Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Coconut rice

After a long time (four years, I think), I felt the urge to make coconut rice. I dont know why I dont make it more often, because I like it a lot. I guess it's to do with the unreliability of the coconuts I get around here. Goodness knows where they come from or how long ago they were harvested, but there's a 50-50 chance that a coconut bought at Tesco or Asda will be light-years from tender or, if I'm really unlucky, it will be rotting from the inside.

My mother used to tap the "eyes" of the coconut at one end to find out if they were fresh. Another thing she did was to shake them to feel how much water is inside - the more there is sloshing around, the fresher the coconut. Or so I imagined. I still dont know how exactly she determines the tenderness of the coconut, but as far as I'm concerned, I only know that a coconut is rotting when the "eyes" are actually squishy to the touch. Short of that, I havent a clue.

I've also shaken more coconuts than a Santa's helper has shaken an empty donation can (beware, Christmas is on its way...) but none of the shaking or sloshing made it any clearer to me whether the coconut was tender on the inside.
Which, I guess, is why coconut rice hasnt been on my agenda much. Non-tender coconut flesh, when grated or shredded, tastes an awful lot like wood shavings. You can chew and chew and chew until your mouth is dry, but swallowing is not an option because you just KNOW that it will all stick halfway down your gullet if you make the attempt to ingest it. Somehow the prospect of sticking a bottle brush down my throat in an effort to push stubborn lumps of food down into my stomach just doesnt hold much appeal, strange though that may sound...

Anyway, coconut rice is the simplest of recipes to make, if you have cooked rice and freshly grated or shredded coconut at had. I dont think the dry stuff would work well here and I'm not going to attempt it ever. As far as I know, coconut rice is not an everyday dish - it wasnt at home, at any rate. My mother used to make it (along with other "kalanda sadam" - meaning "mixed rice" - like lemon rice and tamarind rice) for a particular religious occasion... which, I'm embarrassed to admit, I cant actually remember. (Update will follow when the information comes in!)

Oh by the way - some people dont bother to toast the shredded coconut at all, but I fry it very lightly so that the aroma and flavour of the coconut flesh are released.

Coconut rice tastes very nice with fried papadoms (poppadums/pappadams/appalam/papadam et al) or even potato crisps.

Recipe for:
Coconut rice


4 cups Basmati rice cooked al dente
1/2 cup fresh shredded coconut
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp urad dal, soaked for 10 minutes in 3-4 tbsp warm water
1/4 cup cashew nuts, broken coarsely
1-1/2 tsp little brown mustard seeds
5-6 fresh curry leaves
3-4 dried red chillies (or to taste), broken in half
Salt to taste
Pinch of asafoetida


1. Heat the oil in a large wok, drop in the mustard seeds, cover and let the seeds splutter (about 30-40 seconds).

2. Drain the urad dal and add it to the oil along with the next five ingredients.

3. Fry on medium heat until the dal and the nuts are beginning to turn golden brown. Dont turn the heat too high, or the red chillies will burn before the dal and nuts are fried enough.

4. Now add the shredded coconut and stir-fry it for 30 seconds or so, no more. Do not let it brown at all.

5. Then add the rice and salt to taste and mix well. I find that this rice benefits from sitting for about an hour or so, so that the flavours mingle.

6. Re-heat in the microwave oven and serve warm, along with potato crisps or fried poppadams.


Mika said...

Looks delicious, Shammi. Probably, the religious day you are talking about is Aadi 18 (that's when my mother and MIL make kalanda saadam). I have tried with dessicated coconut too- toasted slightly. It is not too bad.

shammi said...

Thanks, Mika. :) And thanks again for the info - it is probably Aadi. :)

vkn said...

Excellent one. I love to have this cold, to me it is more tastier that way :-) Cheers!


shammi said...

Hi VKN, thanks for stopping by :) I like it cold too, actually. The urad dhal softens to a nice chewy texture - I love that! :)

Indira said...

Shammy.. coconut troubles of yours made me laugh. I also have the same problem here. Tough to find good quality fresh coconuts here and they all look sturdy and handsome outside, open them oy..insides are a mess. I think the long journey does that to them:)
Love Coconut rice and your recipe, thinking of making it for Dipavali. Again, depends upon my coconut luck:)

Mika said...

When we are on the subject of coconut, have you tried frozen grated coconut that can be found in Indian stores? I found it vile tasting; I would not ever use that...

Indira said...

Mika..someone wrote a comment about frozen grated coconut on my blog. I asked them where do you get it, but they didn't reply.
Really, Indian stores sell this stuff? I saw coconut milk but I don't remember seeing this grated coconut in frozen section.
It's not good, really? back to finding a good coconut then:)

shammi said...

Never seen frozen grated coconut, never used it... and after your review, never going to, Mika :)

Like Indira said, back to finding the odd good coconut, with some luck!

Shakthi said...

Most of the frozen coconut available in Indian stores come from Thailand and for Indian palate, its taste is questionable. The South-Indian brands from Kerala are by far much better.

vkn said...

Interesting discussion. How do you folks choose best quality coconuts from the lot in the stores? Oh yes, without opening their shells. I do it by doing the percussion method which works - the same way how physicians do to assess the state of internal organs. Has anyone tried this? Most of the time, it was a success for me.

Yes Mika, I recently found few stores selling frozen coconut scrapings here at Muscat. Out of sheer curiosity, purchased one packet; it was okay. I tried to extract milk from it, unfortunately very little came out, it was damn dry.

shammi said...

Hi VKN - finding a good coconut is down to sheer luck, as far as I'm concerned. What's the percussion method? Does it work? :)

Anonymous said...

Nice easy ones right .. love all these coconut rice, lemon rice etc...only because the preparation time is so less :)

You have a lot many nice recipes here... I should try out some of them.

Btw, are you planning to make anything special for deepavali?


bilbo said...

Happy Diwali gal

ammani said...

Thengai saadam looks yummm! I like mine with javvarisi vadaam. Aaha!

Mika said...

Hi Shammi- Happy diwali!

vkn said...

Happy diwali Shammi.

Brett said...

I'd like to wish you and your family a happy Diwali, Shammi!

shammi said...

Bilbo, Mika, VKN, Brett - thanks one and all for the Diwali wishes :) I had a pretty good time!