Yellow coconut rice


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

  • About

Resembling a heap of gold, nasi kuning symbolises good fortune and so is served at festivals and celebrations, often in a towering cone shape called a tumpeng. These can be small individual portions or tower several feet high like a splendid volcano. The rice is par-cooked, then bathed in amber-stained coconut milk, which it absorbs greedily, leaving the grains swollen with gentle flavour. There are notes of musky turmeric and balmy lemongrass, but this is a versatile dish to turn any meal into a celebration.


  • 500 g ( cups) jasmine rice
  • 6 cm ( inches) galangal, skin scrubbed
  • 4 cm ( inches) turmeric, peeled, or 1 rounded teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) ginger, peeled
  • 5 small red Asian shallots, peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) tin coconut milk
  • 5 lime leaves
  • 3 lemongrass sticks, bruised and tied in a knot
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon salt


Wash the rice well, swirling it in four changes of water. By the end there should be little cloudiness left in the water. Steam for 10 minutes to par-cook.

Put the galangal, turmeric, ginger, shallots and garlic in a small food processor with a small glassful of water. Whizz, then strain and press through a sieve into a large pan to keep the brilliant orange liquid. Pass 400 ml (generous cups) water through the sieve and into the pan as well to extract extra flavour. Discard the solids.

Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan and bring to the boil. It should be a creamy primrose yellow - add more ground turmeric if not. Add the rice, stir and turn off the heat. Leave for 10 minutes or more to absorb the fragrant coconutty broth. It should be stained a beautiful yellow.

At this point you can keep the rice until you are ready to eat (in the fridge if longer than an hour). Transfer back to the steamer for a final 10 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and heap into a golden mound or shape into a cone.