Coconut rice is inspired by South Indian cuisine. We have a sweet coconut rice in Maharashtrian (my native) cuisine called Narali Bhat, which I am not very fond of. I had mulled over a savory version for a long time. I had heard of Thengai Sadam, a savory coconut rice made in South India. I came up with a vegan savory rice version based on this.
Coconut is a staple in the coastal regions of India. For the uninitiated, almost 50% of India is coastal. Coconut trees grow in abundance along the coast and this is reflected in the cuisine of the various regions. Not surprisingly, Southern Indian cuisine heavily uses coconut. The coconut chutney that is served with Idli and Dosa is iconic. Would a coconut based rice dish taste good?
I discarded the notion of using coconut milk right away. Using coconut milk with rice reminds me more of Far East style food. I narrowed down on a very simple version for this recipe.
Coconut rice is a vegan recipe that uses curry leaves and split Bengal gram or chana daal which are characteristic of the South for me. Dry red chilies add heat. Peanuts add crunch and substance to this dish, and in my mind, they balance out the starch somewhat.
The coconut has to be freshly grated. We use a peculiar contraption called a coconut grater for this. In the US, fresh grated coconut is easily available in a frozen form in Indian grocery stores. You can also easily get a whole coconut in Walmart style grocery stores in the produce section.
What would not suit here is 1) paste of fresh coconut 2) coconut cream or milk or 3) dry coconut flakes, especially not the sweetened kind.
This is a fried rice which can be eaten as a meal, or served as a side. Serve it with Indian pickles, some raita or kachumbar salad and fried poppadoms, and you’ve got a nice South Indian meal on the table.
The amount of coconut used here is just a rough measure. You can use less or more based on your taste. But coconut can cause an itchy throat so if you are unfamiliar with eating coconut in this form, start with a smaller quantity and then ramp it up. For a balance dish, the most you should use is probably half that of the cooked rice.
I don’t use coconut oil, but if you are familiar with it, a spoonful of coconut oil will intensify the coconut flavor.
Coconut Rice – South Indian Coconut Rice or Thengai Sadam
- 3 cups cooked rice
- 1/2 -1 cup fresh grated coconut
- 1 Tbsp split Bengal gram or chana dal
- 1/4 cup peanuts
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- Pinch of asafetida
- 4-5 curry leaf
- 1-2 dry red chili
- 2 Tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
- Heat oil in a wok or pan.
- Temper the oil. When it is hot, add mustard seeds and let them pop for 4-5 seconds. Add Asafetida and split Bengal gram. Fry for a second or two.
- Add dry red chili and curry leaves - stand back.
- Add peanuts and fry until they are golden and crunchy.
- Add the fresh coconut now.
- Reduce heat.
- Fry until coconut is a bit pink. It should not burn.
- Now add the cooked rice and salt.
- Stir to mix well.
- Reduce heat to minimum and cover for 2 minutes.
- Remove cover and mix well again.
- Serve with more fresh coconut on top.
- Special Notes – Break the chili into pieces or keep whole. Remove seeds to tone down heat. If you use roasted peanuts, their cooking time will be much lower than that of raw peanuts.
If you liked this rice recipe, be sure to check out my book RICE BOWL!
Read on for a pinnable delight!
Rice can be boring every day white rice, or it can easily take on a festive appearance with a few minutes of work. So how do you like this Coconut Rice?
Oh yeah, I made this image so you could easily Pin it. On Pinterest (;)).