Narali Bhaat | Sweet Coconut Rice from Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, Narali Bhaat is traditionally made for Narali Poornima. Also called Shravani Poornima, this day is of great significance to the Koli community (the fisher folk in Maharashtra) as it marks the end of monsoon and the start of the fishing season.
On Narali Poornima, the Kolis offer Naral (as Coconut is called in Marathi) to the sea at high-tide to invoke the blessings of Varuna, the Lord of the Oceans. They then set off in gaily decorated fishing boats for the first catch of the new season. This catch is expected to be bountiful as there is no fishing in the month preceding the Narali Poornima. This is because the fish spawn at this time and the no-fishing tradition helps the fish populations to regenerate.
Narali Bhaat is a must-have dish on Narali Poornima. It is essentially coconut rice sweetned with jaggery and can be seen as the Maharashtrian version of the North Indian Meethe Chawal.
Nariyal Poornima also coincides with Raksha Bandhan and so this can be a common sweet on this day. 🙂
Wash the rice well and set aside in a colander for 30 minutes.
In a heavy-bottomed vessel or kadhai, over medium flame, heat 1.5 tbsp ghee.
Add the cloves and stir-fry till they swell.
Add the washed and drained rice, and mix well.
Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
Add saffron and 2 cups water.
Over medium heat, bring the water to a boil.
Cover and cook till the rice is completely done. Takes about 7-10 minutes. Check regularly and mix with a light hand to ensure that the rice does not stick or burn.
When the rice is done, turn off the heat and set aside.
Cooking the Coconut
In a wok, over medium heat, heat 1.5 tbsp ghee.
Add the dry fruits and stir-fry.
Add the grated coconut and mix well.
Add the grated jaggery and mix well.
Cook over medium heat till the jaggery melts. Mix regularly.
Add about 1 tbsp of water and mix well. This is just to ensure that the jaggery-coconut will mix well with rice.
Turn off the heat.
Putting it Together
Add the jaggery-coconut mix to the cooked rice.
With a light hand, mix well.
If there is some water, over medium heat, cook covered for 2-3 minutes.
The Narali Bhaat is ready to eat!
Before adding the jaggery-coconut mix to the rice, ensure that the rice is cooked completely and well. Once you add the jaggery, the rice will not cook.
Instead to saffron, you can add powdered cardamon. If you use cardamom, then add it when you are melting the jaggery.
The 1 tbsp water that I add to the jaggery-coconut mix just makes it easier to mix with rice. This helps me in ensuring that the rice does not break when I am mixing. Do not add more water because then you will have a watery Narali Bhaat.