Fragrant Coconut-Saffron Rice Pilaf With Minty Chicken Balls






Dont forget to see the notes in the end.

What I need:

For the chicken balls: [Makes 15-18 medium size balls]

  • 1 lb minced chicken [or lamb or beef]
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp grated garlic
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves,finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • Black pepper powder to taste
  • 1 egg [optional]
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt

You can add any spices you like to the meat balls, I kept them simple.

For the pilaf:

  • 1 cup basmati rice, thoroughly washed 2-3 times in a stream of water.
  • 2 cups coconut milk + 1 cup water/chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 8-10 fresh curry leaves
  • Whole spices: 2-3 cloves,1 cinnamon stick,4-5 green cardamom,2 bay leaves+4 dry red chillies
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • generous pinch of saffron strands mixed with 1 tbsp warm milk
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil + 2 tbsp canola oil
  • Salt to taste

How I did it:

  • For the chicken balls:In a medium bowl,mix all the ingredients with the minced chicken except salt, cover the bowl with cling film and let it sit for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.You may or may not need egg depending about the if how moist your minced chicken is.
  • After refrigeration, mix in the salt and make small balls with the chicken mince.Set aside.Dont make very big balls because the balls with increase in size once cooked.
  • In a wide-mouthed pot/kadai with a lid, heat the on medium heat.Once heated, add the finely chopped onions to the oil and cook until just turning brown.
  • Next add all the whole spices to the onions and saute for about 2 minutes.Add the curry leaves to next.Be slightly careful when you add curry leaves because they will crackle as soon as they hit oil.
  • Once the curry leaves have crackled, add the coconut milk+water/chicken stock, red chilli & turmeric powder and salt to the utensil and let it come to a boil.

  • Once boiling, add a single chicken ball to and see if it retains its shape.If yes, add the rest of the balls.If the chicken ball start falling apart, you will need to add more binder like cornstarch/eggs to the mince and make balls again.
  • Cook the chicken balls in the coconut milk till they are almost done.An easy way to test this is that when you take out a ball and cut it half way , you will see a little reddish centre.
  • Drain the chicken balls from the coconut milk and set aside.Let the liquid cool to room temperature in the pot.
  • For the Pilaf : Next measure out the liquid in the utensil to ensure the quantity of liquid which your rice type needs to cook.For example, 1 cup of my rice quality cooks in 2.5 cups of water.Add the washed rice to the pot and let the rice soak for at least 2 hours.
  • Once rice has soaked,let the rice cook on medium-high heat, lid on,till 90% cooked.Add the chicken balls and saffron to the rice, give it a gentle stir and let steam until rice is 100% cooked.About 5 minutes.
  • Mint -Cucumber Raita[Yogurt]: Add chopped fresh cucumber and 1 tbsp finely ground fresh mint leaves to 2 cups of plain beaten thick yogurt and season with roasted cumin powder, salt/black salt, red chilli powder as per liking.
  • Serve warm with cucumber & mint yogurt!


  • Curry leaves are available in dry or fresh forms at all the indian grocery stores.They add great flavor and aroma to any dish/lentils just like herb.
  • Though coconut oil adds a lot of authentic flavor to rice,but you can completely replace it with any oil u want.I used part of it for flavor.
  • Be very careful of the cooking time once chicken balls have been added to the rice pot.They turn hard in no time.
  • You can use cubed chicken also in place of chicken balls,adjust the cooking time of chicken accordingly.
  • The only flaw I saw in the dish was that the leftover chicken balls became little hard the next day when I reheated them.But rice tasted much better the next day.


Sending this to Hearth n Soul #34

51 thoughts on “Fragrant Coconut-Saffron Rice Pilaf With Minty Chicken Balls

  1. See that’s why I love your blog…..bcs you make food that normal people off the street would love. It’s a great blessing to have good neighbors so u’re one lucky gal! For Valentine’s, I don’t think I’ll be doing anything out of the ordinary….perhaps eating out?!

  2. Oh Tanvi…I love this recipe of yours. I think we are surely going to love it. It has the flavors I ADORE. Anyhoo, your post made me teary eye at the teen love part – incredible. The sea shore part lol I can so related to that 🙂 Now unfortunately I have good neighbors but she doesn’t cook so no kitchenaid for me 🙁

    • Really Kulsumm.those were the best parts of life-teenage..less worries and more fun 🙂 I hope you try this recipe.

  3. Tanvi,
    This fragrant rice pilaf with chicken balls looks really good. It is really nice to have friendly neighbors, I have some of them.

  4. Wow, what a lovely meal this rice dish makes…love the idea of mint in the chicken meatballs and the rice sounds to tasty with coconut milk in it…so so fragrant 🙂

  5. Faith (An Edible Mosaic) – I’m Faith and I blog at where I share my recipe collection of international favorites and updated American classics, with an emphasis on seasonal dishes. I focus on real foods that sustain body and mind, bring people together, and make a house a home. Come check out my mosaic of recipes.
    Faith on said:

    This is my kind of meal! Love all the falvours in it and the pictures had me! Great job girl.

    Have a great week ahead.

  6. Hey Tanvi,

    As I am a vegetarian, I can’t comment much on the mat balls. But he infusion of saffron and coconut milk in the rice makes the dish absolutely delectable. I’m gonna try this recipe with veggies. Have a wonderful valentines day!!!

