Greens with Coconut and Chiles

These are very hot little firecrackers from the orient. They can be used to add spice to almost any oriental dish. They dry very easily and can be stored and used this way for a long time.

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1 cup finely grated unsweetened coconut (dried)
1-1/2 cups water
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 (2″) fresh hot green chiles such as Thai or serrano
4 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. coconut oil or canola oil
3/4 tsp. black mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. raw rice such as basmati or Patna
2 (3″) dried hot red Indian chiles (ripened finger hots can be used)
3 large leaves red Swiss chard, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 square piece banana leaf (optional)

Special equipment: a 12-14″ wok


Stir together the coconut with a 1/2 cup of water in a bowl. Let it soak at room temperature until the water is absorbed, about 1 hour. Stir in the cumin, turmeric and 1/2 cup of water until combined. Smash the green chiles and garlic with the flat side of a large knife and stir into the coconut mixture.

Heat the oil in a wok over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking, then add themustard seeds and fry until they start making popping sounds, about 15 seconds. Add the rice and red chiles, and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is golden, about 1 minute.

Add the chard and salt, and cook, stirring, until the chard is wilted, about 30 seconds. Stir in the coconut mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Cover the chard mixture directly with banana leaf if using, then lid, and simmer until stems are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Discard the banana leaf and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the mixture is dry, 5 to 7 minutes.

Makes 6 side-dish servings.

Recipe from Gourmet Magazine, September 2005.