A recipe for Coconut Phirni or Coconut Rice Pudding to celebrate Rakhi or Narali Poornima or Raksha Bandhan festival. It is an idea for a creative Indian dessert recipe that combines the Maharashtrian Narali Bhat (sweet coconut rice), the rice puddings – Phirni from North India and Payasam from South India.
Maharashtrians celebrate Narali Poornima (i.e. Coconut Festival) on the same day as Rakhi Poornima, more commonly known as Raksha Bandhan. So for me, a festive sweet treat for the special holiday that celebrates the loving bond between a brother and a sister, has to include coconut as a key ingredient.
Growing up I remember mom making Narali Bhaat, i.e. sweet coconut rice on the occasion of the holiday. Even now, back home, mom makes this classic sweet dish on Rakhi Poornima every year and keeps the Narali Poornima traditions alive.
Maharashtrian Narali Bhaat
Narali Bhaat is a simple preparation in which cooked basmati or any other medium or long grain rice is stir-fried in a grated coconut-sugar mixture along with spices like green cardamom and saffron. Another way to make the same sweet rice dish is by toasting the rice in ghee and then cooking in coconut milk. It is finished off by stirring the sugar in along with the spices. Either way, it’s a humble and comforting dessert that is equally rich and decadent.
Inspiration for Coconut Phirni
With the Indian holiday of Raksha Bandhan around the corner, this year I created an amazing mashup of desserts from three different parts of the country – the Maharashtrian Narali Bhat (sweet coconut rice) and the two regional variations of rice puddings – the Phirni from North India and the Payasam from South India.
Phirni is a classic North Indian rice pudding, sweetened with sugar, scented with saffron and cardamom, topped with almonds and pistachios and served chilled. Payasam on the other hand is a pudding that is usually made with rice but can also be made with vermicelli, tapioca pearls, millets, chana or moong dal, mostly sweetened with jaggery and is served warm or chilled.
Idea behind my Recipe
So how did I even come up with this mash up idea?! I was remembering the Narali Bhaat from my childhood days, dreaming of chilled, creamy Chocolate-Orange Phirni from my cookbook and was thinking of ways to use the package of the matta raw red payasam rice in my pantry that I had picked up a while back to conduct some experiments in my kitchen. So with all these things going on in my brain, the Coconut Phirni recipe was concocted. It turned out insanely delicious and absolutely decadent! Give it a try and find out for yourself!
I’ve linked a short video below that I put together for you that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.
Start by soaking the rice in ½ cup of the milk for about 30 minutes.
Simultaneously, infuse ¼ cup of the milk with saffron. Warm the milk in the microwave oven for 30 seconds and sprinkle the saffron strands over it. Allow the saffron to soak in the milk for about 20-30 minutes.
In a nonstick pan, combine the granulated sugar, grated fresh coconut and the saffron infused milk. Heat over medium heat, till the sugar melts and the mixture starts bubbling. Let the mixture bubble for 2 minutes on medium heat, allowing the sugar to caramelize and turn the mixture light golden yellow.
Add in the soaked rice along with the milk it was soaking in. Give it a good stir to combine with the coconut-sugar mixture and then pour in the remaining 2¼ cups of milk into the pan. Add the ground cardamom and stir well to combine.
Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes, till it comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and continue cooking for about 15-20 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally and scraping the sides of the pan, till the rice is fully cooked and the pudding has thickened.
Turn the heat off and let it stand in the pan for about 5 minutes.
Take the pan off the stove and stir briskly to speed up the cooling process.
Take it off the heat and let it cool down to room temperature, for about 30 -40 minutes. The pudding will thicken further, as it cools.
In the meantime, toast sweetened coconut flakes in a nonstick pan over medium heat, for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, till they turn golden brown in color. Transfer to a plate and let it cool completely. Similarly, toast the sliced almonds as well.
Spoon into individual serving bowls (about ⅓-sized cup each) and chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Serve chilled, garnished with the toasted sweetened coconut flakes and toasted sliced almonds.
Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.