Coconut-Rice Soup (Kanji)

I first learned to make this inviting rice soup while living with the Munasinghes in 1978 (see page 332). It’s a traditional breakfast congee, but we serve it as a soup at any time of day. It’s a little sweet with coconut milk and sugar and warm with ginger and fresh shallots. We love it as a way of using rice left over from the day before, but originally it was freshly cooked, then immediately made into congee. Use any rice you like, from Sri Lankan samba to basmati.


  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon raw sesame oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 cup canned or fresh coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped jaggery (palm or crude sugar) or brown sugar


  1. In a food processor, combine the cooked rice, 1½ cups of the water, and the salt. Process long enough to break down the rice, not puree it.
  2. Heat a large heavy pot or a large wok over medium-high heat.
  3. When it is hot, add the oil, and when the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and shallots.
  4. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes (the shallots and ginger will still be firm to crunchy), then add the coconut milk, jaggery or brown sugar, and the remaining 1½ cups water.
  5. Immediately add the rice mixture and stir.
  6. Bring just to a boil, then remove from the heat and serve.


  • Serve for breakfast, with a little fresh fruit on the side, or for lunch, accompanied by wilted greens.
  • The Tamil word kanji is the origin of the word congee that is used by English-speakers as the name for many kinds of Asian rice porridge and rice soup.


Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent


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Coconut-Rice Soup (Kanji)