Learn how to make Mint and Coconut Rice ~ South Indian rice recipe of fresh coconut, mint and lime juice flavoured with generous tempering of crunchy cashew nuts, juicy raisins and aromatic spices
I am not the only one for whom many of life's most intimate details come flooding back at the sight, smell and taste of particular foods. It is not really a big surprise that, while I struggle to remember my mobile phone number or sometimes, rake my brain helplessly to recall my best friends' names, the merest sniff of certain food can bring back memories from the days of my early childhood with frightening clarity and make me walk down the memory lanes with rose-tinted nostalgia. One such dish that is stored safely in my food memory treasure chest is the simple and unassuming Mint and Coconut Rice from my school days drenched in monsoon rains and Amma’s love.
It was the first Monday of June, probably the most dreaded day for any kids in India. It was the day when schools would reopen after two months of fun filled adventurous summer holidays. Dressed in new uniform with shiny new black shoes and socks and cart load of new text books and notes on our bags, we kids would drag ourselves to school half-heartedly wishing it was just a bad dream and anytime the bubble would go pop as soon as we opened our eyes. Unfortunately, it was not the case! The thought of no more sleeping late at night and getting late in the morning, no more picnic lunches in the mango orchards and climbing the mango trees, no more sling shots and biting into raw or juicy stolen mangoes was enough to dampen our spirits. To top it all, on every first day to school it would rain like it never rained before, dampening our uniforms and spirits.
The only consolation was meeting friends after months and sharing food from our multi-tiered steel tiffin boxes in the afternoons as we talked non-stop about our holidays. In India, the school lunches are usually provided by loving mothers, not school cafeterias. The lunch boxes in my school days were nothing like the lunch boxes of today. I am not talking about the Tupperware plastic boxes or Pyrex glass containers. Our lunch boxes in the late 80’s and early 90’s were made of eco-friendly multi-tiered stainless steel tiffin dabba, consisting of number of containers stacked one above another and held together by a steel frame which also serves as a handle to carry them. Some kids brought tiffin boxes which were 2 tiered, some 3 tiered and few even had 4 tiered tiffin boxes and they were, undoubtedly, the most popular kids during lunch break. :)
The contents in these stackable tiffin boxes varied from region to region, and even from one home to another as India is a country with tremendous diversity in food. Most commonly, though, you will find unleavened whole wheat flat breads, accompanied by some lentil soup called dal, and one or two vegetable and/or meat curries. Most of the days, my tiffin box used to contain rice in various avatars accompanied with a container of sweet, salted or plain yogurt. Every single item in the lunch box was made fresh every single morning, from scratch. Well, my mother was pretty serious about home cooking and making sure that her kids were well fed with nourishing and nutritious food.
Most days my mother prepared rice dishes; some days it would be plain rice with rasam, sambar or dal and a vegetable stir fries called palya and other days flavoured rice dishes like lemon rice, coconut rice, veg pulao, mango rice and many other based on the fresh seasonal produces and served with yogurt or raita. Apart from these, there would be the occasional times when Amma would cook a ‘special’ dish on our request. Foods like puffed poori with veg saagu or bhaji, Maggi Nooldes, chapatti and potato curry, pav bhaji and parathas that would please me to no end! Those days I would wait excitedly for the lunch break and would sit in a corner, away from prying eyes, and eat my lunch quietly as a mouse until the day I became friends with a quiet and shy girl who would become my best friend for life.
It became easier to share my lunch box with her, even on the days when my mom had cooked my favourite food. As soon as the school bell rang, we both would run out of the class room with our lunch boxes to our favourite spot which happened to be a high raised platform under the church bell tower in the school campus. Then we would spread the kitchen towel before opening our lunch boxes and arranging the containers. I would greedily look into her lunch as she would gaze at mine with anticipation. For some strange reason, I found the same food cooked by her mother tasted well as she found my mother’s cooking better!
One of her most favourite food cooked by my mother was Mint and Coconut Rice which I wasn’t a great fan of as I was not very fond of toothpaste-y taste of the mint. She would beg me to swap our lunch boxes on those days and I was always too happy to oblige. I failed to understand her love for this minty rice dish and found it funny to hear her oh’s and ah’s with every mouthful. It took me over a decade to fall in love with this simple and unassuming Mint and Coconut Rice when I was away from home and lived in a hostel where the ‘infamous’ hostel food made me not only appreciate Amma’s home cooking but also cherish them for their simplicity and flaovour.
