Spicy Coconut Rice

Retire the plain-rice cooker.

By Kevin RR Williams

RECIPE Do you like to pin recipes on Pinterest? Me too. But let’s be honest, how many of them do you actually prepare? I’d estimate less than 5 percent. It’s time to break the trend with my best gourmet rice recipe ever.

Cooking at my house is a bit like a MasterChef® mystery box challenge. I see what’s in the cupboard or the refrigerator and get creative, cooking to taste. Since rice is a common staple, I have been known to prepare Spanish rice, fried rice, my curry rice carnival medley with potatoes, or aromatic rosemary rice. But recently, my “mystery box” (that we’ll call a basket to prevent trademark confusion) contained a can of coconut milk. What happened after that is nothing short of amazing. I wish I could press a forkful through your computer display. Trust me, if you have a half hour, you'll want to prepare this — tonight.

Ingredients: Mystery Basket

  • 1 Tbs molasses
  • 1/8 tsp (sea) salt
  • 1/16 tsp paprika
  • 1 tiny pinch saffron
  • 1 dash turmeric
  • 1 tsp flax meal (optional)
  • 2 oz dry roasted pistachios
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups Jasmine rice
  • 8 oz coconut milk
  • 8 oz water
  • 2 small red and yellow peppers
  • 1 mild jalapeño pepper*
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 4 oz frozen corn
  • 1 Tbs fresh grated ginger
  • I don’t know about you but when I see ingredients with my eyes, I begin to taste them with my tongue even before they’re served. Conversely, when I taste food, my tongue and nasal passages begin separating the ingredients. It’s truly exciting when my tastebuds are tantalized and I am unfamiliar with the spices. Looking at the list above, you should be able to tell that this rice is sweet and savory with a bit of a spicy kick. You tongue is certain to have a blast.

    Preparation: You Have 30 Minutes. Go!

    1. Pour the can of coconut milk into a pot on medium heat and then fill and add a can with water to dilute it. (For slightly less sticky rice, use light coconut milk or increase the ratio of water to milk.) Add salt and bring to a low boil.
    2. Thinly slice the yellow and red peppers. Dice the onion. Mince the jalapeño.
    3. Rinse the rice to remove excess starch. When the coconut milk begins to boil, add the rice, molasses, and saffron. Lower the flame to simmer.
    4. Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté the vegetables and corn with a light sprinkle of salt until onions are translucent but firm. Set aside in separate dish to keep from overcooking.
    5. After rice absorbs moisture (15-20 minutes), combine thoroughly with sautéed vegetables and flax meal. I pour everything into a high-rim stick-proof skillet as though I am making fried rice. Fresh ginger can be kept in the freezer; peal way the skin, grate into the rice and stir. Taste and add more salt if desired. Blend in nuts at last moment to maintain as much crunch as possible.

    Rice does not need to be a bland, colorless side dish. Serve spicy coconut rice hot with your favorite entrée and tell me if you don’t receive more praise for the rice than whatever else dominates the plate. As my grandma used to say, “It’s so good, you’ll want to bite your tongue.”

    * On the Scoville scale of pepper hotness, which goes from 0 to 16,000,000, bell peppers are zero and jalapeños range from 2,500–8,000. How do you tell if you have mild jalapeños? Obtain from a consistent source and taste a little before adding to your recipe to prevent surprises. When peppers are too hot, tastebuds on your tongue get numbed. This hinders appreciation for all the other flavors.

    You’re probably wondering, “Does it work with fresh coconut? Can I substitute raw cashews? Can I omit the jalapeños? What about brown rice?” Can I add more vegetables?All good questions. However, I am sharing what was in my “mystery basket.” Shredded carrots and chiffonade kale works for me. If you use fresh coconut, you could serve the rice in half a shell for a more exotic presentation.

    Spicy Coconut Rice

    Flax meal is added for its nutritional value, not for flavor. Saffron is a very expensive spice; as a substitute, turmeric provides similar color with a different flavor, though I actually added a pinch of both. If you’re asking such questions, I have piqued your interest. After getting that fork out of your mouth, let me know what you think below.

    Tags: dietitian, nutritionists, side dish

    • MasterChef is a registered trademark of Wings Entertainment.
    • Rice photography by author. Coconut photo from Pixabay.