There's a lot to love about Coconut Rice, a staple of South Indian cuisine. It's savory and nutty and it has the delicious and sweet wholesomeness of coconut, a food that's liberally eaten along Indian's coastal regions and especially Tamil Nadu where this dish goes by the name of Thengai Saadam.
This is everyday food; food that you, if you lived in South India, might make for your family on a busy day and serve up with pickle and a poppadum on the side. It is also special food, as in it is usually what gets packed into lunchboxes for picnics and outings, or is served as one of the courses at a Tamil wedding.
It's easy to see why Coconut Rice is so versatile. It's delicious, and it's rather easy to make. And it's healthy as anything.
9 ingredients for coconut rice
- Coconut. I use two kinds of coconut for the most flavor. Coconut rice in south India is usually made with coconut shreds, but I use both coconut shreds and coconut milk for the most coconutty flavor.
- Coconut oil. This is preferable, but if you don't have it, don't sweat it. Use any vegetable oil.
- Rice. A long grain like Basmati or Jasmine is preferable.
- Curry leaves, for great flavor.
- Mustard seeds, for more flavor.
- Chana dal or Bengal gram dal. This adds a nice crunch. Roast thoroughly according to directions.
- Urad dal or Black gram dal: Also adds a nice crunch.
- Dry red chili peppers (you can manage with red pepper flakes if you don't have this)
- Cashews. Because they add great texture and more flavor to all this deliciousness
And salt, of course.
How to make coconut rice
- Cook your rice first, and make sure you cook it according to my directions to get long, separate grains that don't clump together. The reason for this is mainly aesthetic, but don't we eat with our eyes first?
- Roast the dry ingredients until just golden, and don't walk away from the skillet while you do it. The same goes for roasting the coconut shreds. If you walk away, they will almost certainly burn.
What to serve the rice with:
- This lily needs no gilding, and a coconut rice is great served with just an Indian pickle or poppadum. Or a tomato chutney. Or go the extra mile and make a South Indian Cabbage Dal like this one for a memorable meal.
- You can also eat this rice with this delicious South Indian Style Chickpea Curry
Coconut Rice, south Indian style
- 1.5 cups basmati rice (soaked for 30 minutes, preferably)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
- 2 tsp urad dal (Black gram dal)
- 2 dry red chili peppers (or 1 tsp red pepper flakes. Adjust up or down based on your preference)
- ¼ cup raw cashews (chopped coarsely)
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ¾ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- Salt to taste
- In a large saucepan, add the drained rice and the coconut milk along with 1 cup water and salt to taste.
- When the liquid begins to boil, cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, lower heat to low, and let the rice cook 15 minutes.
- In a small skillet, heat half the oil and add the chana dal, half of the urad dal, and the red chili peppers. Roast until golden and then powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- In the same small skillet, heat the remaining oil and add the mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the remaining urad dal, cashews and the curry leaves. Saute until the dal and cashews are lightly golden. Add the shredded coconut and continue to saute until the coconut starts to just turn a very light gold.
- Add this and the powdered dals to the rice and mix gently with a fork, taking care not to mash the rice. Add salt if needed and serve.