Vishu Katta is a breakfast cake made with coconut and rice. It is prepared for the traditional new year (Vishu) breakfast in certain regions of Kerala – hence the name Vishu Katta. This dish is very similar to the Sri Lankan Kiribath and is served with sweet jaggery syrup or a savory side. Vegan
A typical Kerala breakfast will have rice and coconut in some form. Consider puttu – the steamed rice cakes made with coarse rice powder and coconut, or idiappam – the fresh rice noodles served with coconut milk or stew, or appams –pancakes made with fermented rice batter with coconut and so on. Vishu Katta carries on this tradition and usually made for the new year breakfast.
Vishu is the new year for Malayalis according to the lunar calendar, marking the transit of sun into the Aries constellation. Read more about it here –All About Vishu .
So What is Vishu Katta?
Katta in Malayalam translates to lump – so this is a lump made for Vishu! Please don’t be deceived by the name. In all probability it was it was the brainchild of an exhausted cook. Just make it and eat to your heart’s content. It is just delicious rice with coconut milk in pretty shape. Moreover, it is an easy dish to make , sort of a no bake cake. Very easy to do on the stove top. g.
Ingredients for Vishu Katta
As typical of many south Indian breakfast dishes, it is vegan. There are just 3 ingredients – rice, coconut, and cumin. Optionally you can add a pinch of dry ginger powder or cardamom. There are 2 main variations of this dish – sweet and savory. The only difference is the presence a sweetener like of sugar or jaggery. I prefer mine on the savory side, but if you are looking for a sweet version add sugar or grated jaggery to it towards the end of cooking.
Typically the rice used to make this is unakkalari. This rice has undergone minimal processing. No, it is not brown rice, but it has a higher amount of rice bran than white rice. This variety is considered more nutritious and often given to people who are sick or recuperating. Unakkalari is also the variety or rice used in Paal Payasam or Ghee payasam.
This is what Unakklari looks like. It is difficult to come across outside of Kerala. Any raw rice (not parboiled) will work in this recipe. Just keep in mind that the cooking time and amount of liquids needed to cook will vary somewhat based on the rice variety. Before I forget, it might sound counter intuitive but sticky rice varieties like the ones for risotto or sushi are not suitable for this dish. Their hardy texture and starchiness creates an entirely different texture than needed here.
To Soak or Not?
Typically you soak rice for 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking. Is it absolutely necessary? Not really. There were 2 reasons to do this – one is to reduce the cooking time, and the other is to get rid of the excess starch and bran. You could soak the rice, rinse and store it in a closed container in the fridge overnight or just soak the rice for 10 minutes. With unsoaked rice will need some more water and a few more minutes of cooking time.
In simple terms Vishu Katta is rice is cooked in coconut milk. Traditionally milk extracted from 1 coconut is used to cook about 1 to 1 ½ C rice. If you like to try the traditional methods here is how to extract coconut milk at home. While cooking the rice thin coconut milk is used so as not to separate the essential oils. Thick coconut milk or coconut cream is used to flavor once the desired consistency is reached.
If using canned coconut milk dilute it with an equal amount of water to get thin coconut milk. Different brands have varying coconut cream content. So if the coconut flavors are too strong add more water to thin it. To cook the rice you are looking for a watered down milk look and mild coconut flavors. For the thick milk use heavy cream consistency as a guide.
Use the above guide as a reference when reconstituting from powdered coconut milk as well.
Stir the rice often while cooking. Increase the frequency as the mix thickens.
Rice, coconut, and cumin is a flavor combination that you will encounter time and again in Kerala and Kongan recipes. It just goes well together and I suspect that cumin is used as a digestive aid as well. You could add a pinch of dry ginger or powdered cardamom as well. These other spices are more suited when making a sweeter version of the dish. I stick to just cumin as mine tends to be on the savory side.
The cooked vishu katta is transferred into a pan and cooling.
Making Vishu Katta
Making Vishu Katta is easy and straightforward. If you pay attention to the steps below it will come out beautiful every time. Reach out to me in the comments if you run into trouble.
Wash the rice in plenty of water and soak for 30 minutes. Take thin coconut milk, about 4 times the quantity of rice in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add a pinch of cumin and salt to it and bring it to a simmer.
Add the drained rice and cook over medium heat. Start stirring occasionally as the mix boils, increasing the frequency as the rice cooks. After about 10 – 15 minutes almost all the moisture would be absorbed by the rice. At this point, the rice should be easily mashed by the back of a spoon. If not add ¼ to ½ C more water and test in a couple of minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and cook till all the moisture is absorbed into the rice. Turn off the heat and add the coconut cream and any other aromatic spices being used. Stir it in well.
Transfer to a greased shallow pan and level with the back of a spoon. Let cool, invert, slice, and serve.
