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.