This is a fabulously colourful dish that originated from the East Coast states of Kelantan and Terengganu. I had always wondered how the colourful grains was achieved and I had imagined that the chef would prepare a pot of each colour separately and then mix them together before it is served.
That was before I found out how much simpler the actual process was. It is basically nasi minyak, or ghee rice, with colours added at the end of the cooking. Creating the craters will allow the rice to absorb some of the pure colour before the extracts start to merge with the neighbouring colours to create the orange, green and purple patches.
There are a lot of videos online that showed various methods of preparing nasi hujan panas, but all of them used artificial food colouring. I had developed this recipe using natural food dyes and the results were amazing.
I had used fresh butterfly pea flowers for this recipe, but dried flowers would also work. You’d need about 20 dried flowers steeped in hot water to activate the colour.
For the red patch, remember to add lime juice to the beetroots to retain the red colour, otherwise it would turn brown when heated in the rice cooker.
If you don’t want to stain your food processor by blending fresh turmeric, you may substitute with 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder. But be aware that it will not be as taste as fresh as using the roots.
You may also add a portion of pandan juice to create a patch of green, with an additional boost of flavour as well.
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- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 stalks lemongrass, pounded
- 1 inch ginger, sliced
- 2 pods star anise
- 3 pods cardamom
- 2 cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 cups rice
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 3 pandan leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Colour extracts:
- 2 cups fresh butterfly pea flower + 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup fresh beetroot + 3 tsp lime juice
- 3 inches fresh turmeric + 1/2 cup water
- Heat ghee in a pot or wok, then add onion, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, star anise, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Saute until fragrant, then toss rice in scented ghee.
- Transfer rice into rice cooker, then stir in water, coconut milk, pandan and salt to cook.
- Meanwhile, blend each colour extract separately in a food processor and sieve through a strainer into separate bowls.
- The moment rice is done, remove pandan leaves and poke three holes (about 1-inch diameter) into the cooked rice. Pour one colour into each hole, and immediately restart rice cooker to steam the rice.
- Fluff up rice to mix the colours to serve. It is best eaten with curry chicken and cucumber slaw.