Ribbon Rice/Rainbow Rice is a layered rice dish originating from the northern part of Kerala. This dish is quite laborious to prepare but worth the effort, a real treat for the senses because of the different textures, colors, and flavors! The first time I came across this recipe was just after my marriage when my husband's aunt prepared it for us the newly-weds. I immediately loved it, with the different layers and the addition of the flavorful mincemeat and spicy green chutney. It was reminiscent of kheema/mince biryani, but with a twist. I was intrigued to make it with my own special touch.
Cooked rice is colored and flavored with green coconut chutney, beetroot stir-fry/thoran and yellow saffron layer. Mince meat is cooked separately making sure its dry and not too runny, getting rid of the extra liquid is crucial as it seeps down to the layer of rice below discoloring and ruining it. The various layers are moulded in a greased cake pan or bowl just making sure its a deep dish so you can obtain the different layers, which is then cooked in the oven for a few mins. For the final display the rice is upturned onto a serving platter served with raitha/salad. This rice has the combination of spice, sour and the goodness of meat. Incredibly delicious, eye-catching and memorable!
Here's short video of how I made it https://youtu.be/dcWLEcdE9MU
Though preparing this rice is time consuming and laborious, the mince, the chutney and beetroot thoran/stir-fry can be prepared in advance and refrigerated. The rice can be cooked and layered just before serving. If using a springform pan, as the one we use to make cheesecakes, only the other ring has to be released, removed with the layers of rice intact with no worries of upturning. Worth the effort definitely a show stopper and crowd pleaser!!
Tips and suggestions:
In some of the recipes I found online, the red layer of rice is made using a shrimp masala. I avoided that and instead opted for a beetroot infused rice to really bring out the red. If beetroot is not your choice of vegetable, you can choose grated carrot for an orange color as an alternative.
Similarly, a lot of the online recipes have green chutney mixed in with the rice for the green color but I personally prefer the chutney as a thick layer on its own.
The rice is layered and prepared in a cake mould, any cake mould- make sure the dish is deep enough to contain the different layers and spread out evenly.
When cooking the rice for biryani I like to soak it at least for an hour to overnight so the rice is bloomed for a lovely white color.
This rice dish can be prepared with the protein of your choice e.g. chicken/mutton. Being a Malayali, I chose beef. The spiciness of the beef complements the sweetness of the rice and the hint of coconut from the chutney and the beetroot adds to the overall flavor of the dish.
Prep time: 1-2 hours
Serving: 8 ppl
So I have made this in a larger quantity, one coz its quite laborious to make so I rather make more and enjoy the leftovers, two its a perfect eye-catching celebratory dish for a gathering. You could always half the recipe.
For the green chutney:
1 cup fresh coconut, grated
4-5 green chilies
1/2 cup mint
1/2 cup coriander, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 thumb sized ginger, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
For the kheema/mince:
5-6 onions, chopped finely
1 full bulb of finely chopped garlic
same amount of ginger, chopped fine
1.500 kilo beef mince
7-8 green chilies, chopped finely
1 cup coriander, chopped finely
1 cup mint, chopped finely
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Juice of one lemon
2 bay leaves
1 stick of cinnamon
6 cardamon pods
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
4-5 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala plus 1/2 tsp
1 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
For the rice:
5 cups basmati rice
10 cups of water
1 onion, sliced
2-3 bay leaves
1 stick of cinnamon
6 cardamon pods
Juice of half a lemon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
For the saffron rice:
1/2 cup warmed milk
Few strands of saffron
For the beetroot stir-fry/thoran:
1 medium-sized red onion, chopped fine
Few curry leaves
5-6 green chilies, chopped
2 large beetroots, grated
Salt to taste
For the garnish (optional):
5-6 hardboiled eggs
1 onion, sliced and fried golden
Chopped mint and coriander
Prepare the green chutney: take all of the ingredients, add them into the grinder with a little bit of water, and grind until it forms a fine paste.
To make the kheema, add oil to a heavy pan, add the whole spices with the onions and cook until light brown. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook until the raw smell goes away, a few minutes. Add in the green chilies and cook.
Next, add the minced beef and keep stirring until fully browned. Add in the powdered spices and salt and mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, cover with a lid and cook on a low flame for 10-15 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
Once the meat is cooked, add in the chopped mint and coriander and a dash of garam masala powder. Turn off the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and leave it to cool.
Prepare the beetroot mixture: add oil to a pan and add in the chopped onions, curry leaves, and green chilies, and cook for a few minutes. Add in the grated beetroot and salt. Cover and cook on a low flame for 5-8 minutes until soft. Leave it to cool.
Next prepare the rice: drain it and leave to dry. Boil the water (in this case 10 cups of water- for every cup of rice, 2 cups of water).
In a wide pan, add a tablespoon of ghee and a tablespoon of oil. When hot, add in the whole spices and sliced onion and cook until translucent.
Add in the drained rice and very gently mix it until all the rice is coated with oil, taking care not to break the rice grains. Now add in the boiled water, a teaspoon of sugar and salt and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add the juice of half a lemon and cover to cook on a low flame for 10-12 minutes.
Open the cover to make sure the water has evaporated, but keep the rice covered with the lid. Turn off the heat and let the steam cook the rice through. Once the rice is cooled, divide it into three equal parts, leaving the white rice as is.
For the saffron rice, take half a cup of milk and warm it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add a few strands of saffron and mix well, keep aside.
Add the saffron milk to 1/3 of the rice and mix gently. For the beetroot rice, take another 1/3 of the rice and mix with the beetroot mixture until the color is fully red.
For the assembly, grease the cake mould well with ghee using a brush. First, add a layer of white rice, gently pressing it down to the bottom. Next, add an even layer of green chutney. Then, add a layer of saffron rice. Next, add a layer of kheema. End finally with a layer of beetroot rice.
Cover the mould tightly using aluminum foil and bake in a 180 degrees centigrade oven for 20-25 minutes.
To serve the rice, remove the foil, and tilt the mould carefully onto a serving platter.
Decorate using hardboiled eggs, coriander, and mint. Serve with raita/salad. Enjoy!