The only thing better than a good recipe? When something is so easy to do that you don’t even need one. Welcome to As simple as that, a column where we walk you through the process of preparing the dishes and drinks that we can make with our eyes closed.
My mother, who worked as a school teacher, didn’t have time to cook for us during the week. But when the weekend came, Amma got up early to make kiribath, Sri Lankan rice pudding for me.
Kiribath is creamy and velvety and is cooked in coconut milk. Rice and coconut milk are two of the main ingredients in island cuisine and also symbolize wealth. For this reason, kiribath is a ceremonial dish that is prepared on solemn days: the first day of a new job; a new school year; Weddings; Birthdays. On Sinhala and Tamil New Years Day, celebrated in mid-April, many Sri Lankan households prepare kiribath at a favorable time of the day, determined each year by an astrologer, to enjoy with traditional sweets.
For Amma, Kiribath was also her weekend special. Once cooked, she put the coconut milk-enriched rice mixture on a plantain leaf from her garden until it set and cooled. Amma cut this mixture into diamond-shaped pieces before she plated them for me. Understandably, weekends became my favorite time to watch cartoons in the morning while enjoying Amma’s Kiribath. I loved it both sweet and savory, and devoured kiribath with a ripe banana or a spicy onion relish called Lunu Miris, which is made with dried red chillies, a pinch of sea salt, and lime.
Now that I travel and live in different places in Asia, I am often far from my parents’ house in the village. Now when I long for those weekends of childhood – for the wonderful memories of my mother and home – I cook kiribath with me on a gas stove store-bought coconut cream. However, my mother used a clay pot over an earthen fire to cook kiribath. Sometimes I use a large pan to lay my mixture flat and cut it into diamond shapes. Another time I spoon it out to eat.
This is how I adapted the kiribath of my amma: To take 1 cup of rice (Use a short or medium grain white rice) and Wash it thoroughly. Put the washed rice in a saucepan or saucepan. Add ½ tsp. Salt- and 2 ½ cups of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until all of the water is absorbed and the rice is soft (about 20-25 minutes).
Next, you need coconut milk. For this, my amma rubbed coconuts and squeezed the coconut meat with a little water to prepare thick coconut milk. But do not worry. You can use store-bought coconut milk. measure up 2 ½ cups of coconut milk, add to the rice and stir well. (Store-bought coconut cream gives kiribath a rich creamy taste and texture, similar to my amma’s homemade coconut milk. However, if you’re not a fan of strong coconut flavor and richness, stick with canned milk.)
Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes until the rice is thick and creamy. By this point, your rice should be fully cooked. After a while, you will find that it turns slightly mushy and the rice sticks together – this is the texture you are looking for.
Pour the mixture onto a flat plate or pan. Smooth it out with a spoon, spatula, or parchment paper. Let it cool down. While it is setting, the coconut milk will keep the inside creamy. After setting, cut into square or diamond-shaped pieces with a knife.
There is no real way to eat kiribath – you can enjoy it warm or cold, sweet or savory. This three-ingredient dish goes well with spicy chicken curry or vegan cashew curry. You can also eat it with some palm jaggery sprinkled on top for something sweet. When I’m at home with my parents, my father makes Katta Sambol – a spicy red chili paste – for my mother’s kiribath, which is served warm.
If I miss my parents now, I’ll cook kiribath. There doesn’t have to be a special reason to celebrate – the opportunity to feel the warmth of my parents’ home is reason enough.
Zinara Rathnayake is an Asia-based writer dealing with food, travel, and culture.