Today’s recipe of Mint and Coconut Rice is all about a food from the past. A most cherished recipe which I kept hidden in my recipe repertoire, result of my possessive streak. I have finally decided to share some of my priced recipes on the blog as it is not only my journal for day to day cooking and food stories, but also it will be my humble legacy, my gift to LD and to everyone who loves cooking. I hope you will find these unassuming recipes useful and appreciate their simplicity. It is my humble attempt to share some of the most unpretentious recipes that are slowly losing their lustre in front of a complex and rich Indian dishes. Let me shine the spotlight back on the recipes which are not only quick and easy to cook, but also incorporates the simple principle of Ayurveda in cooking.
The fresh flavour of mint with sweet coconut, a hint of spice from the green chilli and crunchy roasted cashews and generous tempering of mustard seeds and lentils makes this Mint and Coconut Rice a flavourful affair to last a lifetime! The different flavours and textures is what it makes one of my most favourite rice dishes to cook and serve. Be generous with the ingredients used in tadka as they add a whole new dimension to flavour and taste.
I believe that good food has the power to inspire, bring back cherished memories, and create new memories to last lifetime. Everyone I speak to seems to have a favourite or, in some cases, a most hated dish with which they can recall particular moments of their lives. One of the most hated foods of my childhood is now one of my most favourite one as it reminds of the happy school days spent with my best friend. Not only has food made memories for me to cherish, but it has also changed the way I view comfort foods. For me, these simple and homely recipes are the ones which are embedded in my taste memory than the recipes and dishes of great restaurants! Each time I put a morsel of this Mint and Coconut Rice in my mouth, I find a part of myself at home.
Mint and Coconut Rice (South Indian rice recipe of fresh coconut, mint and lime juice flavoured with generous tempering of crunchy cashew nuts, juicy raisins and aromatic spices)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 10 – 30 mins (Read notes)
Recipe Level: Easy/Beginner
Spice Level: Low to Medium
Serves: 3-4 People
Shelf Life: Best served fresh but can be refrigerated for 2-3 days
Serving Suggestion: With yogurt or with any raita and pickle
5-7 cups Cooked Rice (I have used Sona Masuri rice at room temperature)
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
2 tsp Sugar (Optional)
Juice from ½ Lime or Lemon, freshly squeezed (Adjust as per taste)
Salt to taste
For Coconut-Mint Paste:
1 cup Coconut, slices or grated
½ cup Mint Leaves
2-4 Green Chillies (Adjust as per taste)
1½ tsp Mustard Seeds
2 tbsp Urad Dal/Split Black Lentils
2 tbsp Chana Dal/Split Chickpeas
3-4 Dry Red Chillies, halved
A spring or two of Curry Leaves
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida
2 tbsp Oil (I have used Coconut Oil)
15-20 Cashew Nuts
3 tbsp Raisins
1½ tbsp. Ghee or Oil (I prefer using Coconut Oil)
- If preparing the fresh rice instead of using the leftovers, wash about 1½ cups of rice 4-5 times until he water runs clear. Drain all the water. Add about 3 cups of water to the washed rice and pressure cook for 2 whistles on the medium flame. Open the pressure cooker once the pressure is completely released and separate the grains with a help of a fork. Let it cool down to room temperature.
- Grind the coconut, mint leaves and green chillies to rough paste without adding any water. Keep it aside until needed.
- Heat 1½ tbsp. ghee or oil in a large kadai/wok and add cashew nuts. Fry the cashews until they turn light golden. Mix in raisins and fry until they plump up, just a couple of seconds. Remove the fried cashews and raisins and transfer them to a clean and dry plate or a bowl.
- In a same pan, heat 2 tbsp oil on a medium flame and add mustard seeds, chana dal, urad dal and dry red chillies. Fry them until the lentils turn golde brown and the mustard seeds start to pop and splutter. Mix in curry leaves and the hing and stir them for couple of seconds.
- Mix in finely chopped onion and cook until the onions turns translucent, about 2 minutes, on a medium flame.
- Next add the ground coconut-mint paste and salt to taste stir them for a minute or two before adding the cooked rice. Mix them all well so that every grain of rice is coated well with the spices and is heated through, about 3-4 minutes.
- Finally mix in freshly squeezed lime/lemon juice and fried cashews and raisins just before switching off the flame and mix them all well.
- Serve this delicious Mint and Coconut Rice on its own or with chilled yogurt or raita and enjoy!
- Increase the number of green chillies if you like it spicy. If cooking for kids, reduce the amount of green chillies or you can simply skip them.
- Be generous with the ingredients used in tadka as they add a whole new dimension to flavour and taste.
- The addition of fresh lime juice not only improves the taste of this Mint and Coconut Rice, but also helps in locking in the vibrant colour and the nutrients of mint leaves.
- Replace ghee with oil (I prefer coconut oil) to make it suit the vegan diet.