Spread the cooked porridge in a lightly greased shallow pan like a pie dish and set aside to cool. When cooled you can invert it into a serving plate, or banana leaf, and slice. For a traditional version serve these with jaggery syrup or raw mango curry. I would gladly gobble up a couple of slices with honey or maple syrup or (let’s keep this a secret) shrimp and mango curry.
That said this is a delicious dish to make for a quick dinner any night – just like Kiribath served with Lunu Miris. No Lunu Miris in not South Indian, but there are version of spicy chutneys are sambols that would wok great, and lets be real Lunu Miris is quick to make and tastes awesome. It is an easy dish to make at the end of a busy day, and perfect to serve with pickle, kimchi (that is a secret), chutney powder, can of sardines and lets say a fizzy drink.
Quick Version of Raw Mango Curry
This is just a simple recipe with no explanations. If you need help, please reach out in comments.
Take about 1 1/c raw mango slices and cook with 1 C water, a pinch to turmeric, ¼ tsp chili powder, and ¼ tsp salt until soft. Grind ½ C coconut with 1/2 tsp mustard seeds adding a few teaspoons of water as needed to make a smooth paste. When the mangoes are cooked reduce the heat to low and add the coconut paste. If needed add more warm water to loosen the curry. Bring it to a slow simmer and turn off the heat.
In a small kadhai (or pan) heat 1 to 2 tbsp oil and add ¼ tsp mustard a few curry leaves, 1 or 2 dry red chilies and to tbsp sliced shallots or pearl onions. Fry these over medium beat until the onions begin to turn brown. Pour the seasonings and the oil over the curry. Mix just before serving.
Make this curry with mangoes that are beginning to ripen.
Light, healthy, gluten free and vegan. I see no reason for this to be served only once a year?
- Heavy Bottomed pan
- 1 C Rice
- ½ Tsp Cumin Seeds
- 4 C Thin Coconut Milk Notes 1
- ¼ C Thick Coconut milk/coconut cream
- 1/2 Tsp Salt To Taste
- Water – as needed
- 1/2 C Grated Jaggery
- 1/4 C Water
- 1 Pinch Dry Ginger Powder
- 11/2 C Sliced Mangoes Raw or just ripening
- I C Water
- 1/8 Tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1/4 Tsp Red chili Powder
- 1/2 Tsp Salt Use as needed
- 1/2 C Coconut Grated
- 3/4 Tsp Mustard Seeds Divided use
- 2 Tbsp Oil Preferably Coconut
- 2 -3 Whole red Chilies
- 1 Tbsp Shallots/Onions Thinly sliced
- A Few Curry Leaves
- Wash and soak the rice in plenty of water for 30 minutes (Note 2)
- In a heavy-bottomed pan heat 4C thin coconut milk (coconut milk +water) with lightly crushed cumin and a pinch of salt.
- When hot add the drained rice. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for 10 to 15 minutes until most of the water is absorbed into the rice. The rice should be cooked fully and can be easily mashed with the back of a spoon.
- If needed add more water/thin coconut milk as needed to cook the rice. Set the heat to low and keep stirring often to avoid burning Vishu Katta. The dish is done when all moisture is absorbed into the rice and the mixture sticks together. At this point, the spoon leaves a trail in the pan while stirring that does not get filled in fast.
- Lightly grease a shallow pan and spread the rice mix in it. Level with a spoon and set aside to cool. When cooled invert into a serving plate. Slice and serve with jaggery syrup or mango curry (note 3).
- Mix all the ingredients for the jaggery syrup and bring to boil. let it simmer until thickened lightly. Strain if needed.
- Take about 1 1/c raw mango slices and cook with 1 C water, a pinch of turmeric, ¼tsp chili powder, and ¼ tsp salt until soft. Grind ½ C coconut with 1/2 tsp mustard seeds adding a few teaspoons of water as needed to make a smooth paste. When the mangoes are cooked reduce the heat to low and add the coconut paste. If needed add more warm water to loosen the curry. Bring it to a slow simmer and turn off the heat.
- Ina small kadai (or pan) heat 1 to 2 tbsp oil. When hot and add ¼ tsp mustard seeds, a few curry leaves, 1 or 2 dry red chilies and to 1 tbsp sliced shallots or pearl onions. Fry these over medium beat until the onions begin to turn brown. Pour the seasonings and the oil over the curry. Mix just before serving
- Dilute regular canned coconut milk with equal amounts of water to make thin coconut milk – for more guidance refer to the blog.
- Soaking can be avoided, but the rice will need more water to cook as well as more time.
Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.
Though this recipe is typically served for breakfast it can be a perfect snack or even dessert.
Snack – Prepare as in the recipe above without the jaggery syrup and serve with a spicy curry
Dessert – Add 1/2 C sugar and 1/4 tsp of crushed cardamom to the above recipe. When cooked scoop into small bowls and lset set. Serve with thick jaggery or caramel syrup.