During a recent trip to Colombia, I had the pleasure of learning how to make arroz con coco, a traditional Latin rice dish, with a cook in the town of Barú. This dish begins by first making a caramel from sugar and fresh coconut milk, then adding more coconut milk and raisins to become the base liquid for long-grain rice. Served with a whole fried red snapper, this sweet rice was one of the trip’s culinary highlights.
You can amp up the recipe by making your own coconut milk. It’s important to use the first press of the coconut flesh in the caramel, because that part has the highest fat content, resulting in a rich and thick caramel. The subsequent presses are more watered down, so they work perfectly as the cooking liquid for the rice.
Arroz con Coco (Coconut Rice)
Recipe from Isabel Córdoba Castro, Hotel Agua Barú, Barú, Colombia
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
1 coconut, flesh removed and finely grated
4 cups water, divided
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup raisins
1½ cups long-grain rice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1. In a medium bowl, mix the coconut with 1 cup of the water, stirring to combine. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve over another bowl, squeezing the coconut to release all the liquid. Reserve the coconut flesh.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the strained liquid with the sugar and butter over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until a dark rich caramel forms, 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, repeat the soaking and straining process with the coconut flesh and the remaining water 3 more times. Reserve the coconut liquid and discard the flesh.
4. Once a caramel has formed, add the raisins and cook until softened, 2 minutes. Add the remaining coconut liquid and bring to simmer. Once simmering, stir in the rice and salt. Cook, covered, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a bowl, then serve.