This is a classic Panamanian rice dish but modified with ingredients that we can find all year around. Guandú or gandules are green pigeon peas. Look for cans of green pigeon peas that are available in most mainstream supermarkets that sell Latin American foods.
It is created with three simple ingredients: white rice, green pigeon peas and a can of coconut milk. Well, salt and water are also added.
Let me introduce you to guandules or gandules. They are usually a dark green color when cooked.
Now the difference in calling them guandules vs. gandules depends on where you are from. In some parts of the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, they are gandules. In The Republic of Panama and The Dominican Republic, they are guandules.
By the way, the fresh guandules aren’t even that easy to find in Panama. Last time I visit, I had trouble finding fresh guandules.
For this dish, I prefer white rice. I have made it with brown rice and there was too much of a competition between sweet and savory flavors. The flavor of this rice needs to be on the sweeter side. It combines very well when is served with savory meats or with stews.
I have seen some recipes where a teaspoon of sugar is added to the fresh guandules. For this recipe, we are using the canned coconut milk that is already flavored enough. You could even make a sofrito for this rice dish.
Steps: saute the pigeon peas, add rice, and stir the coconut milk.
The one secret I like to do is to fry the pigeon peas for a few minutes to get the aroma.
The real way to make this recipe is using fresh coconut meat instead of the can of coconut milk. I remember shredding the coconut when I was growing up. But hey, I am in Colorado and fresh coconut cost more.
Oh, something else, you could even try this recipe with frozen coconut. That will be so good. The only thing is that the steps would be different. You would have to soak the coconut in water, cook it to extract the juice and the milk.
Other steps: add water, stir and let it cook uncovered until rice rises to the top.
By the way, no more stirring otherwise you will not get the fluffy rice.
When you let the rice cook covered for 40 minutes, no more peeking. Do not open the lid and do not stir, these are simple laws of making rice. This is why in my instructions, I suggest that you use a round saucepan with a clear lid to help you see what’s going on.
Open the lid after 40 minutes and with a fork, fluff the rice on the top only. Do not go too deep, just barely moving the rice up to let it breathe. Cover again and finish cooking.
I can’t believe that it took me so long to share this easy dish.
The other reason you don’t want to stir is to create that crusty rice that forms on the bottom of the pot. It is also known as tah-dig but in the Latin culture, we know it as concolón, cocolón, concón or arroz pegado.
In my family, my cousins and I fight over this concolón, crunchy rice. Try this concolón with the sauce of the main entree such as with a chicken stew (gallina guisada), any meat stew or simply with the sauce of beans.
Here is the concolón which is the crusty rice that forms on the bottom of the pot. It’s crunchy, crispy & tasty.
Simple Coconut Rice with Guandules
- 1 can (15 ounces) green pigeon peas, drained
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- 2 cups white rice, rinsed
- 1 can (13.5 ounces ) coconut milk, unsweetened
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp. fine salt
- A quick tip: Use a round medium-sized saucepan with glass lid. This is to help you avoid opening the lid until the rice is cooked.
- Fry gandules with the oil until fragrant and the color of the peas changes. This will take about 3-4 minutes.
- Add rice and mix with a spatula. Add coconut milk, salt and water, and stir. Taste liquid to check if it has enough salt, if not add a pinch more. Stir one last time. This will be your last stir.
- Cook rice on medium-high, let it slightly boil until the rice starts to rise to the top. This will take about 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and cover for 40 minutes. Don’t open the lid to stir or check the rice.
- After 40 minutes, open and fluff rice with a fork. Don’t go too deep. You want to build a bottom crust. Cover again and keep on low for another 10 minutes. And it will be ready to serve. Check with the spatula by moving the sides of the rice to see if you have the golden rice. You could even simmer a few more minutes to get that golden crust on the side or bottom.
- Serve with any stew.