  7. What a lovely dish and that first photo is so gorgeous , I had to scroll back up just to look again 🙂 Such a funny story, I am afraid that I myself would be worried about any loss as far as cheese…

  8. I love curry leaves and everything about them. I was thinking of making a Persian kufteh similar to this with basmati rice as well this coming weekend. If I’m not feeling lazy, I just might.

    Love the first photo!


  9. How neat that you not only got your neighbors to try the dish, but to actually love and ask for the recipe. You are so right, there is nothing that can bind cultures together better than the sharing of good food. And speaking of good food, this dish looks incredible! I love those chicken meatballs. I can almost taste them from the look of your gorgeous pictures!

  10. It is so nice to have good neighbors. We have a saying in Greece that says: the bad year will leave the bad neighbor stays there. There are so many differences in every culture but with globalization I think you can find basically anything in all corners of this earth. Your dish looks delicious. I particularly like the cinnamon stick.

  11. First of all Tanvi , i loveee that bowl with scalloped edges:-)
    And well well well , this rice truly is fragrant and so inviting!
    And the meatballs are fantastic too , i end up bookmarking soo much from ur site truly!
    UR neighbors sound fantastic and u2 sure do have a ball!
    She is sooo sweet and i love the bond between u guys , we too dont digest too muc heat in our food , so am totally gaga on this one!
    Boy , u have me real hungry now!’
    Mia frm BRight Morn’n star!

  12. This must be delicious if you got someone with such limited food tastes to try and to like it! Way to go! What great neighbors you have! Thanks for sharing this with us at the Hearth and Soul Hop!

  13. Anna Johnston – Canberra – “I am a Fun Loving, Adventure Seeking, Enthusiastic, Super Positive Aussie Gal & creator of The Hospitality Guru! I’m a Chef, a Teacher, Trainer, Functions, Wedding & Event Architect; General Manager & all round Nice Girl who loves nothing more than great food paired with wonderful wines & beers.”
    Anna Johnston on said:

    Tanvi….., I’m so excited to read this post & am going to make this one ASAP…, it looks amazing & has all my favourites flavours. Great story you’ve woven around this dish & I absolutely agree….. sharing food is absolutely one of lifes most binding ingredients to bring people from different cultures together, one of the many reasons I love it so much 🙂

  14. I think this dish is amazing! So many layers of flavours, and sinfully spicy. 😉

  15. Loved your story! and omg your pics in those post are soooo nice, the practice is definitely paying off! Everything looks so yummy!

  16. Between the rice and the meatballs, I don’t know what I want to make first! I love the story you’ve told here. It’s always nice to hear the memory behind the food.

  17. Does “the wife” read your blog? 🙂
    What a great story. The curry leaves – the itty bitty ones, look so lovely. The entire meal looks scrumptious. I love meeting people from all cultures, too. I don’t have to travel the world to learn international cuisine. I just ask my neighbour to teach me! I love the multiculturalism Canada promotes and this friendship is sure to create many delights in the kitchen!

  18. Looks delicious. I’m confused about one thing, though. Do you cook the rice in regular water or the milk/stock mixture? It looks like you are supposed to cook the rice in the milk/stock mixture, but then the recipe says to add in the milk with the cooked chicken balls after the rice is done . . . Thanks for the clarification!

    • Hi Katherine,
      You are right.The rice cooks in the coconut milk/stock mixture.After the rice is done cooked chicken balls + saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp of warm milk is added.Saffron is added at last to retain the aroma. I will re- word the recipe to clarify more.Thanks for the feedback.

  19. Wow. That pilaf is so awesome. I want it for dinner. I’m about to go rummage through the cupboard.

  20. Tnaviiii that looks so amazing. i was just thinking about what to prepare for Vday and here you are with this wonderful recipe. No second thoughts, I am going to make this and it has got all the flavors we love. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  21. Hi Tanvi, loved reading this post-all about your friends, your teenage love story, everything! This is a biriyani with a difference that I’ve bookmarked and definitely going to try…thanks!

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  25. Hello! Could you please tell me, when it comes to adding the rice, am I adding the required amount of water to cook the rice to the coconut milk mixture OR just making sure there is enough coconut milk mixture to cool the rice?
    Thank you 🙂

    • Candice,
      You will measure 2 cups of coconut milk + 1 cup of water to cook the chicken balls, cook the balls, drain and then measure out the liquid to make sure that the the quantity is as required by your quality/brand of rice (see rice package instructions). If the liquid is more than required, discard it and if it is less, add some water to it.Hope this makes sense.
      For my rice brand, I needed 2.5 cups of liquid to cook 1 cup of the measure.I have indicated the same in the recipe method but I will update the recipe with much clearer instructions ..thanks

  26. Hey Tanvi,
    What a beautiful beautiful recipe and narration.
    Just wanted to ask one thing, can i do the same with say Paneer? cooks the paneer balls in the coconumt milk concoction since i dont eat meat.
    Thanks in advance for replying

    • Thank you.
      I guess you do not need to make paneer balls then. Cook the pilaf using vegetable stock(this will add flavor) and then add shallow fried paneer cubes towards the end.

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