black coconut rice with mango

Today is my grandfather's 93rd birthday. Ninety three. It is hard for me to imagine what that feels like. I can't even find a pair of nail clippers that don't break after a few months. And to think how old his bones are, his skin, and his heart.

I call him Poppy. I don't know exactly where this name comes from. I actually don't even have the slightest clue. As a child I had difficulty pronouncing Grandad and thus the name Poppy was born. The name doesn't have a story beyond that, but it stuck. Once Poppy reached his late 80s he started to begin sentences with "Well, dear, you know when you get to be older than God . . ." Once he reached 90 he started referring to people in their 70s as teenagers. He's a pistol, that's for sure. Last year when I was talking to him about graduating and applications and how difficult it is to find a job he told me not to worry; he still doesn't know what he wants to be when he's grown up and he is happy nonetheless. He is probably the origin of a) my sense of humour and b) my tendency to be a smart-ass. 

He lives in Vancouver and if I was there today with him to celebrate I would make him this black coconut rice with mango. The man is 93. He's eaten a lot of cake. What is new about cake? Even though you and I both have probably had our share of this Thai inspired dessert, I'm quite certain that it would be new to him. And that he would like it. 

One thing that I've really enjoyed about getting older is cooking for the people who used to cook for me. I have years and years of memories of going over to my Nana and Poppy's for lunch, tea, dinner, or all three. The food was rarely fancy, but it was always good. Lunch was a sandwich affair with a side of potato chips. Pickles too. Dinner was classic meat and a few veg, but my favourite was a marriage of the two: a stew of slow cooked beef, sometimes with barley, and collapsing vegetables. Pure comfort food. Dessert was always (and I mean always) cookies and sherbert. It felt like comfort food too, less for the food and more because I knew that there would always be dessert and what would it be. 

When I was visiting my grandparents a few years ago, I cooked for them for the first time. Both of their bodies were getting frail. They didn't cook the way they used to, or eat that way either. There was sherbert or cookies, but not both. A lot of meals came from the freezer via the microwave. After our first dinner together of boxed salmon, I went grocery shopping and filled that kitchen with fruit and the smell of garlic roasting. Each visit since, I've looked forward to cooking, to taking care of the people who for so long took care of me. 

One thing that I remember making was a green salad with mango, avocado, tomato and shrimp. I made it one night and the next day my Poppy requested it again. I happily obliged. The fresh mango made that salad memorable and that combination of flavours appetizingly sweet. That is one reason that I think he would like this dessert. The other reason has to do with tea. That same visit, I was brave and introduced some new tea to their cupboard: chai. It was also a hit and sure enough every day my Poppy would ask for some, but for some reason the c part of the chai didn't stick in his head so he would always ask me to make him a cup of "Thai" tea. I thought it was pretty sweet. He has positive associations with Thai food thanks to Indian chai and so I'm sure he would be interested in such a classic Thai dessert. 

However, my version isn't quite classic. First off, I didn't use sticky rice. I know that few things are sweeter than coconut sticky rice, but I decided to go with plain rice instead and I don't think that this was a mistake. Because of the creaminess of the coconut sauce, I appreciate a rice with a little more substance. The second variation is quite obvious by now: black rice. Healthier than white rice and sexier than brown rice, it is even nicknamed forbidden rice. It is as if it belongs in a dessert. Birthday or no birthday, this is the first thing I'm making for my Poppy the next time I visit him. 

Because it is Alphonso mango season (woot! woot!) and these mangoes are so sweet, I only added a tad of sugar to the coconut sauce. Feel free to add more if you like. I steamed the rice until nearly cooked and then cooked it briefly in coconut milk. For steaming, I went the good ol' strainer over a pot of water with a lid on it route.

Black Coconut Rice with Mango

serves 2


1/2 cup black rice, soaked overnight or for a few hours
1 ripe mango
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1/3 cup coconut cream *
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 tsp coconut sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 tsp arrowroot powder
fresh mint for garnish

*Before you make the dessert, preferably the night before, put a can of coconut milk in the fridge. This will cause the milk to separate so that at the top of the can you will have coconut cream and at the bottom you will have milk.

After soaking, rinse rice well and then steam until nearly cooked, about 20 minutes. Remove rice from steamer and then transfer to a small sauce pan with the coconut milk. Cook, with a lid, over medium heat until the rice absorbs the milk and is completely cooked, about 5-10 minutes. 

While the rice is steaming, cut the mango into strips and toast the sesame seeds. When the rice is cooking, make the coconut sauce by heating the coconut cream with the coconut sugar and a pinch of sea salt in a sauce pan. Once warm, remove from the heat and stir in the arrowroot powder and continue to stir until the powder is absorbed and the sauce is slightly thickened.

Divide the rice amongst two bowls, top with coconut sauce, fresh mango and sesame seeds. Garnish with fresh mint.


Lauren Marie  – (April 15, 2013 at 6:06 AM)  

This looks delicious!! Thanks for sharing.

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