Palakkad perhaps cultivates the most rice in Kerala, so rice is central to my native Palakkad Iyer cuisine. We make different kinds of flavoured rices apart from the plain kind that we eat every day. Today’s Coconut Rice is one of them. We refer to these rices, on the whole, as Kalandha Chaadam/ Saadham. “Kalandha” means mixed, and “chaadam/ saadam” means rice. Kalandha Chaadam/ Saadam is usually made for certain festive occasions like Aadi or Pathinettam Perukku. We also make them as part of everyday cooking. They’re very easy to cook, mostly mildly spiced and perfect for packed lunches/ lunch boxes.
Some more common examples of Kalandha Chaadam/ Saadam include Elumichumpazham Chaadam or Lemon Rice, Thenga Chaadam or Coconut Rice, Ellu Chaadam or Sesame Rice, Puliyodharai or Tamarind Rice and Chakkarai Pongal or Sweet Rice.
South Indian Thenga Chaadam/ Saadam is very different from the coconut rice cooked in other parts of Asia. Most South East Asian recipes make this rice with coconut milk. We use pan toasted fresh coconut and not coconut milk. One important thing to note is that we don’t use Basmati or other flavoured rice to make South Indian mixed rices. This is because the flavour in the rice must come from other main ingredient in the recipe. Here it is coconut. So use any medium grain white rice (not steamed or boiled rice). It is also important to cook the rice till well done but not mushy. We don’t eat rice cooked al dente in South India. Press a grain of cooked rice between your thumb and first finger. We consider it well cooked if it turns mushy and pasty.
You can make this Coconut Rice with leftover rice. We cook rice fresh to make mixed rice for festive occasions. If cooking rice fresh, you can add salt to the rice. Also add a little oil so the rice doesn’t clump when it cools since it will be cooked till soft. Some people like to use peanuts instead of cashewnuts in this rice. I prefer using cashewnuts because my mother used to make it that way.
As I mentioned, Kalandha Chaadam/ Saadam is very easy to make. Cook the rice, mix it with the necessary set of spices, and serve. That’s about it. Since it is usually eaten mildly warm or at room temperature, it’s perfect to pack for lunch or even picnics.
For the Coconut Rice :
- 2 cups cooked white rice
- 1 cup packed fresh grated coconut
- Salt to taste
For the Tempering :
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 10 to 15 halved cashewnuts
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 gram tbsp split skinned blacklentils urad dal
- 1 gram tbsp Bengallentils chana dal
- 2 dried red chillies or to taste
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- Salt to taste
- If you are cooking rice to make this, cook the rice with some salt and a teaspoon of oil. The rice should be cooked soft (not al dente) but not mushy. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on the hot rice and fluff it out. Let it cool.
- Put the grated coconut in a wok, and over medium heat, toast it till it is golden brown and gives of a nice aroma. Remove from the wok and keep aside to cool.
- Heat the coconut oil in the same wok and add the halved cashewnuts. Turn down the heat to medium. Fry till they start turning golden brown. Remove the cashewnuts and add to the toasted coconut. To the remaining oil, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add both the lentils and stir until they turn golden brown. Break the dried red chillies into 2 or 3 pieces. Add them to the wok with the asafoetida powder and curry leaves. Stir a couple of times and take the wok off the heat.
- Add the rice, the toasted coconut, the cashewnuts and a little more salt, if needed, to the wok. Gently mix everything together without the rice becoming mushy.
- Serve slightly warm with sambhar, yogurt and papads.