Coconut rice is one of our favourite go-to recipes at hand when we’re looking for a tasty way to dress up a mound of leftover white rice, to fill in the line-up of ever-hopeful lunchboxes or to present as a spiffy side to complement a hearty stew. A study in textural contrasts, this dish gets a thumbs-up from both jaded foodies and the easy eaters in our families. Our version of this pearly classic comes loaded with crunch from fried peanuts, slick cashews and speckles of golden dal. Toasty slivers of grated coconut blend in with the fluffy grains of rice, red and green chillies lend a tolerable fix of heat and the typically South Indian tadka done with a drizzle of ghee and sesame oil ties in all the flavours together with its signature aroma. We like to finish ours with a shower of summery basil sliced into a pretty chiffonade, but the more conventional coriander or mint garnish works just as well.
Toasted Coconut-Basil Rice
- ¾ Cup shredded coconut, fresh or thawed, if frozen
- 1 Teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 Teaspoon ghee/butter
- A pinch of asafoetida
- 1 Dry red chilli, broken in 2 pieces
- ½ Teaspoon black mustard seeds
- ¼ Cup peanuts
- 1 Tablespoon cashew nuts
- ½ Teaspoon urad/split black gram lentils
- ½ Teaspoon chana/Bengal gram/split peas
- 2 Fresh hot chillies, split
- 1 Sprig curry leaves
- Salt to taste
- 4 Cups cooked short-grain rice
- 1 Cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Toast the coconut in a hot pan, stirring frequently, until it turns slightly brown and fragrant. Set aside.
In a large frying pan/kadhai warm the oil and ghee. Season with the asafoetida and the red chilli. Toss in the mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the peanuts and cashews. As the nuts begin to turn colour, add the dals and let them toast up. Add the fresh chillies and curry leaves. After a few seconds of stirring add the rice, salt and toasted coconut. Stir well for about a minute. Finally, turn off the heat and garnish with the shredded basil.