How to Cook Coconut Rice

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Growing up with rice as a staple I kind of assumed everyone knew how to cook it.  That was, until I came to Australia.  Most people nowadays know enough to get by, but for those still struggling with it, here’s my two cents’ worth –

Tips –

There are lots of different types of rice – short grain, long grain, sushi rice etc. etc.  For Malaysian cooking, you really only need to know the following –

Jasmine rice is pretty much what we use with our Chinese or Malay-influenced dishes.  Basmati rice is used primarily in Indian-inspired dishes.  Never mind sticky aka glutinuous rice for the moment (usually used for sweets) – we’ll get to it another day.

Different types of rice require different amounts of water to cook.  Basmati rice needs a lot more water than jasmine rice.  Different brands of jasmine rice likewise have different levels of absorbency.  You’ll need to figure it out as you go.

Good rule of thumb for cooking jasmine rice – use 2:1 water:rice ratio.  Add more during cooking if required.

Despite the term ‘steamed rice’ in reality we pretty much only ever boil our rice as opposed to steaming it, since it’s faster.  Having said that, I do nowadays steam my coconut-flavoured rice 🙂

Most Asians use automatic electric rice cookers to do their rice.  They come with measuring cups and have marked indicators on the inside of the cooker unit.  Eg. if you use 4 cups of rice, fill it up with water to level ‘4’.

IMPORTANT – the cups that come with these rice cookers are NOT your standard 250ml measuring cups – they hold only 160ml in volume, so they’re not interchangeable.

Here are two different methods of cooking the same rice dish (I’m doing coconut rice since it’s a little trickier to get right than plain rice) – one using the steaming method, aka what I do at the restaurant and the other, by boiling in a saucepan/pot ie. WITHOUT a rice cooker (aka what I do at the markets).

Pros and cons of both –

1)      Steaming

  •  takes much longer.
  • If you use a muslin cloth, it’s a lot of work to wash it out after use.  I use specially-designed single-use heat resistant tray liners, but they’re an added expense, plus I get them from a food industry supplier; it’s not something you come across at your local supermarket.
  • Alternatively, try using a splatter guard – those round things that sit on top of saucepans to contain splatter (a tip I picked up from

2)      Boiling

  • means you can only do small batches as you run the risk of burning the rice.  Especially if it has coconut milk in it, which is why I use less coconut milk when I cook big pots of rice at the markets, which means it’s less flavourful.
  • To compensate for the risk of burning, you’d add a bit more water, and then you have rice that’s a bit more soggy than the ideal.
  • Cooking with direct heat on the saucepan also means you’ll end up with crusty rice at the bottom that gets thrown out, unless you like that sort of thing.


Steaming method – 

(adapted from Madam Tan’s coconut rice recipe contribution to www.yummystuffgoeshere ‘s blog)

500ml jasmine rice – soaked for an hour or more, then strained

2 tsps salt

1 pandan leaf, bruised (optional)

1 cup coconut cream

200ml water

Equipment required – steamer + muslin cloth OR splatter guard + deep saucepan + lid

Fill the steamer base or saucepan with water.  Bring to a boil.

Mix the salt into the strained rice.

  • If using a traditional steamer, line the steam tray with muslin.  Put the bruised pandan leaf in, followed by the rice.
  • If using splatter guard, sit it on top of the saucepan of boiling water.  Put the pandan leaf on it, then spread the rice on top.

Cover and steam for 30mins.

Turn off the heat, then mix coconut cream + 200ml water into rice, cover again, and leave for 30mins.

Turn on the heat and steam a further 40mins or until rice is cooked.

Boiling Method – 

500ml jasmine rice

750ml water

2 tsps salt

1 pandan leaf, bruised (optional)

1 cup coconut cream

  1. Put all the ingredients EXCEPT the coconut cream into a saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil on high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting.  When most of the water has been absorbed, add coconut cream.  Do not stir.
  3. Keep covered and cook a further 5-10mins, until the rice is cooked through.  Stir the coconut cream into the rice and mix well.  Cover a further 5mins before use.

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