We eat a lot of coconut rice around here. Scratch that. We eat a lot of rice, period. It’s kind of a staple in our household – and while it may sound pedestrian, it tastes delightfully indulgent when instead of cooking it in water, you cook is in some coconut milk.
I got hooked on coconut rice a few years ago when I made it one night, after finding a can of coconut milk in my pantry. It occurred to me that I could use coconut milk and water instead of just water to cook my rice–and I never looked back. Granted, coconut rice isn’t exactly a novel concept – it’s a standard side at many restaurants, especially if you’re having Thai food – a side I managed to discover for myself.
But here’s what happens: you make rice, eat some of it, and then the rest of it is left languishing in your fridge until you, what, toss it out? Let’s face it – leftover rice is about as exciting as leftover scrambled eggs – there are few takers. It gets drier, compresses, and feels generally unappetizing. Some things are just better made fresh, unlike say a bowl of chili, or curried carrot soup, or stuffed cabbage. And what may seem like a duh moment to some, but was a definite “aha” moment to me.
A few weeks ago I was rummaging around my fridge looking for an appropriate lunch to make for me and Andrew (we were both working from home) when I spied a container of coconut rice sitting humbly in a far off corner. It looked so sad and unassuming – as if already resigned to a fate of being eventually thrown out in the garbage. Feeling creative that day – I decided to fry the rice with some garlic and ginger to give it a well-deserved second life. Digging around the fridge some more produced scallions and cilantro – both all too glad to be used and not tossed out. I grabbed some fish sauce and some hot sauce and got to work.
The entire dish, from start to finish took me about twenty minutes. I’d say it was on the long side of things, but only because I decided to be absolutely meticulous in my mincing. I got a little carried away making sure that my ginger bits were all uniform in size and shape – but that was me being silly. You don’t need to do that – trust me – no one will notice the difference.
My guess is that the entire thing will take you somewhere in the range of ten to fifteen minutes from start to finish. You can serve it to yourself and to your better half (or a guest). And if plain fried rice sounds like it’s lacking in heft, like it needs something more substantial, you can throw in a protein of your choice. A fried egg on top is always a fine addition –and makes just about any meal tastier and a little bit more indulgent, requiring only a couple additional minutes of your time.
The upside is two-fold: you’ll have a homemade lunch on the table in less time that it takes to call for delivery – a lunch that will be fragrant, delicious, filling, made by you. And the satisfaction of not only making something yourself, but also resourcefully using your pantry – is the sweetest taste of all.
Coconut Ginger Fried Rice
There’s no hard and fast rule here – don’t have cilantro but got some basil in the fridge? Use that instead. Hate sambal oelek – skip it, or use Sriracha in its place. If you’re looking for a lower fat content, try a little less oil or maybe light coconut milk. You can do half coconut milk or half water here. Your taste buds will tell you how you want to proceed next time. I prefer to use brown rice in my cooking, but feel free to use white if that’s what you like better.
4 cups cooked coconut rice (make about 1 cup rice according to package instructions, substituting coconut milk for water)
1/4 cup vegetable oil or virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced at a diagonal, white and green parts separated
1/3 cup cilantro (leaves and stems), chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional) or soy sauce
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
Juice of 1/2 lime
1. In a large non-stick sauté pan, or a wok, heat oil over high heat until it shimmers. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add rice and continue to cook on high heat, for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Stir in white scallion parts and half of cilantro and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring. Add fish sauce and cook for another minute. Add sambal oelek, stir, and immediately add the scallion greens and the remaining cilantro. Stir to combine and add lime juice. Immediately remove from heat and serve with extra lime wedges, if desired.
Serves 2 to 3.