Ruchikala (The Art of Taste)

Indian Fusion Cuisine in Portland and Tucson

South Indian-Style Coconut Pilaf

Come on people, play with your beets – rejoice in those beet-stained hands! Dance around your house like the domestic goddess/bohemian child you always knew you were. Make jokes about vampires, homicidal tendencies, and Dwight Schrute bait, and pun up your kitchen with the beetiest of word play. Dance to beet of your own pun.

So this is a spin on my mother’s Indian beet paliya I ate as a kid.  This dish is so satisfying. The colors are brilliant. Perfectly plump jasmine rice is coated in brilliant red spicy juices. Chewy bites of coconut and tender curry leaves add a beautiful contrast to the sweet heat of the red chilies. So fragrantly spicy, it’s a perfect balance between starchy, spicy, and sweet.

10 oz of fresh ¼ inch diced (fresh) beets (for my quick tutorial on dicing beets- click here)
2 tablespoons of your *fat of choice – (olive, vegetable, and coconut oil  all work)
½ tsp mustard seeds
4-5 whole red chilies (crushed)
1 tsp urad dal
1 strand of curry leaves (10-12 leaves)
¼ tsp turmeric
Small dash (less than 1/8 tsp) asafoetida
1/3 cup of dry coconut powder
1 tsp of salt
1/3 cup water

Rice:                                                                                                                               3 cups of jasmine rice (cooked with a heavy drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt) Spread the rice out on a plate to cool.

In a large heavy bottomed skillet add two tablespoons of the oil on medium low heat. Add the mustard seeds, crushed whole red chilies, and urad dal to the pan. Toss the spices around in the pan and watch the oil.

South Indian Flavor Bomb

*So brace yourself, I’m about to say something really lame*

~This is where the magic happens~

Don’t cringe, I know it sounds tacky, but there is some serious magic happening. What you’re doing right now is making a thadka, a beautiful infused oil seasoning mix that will be the flavor bus taking your beet buddies out on a ride to south Indian spice-town. Make sure to watch the pan carefully. Toss these spices around throughout to ensure they don’t burn.


Within a couple minutes you will start to see/hear the mustard seeds sputter. Some will pop right out of the pan. That’s the indication that they’ve given their all to the oil and you’re ready to move on. Quickly add the asafoetida, turmeric, and curry leaves to the pan (careful, the moisture in the curry leave will make the oil sputter back at you). Stir!

Turmeric Oil Beet Dreams

Immediately add the beets and salt to the pan. Coat the beets in the spice mixture and saute for a couple minutes on medium high heat. Add a ½ cup of water , cover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and toss in the dried unsweetened coconut.

Add cooled (preferably room temperature rice) into the beet mixture and combine thoroughly.


Garnish with cilantro and serve. For a deliciously cooling spin on the dish mix it together with some plain yoghurt for a savory pink beet slaw.

5 comments on “South Indian-Style Coconut Pilaf

  1. E.
    February 22, 2012

    O M G.

  2. Tanvi
    February 22, 2012

    Yay! I can finally comment on your blog. My dad makes a recipe that is almost exactly the same as this (minus the rice). I wonder if he got the recipe from your side of the family! This looks amazing and has converted scores of people into beet lovers! Yay!

    • Ruchikala
      February 22, 2012

      Tanvi! I’ve been trying to figure out how to comment on your blog for months. It keeps giving me this error saying it can’t verify the authenticity of the user.

      That is SO awesome that Uncle makes this paliya! I love the beet conversion success with this recipe. The seasoning style is pretty common, I wonder where my mother picked this one up from. I should ask her.

      We really have to get our restaurant going. Sigh.

  3. Lilly
    February 23, 2012

    Gorgeous. I am seriously salivating. Your words created a perfect image of what to expect and I can’t wait to go home and make the magic happen in my own skillet. Thank you!

  4. The Fork and Knife
    February 26, 2012

    Beet-utiful! and since I am just about to harvest mine, you couldn’t be more timely! I know a beet hater (gasp!) that needs to give this a try.

    As for The Truck, we are plodding away trying to mix the fun (recipe research – lamb bacon anyone?) with the not so fun but important (paperwork/scrounging for funds). Thanks for asking.

    We missed the last Food Truck roundup, but with opportunities ever increasing (More Trucks! More flavors!) there’s always a good spot for lunch/dinner/dessert/2AM soak/coffee/…..

    Also – excellent spot on Circle of Food!

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This entry was posted on February 21, 2012 by in Healthy, Indian, Musings, Recipes, Vegan and tagged , , , , , .
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