Today I have decided to fix my eyes on the Malaysian tomato rice, a dish that has to be tasted to be believed.
Malaysian tomato rice is prepared with a plethora of spices and fresh ingredients transform the ordinary ingredients to a rice dish heavily scented with spices. It is different from the tomato rice from southern India, cooked with a different combination of spices.
This rice dish is evolved from the original Indian version and has become the staple of Malay cuisine. It is the result of the cultural mash-up of Asian and Western cuisines, due to the influence of the European countries who settled in this country in the past centuries and the migrants of the Indian community.
Tomato rice is a drool-worthy, gluttonous gem on par with the biryani rice. Furthermore, it has a universal appeal that is liked by everyone, and kids friendly.
Fit for any banquet tables for festive occasion and ceremonies. I bet you would like to give it a try.
Let’s kicks thing off with the step by step instruction.
1. Rinse and soak the rice
Rinse the rice with water just like preparing for any steamed rice.
Some brand of rice is much cleaner than the other. Those basmati rice that I bought is generally very clean, which I only need to rinse it once or twice. On the contrary, certain brands of local long grain rice are dirtier and hence need to wash thoroughly.
The choice of rice:
You can use any long grain rice for this recipe, or get the basmati rice while preparing for a special occasion. The shape of basmati rice is longer than the ordinary long grain rice, which is the preferred choice for biryani rice and tomato rice.
You may choose to soak the rice for at least half an hour before cooking. Rice that is pre-soaked has a softer and lighter texture. The tomato rice will be firmer if you do not pre-soak the rice. You can choose which way you want, depending on the outcome that you would like to be.
In either way, strain the rice to remove the water before adding to the sautéed ingredients in the following steps.
2. Fried the dry spices
Heat some ghee in a saucepan, which will give you the extraordinary flavor. Add the dry spice (cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom) into the pan over low heat until aromatic. You can use butter or margarine instead of ghee as the substitute.
The above four spices are commonly used together in Malay cooking. Once they are heated up, they will release the essential oil which will make it very aromatic.
This is the Malaysian version of the tomato rice which different from the authentic Indian recipe, in which mustards seeds, cumin seeds, dry chili, green chili will be used as the spices.
Buy the spices in small quantity. You will get a much better taste if the spices are fresh. It is tempting to buy a larger amount, but the spices will lose their fragrance become stale over time.
3. Brown the onion and saute the garlic and ginger
After that, add the chopped onion, minced garlic, and ginger to the saucepan.
Cut the onion into thin slices and loosen it before adding to the pan to let it brown evenly.
Some people would prefer to cut the ginger into fine julienne, but I do not like to chew on a piece of ginger. The goal is not to have large pieces of ginger in the rice. Also, young ginger is always preferred than the old one which is fibery.
The heat should not be too high while sautéing as garlic can burn quickly and result in a bitter taste.
You will start to smell the aroma rising from the pan at this point.
Continue stir-frying over low to medium heat until the onions start to turn soft and slightly brown.
Watch this video (below the instruction of the recipe)
A picture worth a thousand words, a video worth a thousand images.
This video will show you how to prepare Tomato Rice. (5.53 minutes). It is located below the Instruction, above the nutrition value in the recipe below.
(Note: If you encounter any audio / visual problem of viewing this video, you can view it from YouTube by clicking this link, which will open in a new tab)
4. Add the fresh tomato
Chopped two tomatoes into small chunks and add to the mixture in the saucepan. I like to cut the tomatoes into small chunks rather than mash it into a paste, as I want the fresh tomatoes to be seen and scattered in between the rice.
You may want to add more tomato for a richer taste. Reduce the amount of water equal to the amount of the additional tomato to avoid the rice to turn mushy.
5. Add tomato puree, salt, water (milk)
Add some tomato puree in addition to the fresh tomatoes at this point.
You may wonder why tomato paste is necessary for this recipe since we are using fresh tomatoes.
Honestly, most of the local tomatoes are not as red and sweet as those you can get from countries with a temperate climate. Adding the commercially produced tomato puree can improve the flavor and more importantly, provide a tinge of red color to the ice.
Season with salt and add sufficient water to cook the rice.
Add some milk
You can substitute part of the water with milk for a richer flavor. I did not use it in this recipe but it is a welcome variation.
6. Cook the rice (with the rice cooker)
There is an easy way to boil the rice- with the rice cooker.
Pour the tomato mixture into the rice cooker. Add the soaked rice and let the rice cooker do the work for you.
If you do not have a rice cooker, use a pot or large saucepan with a heavy bottom:
- Once the water is boiled, add the rice to the pot.
- Boil the rice over medium heat until the water starts to dry out. Then continue cooking with the lid on.
- Turn to low heat and simmer over low heat until the rice is cooked and tender.
Remove the lid to let the steam to release.
Loosen the rice by fluffing it while it is still warm. Otherwise, it will form lumps after it cools down.
7. Topping and garnish
Scoop the rice onto the serving plate. Topped with some roasted cashew nuts. You can also use toasted almond slice if you prefer.
Add some chopped coriander on top, and sprinkle some fried shallot onto it. Now you have a bowl of lovely tomato rice with a chorus of aromas hits your nose.
You can serve tomato with any dishes, but my choice is Ayam Masak Merah (chicken stew in tomato sauce) and dhal curry.
The Tomato Rice Recipe
- 250 g long grain rice
- 2 tbsp ghee / butter
- 1 cinnamon sticks (about 6 cm each)
- 4 cloves
- 4 cardamoms
- 1 star anise (about 5-star points)
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 medium size onion, sliced
- 20g ginger, coarsely chopped
- 2 pieces pandan leaf
- 2 tomatoes, chunks (about 80g each)
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 250ml water
- 3g salt (3/4 tsp)
- Rinse the rice with water. Soak it for half an hour. Drained
- Heat some ghee in a saucepan. Add the dry spice (cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom) into the pan over low heat until aromatic.
- Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, and ginger. Sauteed until the onion turns soft and slightly brown.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and sufficient water to cook the rice.
- Transfer the tomato mixture to the rice cooker. Add the rice. Cover until the rice is done.
- Scoop the rice onto the serving plate. Garnish with roasted cashew nut, chopped coriander leaves, and fried shallots. Serve.
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- Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD 2-8-Cups (Cooked) Digital Cool-Touch Rice Cooker and Food Steamer, Stainless Steel
- GreenPan Rio 5QT Ceramic Non-Stick Covered Skillet with Helper Handle, Black - CW000058-003
- Swad Cardamom Indian Grocery Spice, Pods Green, 3.5 Ounce
- Veetee Dine In Rice - Microwavable Basmati Rice - 9.9 oz - Pack of 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 323 Total Fat: 14g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 32mg Sodium: 444mg Carbohydrates: 49g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 13g Protein: 5g