Revisiting a holiday staple, Columbia’s Caribbean toasted coconut rice
Posted on July 17, 2012 by The Kitchen Nomads
Soooo, here we go! This is our first post and we are elated to bring our nomad suitcases full of recipes to the Chubby Hubby e-abode. We can’t think of a better way to start than to bring you along on our summer adventures, which for your enjoyment (and ours, quite evidently) will take place in our home countries. Call it “The Kitchen Nomads go back home” if you will! I (Paola) will be introducing you to the concept of double deep-frying and the variety of Colombian cuisine, while Jessica will entice you with the beauty of using more butter than you need to and the freshness of summer fruit in France.
Let’s start with a hearty coconut rice, a fantastic side dish that will be the envy of the main dish, thus allowing you to prepare something very simple for the rest of the meal.
I grew up far from the sea, so as a kid nothing felt more like holiday than a long enamel tray with a big fat fish fried whole glistening on it, a cup-shaped helping of toasty, salty, sweet, coconut rice, a couple of halved limes and some wedges of tomato. It’s a typical dish from the coastal areas of Colombia and a fisherman’s staple, using what’s most freshly available for the day. Fortunately, all these ingredients are also readily available in Hong Kong, my current city of residence–so I can go on a mini-vacation on any busy weekday!
One of my earliest memories is one of sitting in a beach in Cartagena (or was it somewhere in the Pacific? Mom?), feet in sand in a makeshift shack with driftwood tables, next to an equally makeshift gas kitchen tended by a robust lady with one of those accents where the S disappears at the end of words, manning a wok of fiercely sizzling oil. She would throw in the whole fish and some patacones (patacones are crushed green plantains–another recipe we’ll be sharing soon) and all the deep fried goodness would come to join the cupped little mountain of speckled coconut rice.
I must confess, I only truly came to like fish a little later in life, to the point that nowadays I’ll fight with my Chinese table mates about who gets to eat the eye and can dissect a whole fish with chopsticks without leaving behind a strand of meat. But–the coconut rice! I loved it from the get-go and it was the perfect excuse to make me eat more fish.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to revisit this recipe and the delicious results sparked the idea of doing a whole bunch of Colombian recipes for this blog as well as looking into what’s happening food-wise when I’m there next month. We hope you enjoy it and find everything súper delicioso!
Columbian coconut rice
Serves 6 as a side dish
1 can (175 grams) of coconut milk*
1 package (250 ml) of coconut cream*
1 cup of freshly shredded coconut divided in 2
2 cups of rice
2½ cups of water
½ cup of Coca-Cola (yes you read that right! It helps to caramelise the flavors)
1 tablespoon of brown or palm sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
*Although the canned version works just fine, if you have the muscle or a juicer you can make them fresh by extracting the milk out of the flesh of a whole coconut, like the robust lady from my childhood in Colombia.
Add the coconut milk and the cream to a thick bottomed pot. Cook at medium heat, mixing constantly and scraping the bottom to avoid it scorching until the solids start to separate and you have a dark gold caramel paste. As when making jam, this seems to take forever but it can also easily burn so stay vigilant. It took me about 20 minutes to get to a point where the paste became shiny and oil seemed to be coming out of it.
Add the sugar and incorporate, letting it all caramelise further.
Add ½ a cup of shredded coconut and mix well.
Wash the rice well and add to the coconut paste, mixing well and making sure the rice is fully covered with it. Do this at medium fire and let the rice sizzle for a couple of minutes as you mix before adding the water.
Add the water, Coca-Cola and salt and mix well. Only mix at the beginning and don’t you dare touch it again–the rice will form it’s own breathing tunnels and you don’t want to mess with that.
Cook at low heat until water is evaporated and you start to hear crackling sounds from the bottom of the pot. Lower heat even further and put a lid on for the last 10 minutes.
In the meantime, place the rest of the shredded coconut in a roasting tin and toast in the oven at medium heat. Check often to avoid burning.
Serve on a nice platter and sprinkle with the roasted coconut. Goes perfectly with fish and seafood and the little girl in me will tell you it’s a pleaser with the kids as well.