I suppose I’m a bit of a cliche in the sense that I’m a Malayali who loves coconut in every form: the aroma of coconut oil heating up in a wok is enough to make my mouth water and my idea of a cocktail is white rum in coconut milk. I’m so dedicated to coconut, in fact, that I’m willing to use an old-fashioned cherava (scraper) if it means I’ll have fresh, sweet coconut meat to use in a pulissery or chammanthi. If you’ve used one of these cheravas — a block of wood on which you kneel while scraping the coconut meat with the serrated scraping blade at one end — you’ll know that’s no small thing. By the time you’ve finished scraping one coconut, your biceps and glutes will have got a workout they definitely did not ask for.
Anyway, the point of this is that I usually have grated coconut in my refrigerator and I usually also have leftover rice from the day before, so recently, I combined the two to make a dish that is so simple and yet so, so delicious: coconut rice.
Here, I must say — as I did in my post about mango poha — that dishes like coconut rice, lemon rice, tamarind rice and tomato rice are best when you use leftover rice. You could use freshly-cooked rice, but then you’d have to wait for it to cool down or risk ending up with a gloopy mess.
And then, there’s also the fact that something like coconut rice is such a great way to use up leftover rice. Depending on the quantity and what you eat it with, you could have it for lunch, dinner or breakfast. By itself, it’s a light dish that is perfect for the hot weather. And if you don’t have grated coconut, you could use the frozen packaged variety. It won’t taste as good, but it will still be a whole lot better than having no coconut rice.
2 cups – Cooked rice (preferably leftover, but if you’re using freshly-cooked, make sure it’s cooled completely)
½ cup – Shredded coconut (preferably fresh, but frozen will also do)
1-2 – Green chillies, minced
½ inch – Fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp – Coconut oil (any neutral flavoured oil will do, if you don’t have coconut oil)
1 tsp – Urad dal
1 tsp – Chana dal
¼ cup – Cashew nuts (chopped) or roasted peanuts
1-2 – Dried red chillies
½ tsp – Mustard seeds
1 – Sprig of curry leaves
1 pinch – Asafoetida
Salt, to taste
*Heat coconut oil in a wok and add mustard seeds. Once they start to pop, add urad dal and chana dal and fry for a minute. Add the cashew nuts or peanuts (or both) and fry till they turn golden-brown. The dals should also have turned golden and crunchy by now.
*Add the green chillies, ginger, curry leaves, red chillies and a pinch of asafoetida. When the red chillies start to darken, add the shredded coconut and roast on low flame till it’s fragrant and light gold in colour. Now add the rice, bit by bit, till the roasted coconut masala is thoroughly mixed with all the rice. Add salt.
*You can garnish the coconut rice with chopped coriander or, as some people like to, with fried cashew nuts and raisins.
*This is a mild dish that tastes best when served hot with a dollop of ghee on top and some fresh dahi on the side.
[The Back Burner is a biweekly blog that will talk about all things food (with recipes, of course)]
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