Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Coconut rice – South Indian style.

Coconut rice is a very popular rice preparation from Southern part of India where coconut is found in abundance in almost every household. In south Indian cooking, anything and everything including gravies, dry curries, rice varieties, snacks, sweets etc mostly uses coconut in different forms at different stages of its maturity. Juice from the tender coconut is used as a refreshing summer drink and the flesh is scooped and eaten. Sometimes the flesh is blended along with the juice for a delicious drink. Mature coconuts are peeled, the shell is then cracked, and the flesh is then grated using a coconut grater, a handy tool designed specially for grating coconut. In the western countries, you might not be able to find the coconut scraper. In that case all what you can do it, place the whole coconut (Husk removed) on flame turning all sides for around 5 minutes. It works well on electric hobs as well. Due to high heat, the shell will loosen from the flesh and start to crack. Drain the coconut water off or drink if if you wish. Cover the heated coconut in a cloth and Crack open the shell using a rolling pin. Covering the coconut using cloth will prevent any mess that occurs while cracking the shell. The flesh can then directly be grated using our regular vegetable box grater and the flesh can be frozen infinitely.

Grated coconut in used in many dishes as it is to give a sweet bite. Mature coconuts are scraped for flesh which is then ground to extract milk which is used in many savoury dishes to impart a rich and sweet taste. It is also used in many desserts and puddings or payasams. It is also famous being used in cookies, tart and cakes. Coconut at later stage is sun dried where oil is then extracted from them and is used for everyday cooking and frying! Now for ease of use, you get coconut in all processed form - readymade coconut milk in cans, coconut in desiccated form and coconut powders that can be just mixed with hot water to produce coconut milk and even coconut cream. Freshly grated coconuts are also available widely in frozen form mainly in the Asian stores. All these processed form of coconut tastes good, but nothing would beat the fresh coconut taste. That’s just a general info for my non-Indian readers here. Here you go with yet another tasty rice preparation, which goes well with many vegetarian and non vegetatian curries equally.

South Indian Coconut rice
Serves 6

3 cups Basmati rice (uncooked)
1 ½ cup freshly grated coconut
Salt as required
Water - to boil rice.

For tempering:
1/3 cup – ½ cup coconut oil
2 tsp Urad Dal
1 tsp Channa Dal (Bengal Gram)
1 tsp Black mustard seeds
2 pinches asafoetida
2 twigs curry leaves
4 whole dried Kashmiri red chillies, halved
15 Cashew broken or a handful of peanuts


1.Wash rice several times. In a large saucepan bring water to boil. Add salt and rice and give it a good stir to avoid forming of lumps. Keeping the lid open, cook rice till done. (You can boil water in a kettle, to ease up the process). Take the pan off heat and drain water off in a strainer or colander.

2. Meanwhile, Heat another large saucepan, large enough to accommodate all rice (you can use the same pan used for cooking to reduce washing up!). Add oil and when hot, splutter mustard seeds followed by urad dal, channa dal and cashew nuts.

3. When both dals and nuts start to take golden colour, add chillies and curry leaves and stir for few seconds. Add in coconut and stir well to coat all the tempered oil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add asafoetida and mix.

4. Tip in the drained rice and mix well until the tempered coconut is evenly distributed all over the rice. Serve hot with any non vegetarian or vegetarian curries.

N.B: Make sure not to burn the lentils because that will impart bitter flavour to the rice.
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