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Excerpted from Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012.


I have always been a huge fan of Naomi Duguid's books, as she brings an engaged curiosity which makes them so much more than simply compilations of recipes, good though they are. Her photographs are exquisite too, and I always feel as if I am going on a journey with her. This book introduces an area and a way of cooking hitherto rather shadowy to me, and reading it has been an ongoing pleasure. The job of choosing just one recipe has not been easy, but in the end I just had to plump for the Perfumed Coconut Rice, below. The rest of the book will give you recipes and ideas for so much to eat with it!


Perfumed Coconut Rice

Serves 8

This luxurious version of “plain rice,” which is delightfully aromatic as it cooks, is a good choice for special occasions. It pairs well with a chicken curry or with Kachin Pounded Beef with Herbs (page 178). There are many versions of coconut rice. Some of them are a little sweet, but this one is just lightly perfumed with shallots, a single clove, and a little cinnamon, and it’s salted, rather than being left unseasoned as plain rice is.

3 cups jasmine rice
1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
3 or 4 small shallots, cut lengthwise in half or into quarters (about 1/4 cup)
1 clove
One 2-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken in half
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1½ cups canned or fresh coconut milk
About 2½ cups water

Wash the rice by immersing it in a bowl of cold water, swishing it around, and draining; repeat two or three times. Set aside.

Place a pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add the oil (don’t skip it, or the coconut milk will make the rice stick to the bottom of the pot), then add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the rice, clove, cinnamon stick, turmeric, and salt and stir gently. Add the coconut milk and 2 cups of the water, then measure the depth of the liquid: place the tip of your index finger on the top surface of the rice—the liquid should come up to your first joint. Add water if needed. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 5 minutes. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and cook the rice for another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes.

Shake the pot gently, then remove the lid and use a wet rice paddle or flat wooden spoon to turn the rice: slide the paddle or spoon down the inside wall of the pot or cooker and turn the rice gently. Repeat all around the edges of the pot. Cover until ready to serve, hot or at room temperature.

Leftovers: The coconut milk makes each rice grain tender and separate, so that leftover rice doesn’t clump at all; it’s also very flavorful. It doesn’t need refrying. Warm it over steam or in the oven, or serve it at room temperature, topped simply with cooked beans or an egg and perhaps some fried shallots or greens.