn’t stop gushing, and kept mulling over what to use it in for a couple of days. Then, Basant Panchami arrived, the onset of spring, an auspicious occasion for Bengalis, a day when yellow-coloured food is commonly consumed. Everything fell into place then, and I decided to use the lemon to prepare a yellow Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav.

About this Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav

I made the Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav inspired by this recipe from Maumita’s blog Experiences Of A Gastronomad. Maumita’s is a lovely, lovely blog, full of beautifully recounted anecdotes from her life, including several heritage Bengali recipes from her grandmother. I tweaked her recipe to suit my family’s preferences and it turned out simply gorgeous, much loved by everyone in the family. The Gondhoraj zest and juice used in the pulav give it a mesmerising fragrance. The sweetish, slightly sour and mildly spicy flavours of the pulav are unique. I hope I have done justice to Maumita’s nostalgic recipe!

This is a completely vegetarian recipe, which is gluten-free too. I have used ghee here, due to which this recipe isn’t vegan. For a vegan version, you may substitute the ghee with oil or any other vegan fat, though I would strongly recommend using ghee.

Now, without further ado, let’s get to the recipe for this beauty!

How to make Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

To pressure cook:

  1. 1-1/2 cups rice
  2. 3-3/4 cups water
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 3 green chillies, slit lengthwise

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 big Gondhoraj Lebu (used in part)
  2. 1-1/2 tablespoons water
  3. A pinch of saffron strands
  4. 1 tablespoon ghee
  5. 10 whole cashewnuts
  6. 2 small bay leaves
  7. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  8. 4 cloves
  9. 4 green cardamom pods
  10. 2 tablespoons sugar
  11. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander


Top left and right: Steps 2 and 3, Bottom left and right: Steps 3 and 4

1. Wash the rice well under running water. Drain out all the water. Now, pressure cook the washed and drained rice with 3-3/4 cups of water, salt to taste and the slit green chillies. Allow 3 whistles on high flame. Allow the pressure release naturally.

2. Meanwhile, heat the 1-1/2 tablespoons of water. Switch off gas and add the saffron strands. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, by which time the saffron would have released its beautiful orange-red colour into the water. Keep this aside.

3. Zest the Gondhoraj Lebu and then juice about half of it. We will need about 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Keep this ready.

4. When the pressure from the cooker goes down fully, allow the rice to cool down completely. Now, fluff up the rice gently.

Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left and right: Step 6, continued

5. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Turn the flame to medium. Add in the cashewnuts, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and green cardamom. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds or till the cashewnuts brown nicely.

6. Now, add in the fluffed up rice, along with the sugar and Gondhoraj Lebu zest. Add in the saffron water too, along with the strands. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Cook on medium flame for a minute, stirring intermittently, then switch off gas.

Top and bottom: Step 6

6. Mix in the Gondhoraj Lebu juice and finely chopped coriander. Your Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav is ready. Serve hot or warm.

Tips & Tricks

1. The original recipe uses fragrant Gobindobhog rice, which is commonly used in several Bengali dishes. I used Sona Masoori rice instead, because I wanted the fragrance of only the lemon to rule the dish. Not that I had any Gobindobhog rice either. I’m guessing Basmati rice would work too.

2. I have used zest and juice of the ultra-fragrant Gondhoraj Lebu here. You can use the juice and zest from a regular lemon too. While it might not be as fragrant as Gondhoraj, it will still smell awesome and taste delicious.

3. Adjust the quantity of green chillies, lemon juice and sugar, as per personal taste preferences.

4. I have added a lot more lemon zest than the original recipe suggests. While the hubby and I loved the fragrance, my mom found it a bit overpowering. Please do go easy on the lemon zest, if you so prefer.

5. Don’t overcook the rice. Cook it till done, but don’t make it overly mushy. The above rice:water ratio worked perfectly for us. Adjust the quantity of water you use as per personal preferences.

6. The original recipe uses a mix of water and curd to cook the rice. I haven’t used any curd here.

7. Mix the rice well but gently, so that the grains don’t break.

8. You can use a pinch of turmeric to colour the rice, instead of saffron.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

4 thoughts on “Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav| Fragrant Lemon-Scented Rice

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