Vishu Katta is a breakfast cake made with coconut and rice. Rice is cooked with coconut milk until thick and allowed to cool in molds. These are later sliced and served with sweet jaggery syrup or a savory sides.
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 .
Katta in Malayalam literally translates to lump – so this is a lump made for Vishu ?. Don’t go by the name, probably given by an exhausted cook, just make it and eat to your heart’s content. Don’t be fooled by my description though – like most Kerala dishes there is no baking involved. Easy peasy on the stove top – a bit of elbow grease is a must though.
As typical of many south Indian breakfast dishes, it is vegan. There are 3 main 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 or rice prepared with minimal processing. No, it is not brown rice, but it has a higher amount of rice bran. This variety is considered more nutritious and often given to people who are sick or recuperating. Unakkalari is also the preferred rice used to Paal Payasam or Ghee payasam
This is what Unakklari looks like ?. It is difficult to come across outside of Kerala. When not available any raw rice (not parboiled) can be used the way I did here. Just keep in mind that the cooking time and amount of liquids needed to cook will vary somewhat based on the rice used.
To soak or not?
Typically rice is soaked for 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking. Is it absolutely necessary? Not really. There were 2 reasons to do this – one to reduce the cooking time, and the other 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. The rice will need some more water and a few more minutes to cook when not soaked.
For this dish, 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. Essentially you are looking for a drinkable milk look and feel. 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.
Tip ?? : 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 the on the savory side.
The cooked vishu katta is transferred into a pan and cooling ?
The cooked porridge is spread on a 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 sliced. 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 ?.
Quick Version of Raw Mango Curry
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.
Pro Tip: 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
- Salt – to taste
- Water – as needed
- 1/2 C Grated Jaggery
- 1/4 C Water
- 1 Pinch Dry Ginger Powder
- Wash and soak the rice in plenty of water for 30 minutes (Note 3)
- In a heavy-bottomed pan heat 4 C thin coconut milk 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 as needed to cook the rice. set the heat to low and keep stirring often to avoid burning the dish. 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 into 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.
- Dilute 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
- Refer to the blog for a quick recipe for mango curry.
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.