Coconut rice is a light, tasty, savory South Indian rice variant made with fresh grated coconut, lentils, herbs and spices. This nutty and mild rice based dish is also known as Thengai Sadam in Tamil language. The recipe is vegan and for a gluten-free version, easily skip adding asafetida.
Soak 1 cup regular rice or basmati rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes.
Also soak the urad dal and chana dal in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Later drain the water very well and set the lentils aside.
Grate half of a medium to large coconut and keep aside. You need about 1.5 cups tightly packed grated coconut.
After 20 to 30 minutes, drain the water and pressure cook the rice with 1.75 to 2 cups water for 2 whistles or 5 to 6 minutes on medium to medium-high heat in a 2 litre pressure cooker.
If you do not have a pressure cooker, cook rice in a pot or pan or the Instant Pot. Find the details below.
Cooking in a pot or pan: Take the soaked rice and 2 cups of water in a pan. Cover and simmer on a low to medium-low heat until rice grains are tender and the water has been absorbed. If the most of the water has evaporated and the rice grains look undercooked, add a few tablespoons of hot water. Cover and continue to cook rice.
Cooking in Instant Pot: Transfer the rice grains and 1.5 cups water in the Instant Pot. Seal the lid and position the valve to sealing. Pressure cook on high pressure for 4 to 5 minutes. When the cooking is complete and you hear the beep sound, wait for 5 minutes before giving a quick pressure release. Open the lid and transfer the rice to a tray or plate for cooling.
When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid and fluff the rice. For a softer texture in the rice, pressure cook for 3 whistles
Take the rice in a plate/tray and allow to cool grains completely. You can also cool the rice in the cooker itself. If there are lumps in the rice, then break the lumps once the rice is cooled.
Heat coconut oil in a pan. You can also use sesame oil or any other neutral oil. Reduce the heat to a low. Crackle mustard seeds first in the hot oil.
Add the chana dal and urad dal. Stir and fry for about a minute.
Then add chopped cashews.
Stir and fry till the cashews turn golden. The lentils would also turn golden by then.
Add red chilies, curry leaves and chopped green chilies along with a pinch of asafetida.
Stir and fry until the red chilies change color and the curry leaves become crisp.
Making coconut rice
Next add grated coconut. Mix very well.
Sauté the coconut for 3 to 4 minutes stirring often. The coconut can be sautéed until it get a cream-ish color or a faint light beige color.
Lastly add the steamed rice and salt.
Combine and mix the rice well. Switch off the heat.
Serve coconut rice hot or warm. If you like you can garnish with chopped coriander leaves and drizzling with a bit of ghee while serving. You can also choose to drizzle some lemon juice on the rice while eating.
I suggest pairing with gravy or curry for a really flavorful meal. Accompany some papadum (appalam) if you like.
Since this rice has coconut, it is best had fresh. I do not recommend to store this rice in the fridge as the chances of coconut going rancid are very high. Moreover it is best to eat rice when freshly cooked.
Rice: Any short-grained or medium-grained rice works well in this coconut rice recipe. But make sure that whichever rice you use, it must be non-sticky. Fragrant basmati rice is another option.
Coconut: I highly recommend to include fresh grated coconut for the best taste and flavor. Frozen coconut is the next option. Ensure that your frozen coconut smells good and is not rancid. Including unsweetened desiccated coconut simply won't give a better taste in comparison to the rice made with fresh coconut.
Lumpy rice: If your rice grains have cooked a tad more and have become lumpy on cooling. Do not worry. Simply break the lumps in the cooked rice.
Herbs: Curry leaves imparts plenty of flavor. Curry leaves are an essential ingredient in the recipe and cannot be swapped or substituted with any herb or spice. If curry leaves are not available, I recommend to use curry leaves powder. Add about ½ to 1 teaspoon of ground curry leaves powder.
Nuts: I like to add cashews, but you can swap it with peanuts. Simply omit these nuts, if you are out of stock with them.
Lentils: The fried toasty lentils add a nutty flavor to the dish and give some nice crunch. Skip them if you do not prefer or do not have them in your pantry.