This Cape Malay yellow rice recipe makes the perfect accompaniment for a richly spiced Cape Malay chicken curry. Add buttery roti and refreshing tomato and onion and cucumber sambals and you’re set for a Cape Malay feast. As with the curry, we recommend making more than you need, as this rice is fantastic as leftovers.
Our Cape Malay yellow rice recipe will make you a very moreish sweet and savoury rice to accompany this classic Cape Malay chicken curry recipe that we learnt to make some years ago in a very memorable Cape Malay cooking class in Cape Town’s historic Bo-Kaap neighbourhood, the heart of Cape Malay cuisine and culture in South Africa. If you’re not familiar with Cape Malay food, you can learn more about it on that cooking class link.
Regular readers may have noticed that we’re sharing more recipes for accompaniments, side dishes and condiments, as we realised we mainly published main dishes with suggestions for sides, but not the actual recipes. We’re changing that. Hopefully that’s helpful. Next up we’ll share a Cape Malay roti recipe, along with a little tale of learning the meaning of ‘ubuntu’ in that cooking class.
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Cape Malay Yellow Rice Recipe for the Perfect Accompaniment for a Cape Malay Curry
While a traditional Cape Malay yellow rice recipe will typically call for you to put a pot of boiling water on the stove and require you to drain the rice and so on, I’m recommending you make this tasty turmeric-tinted rice in your handy rice cooker. It results in rice that is just as delicious as it would have been if done on the stove (perhaps even more so), and the process is far less messy.
I’ve taken inspiration from Mi Mi Khaing, author of the 1978 Burmese cookbook, Cook and Entertain the Burmese Way, who in the introduction to her Burmese coconut rice recipe, another fantastic turmeric-hued rice, writes that the dish – usually cooked in a pot “over embers only” with “red-hot coals over lid’ – is “suitable for electric rice cookers”. I accepted her challenge!
Since reading that Mi Mi Khaing thought it was just fine to make a dish traditionally cooked over fire in a mod-con such as a rice cooker, I’ve been putting our poor old rice cooker to work. I’ve been experimenting with making an array of savoury rice dishes in the rice cooker, with varying degrees of success.
The Mexican arroz rojo that was intended for our leftover chicken tinga (one of our most popular recipes this month) didn’t turn out so well, but everything else has been spectacular. Next: I’m trying a Russian recipe, a plov (pilaf) in the Uzbeki style. (We have family in Tashkent.) I’ll report back on that soon. For now, let me share a few tips to making this Cape Malay yellow rice recipe.
Tips to Making this Cape Malay Yellow Rice Recipe
As usual, I only have a few tips to making this Cape Malay yellow rice recipe in the rice cooker as it’s super easy. Firstly, as I said in the notes on the Burmese coconut rice recipe (which you really should make as well if you haven’t yet, especially if you end up liking this), if you don’t own a rice cooker, you really should get one if you cook a lot of Asian food or you just cook a lot of rice.
Rice cookers are not only brilliant for steaming plain rice, but as I’m just discovering (after decades using them!) rice cookers are also fantastic for making savoury rice, such as this Cape Malay yellow rice and the Burmese coconut rice. Rice cookers are also handy for steaming vegetables, bao, dumplings, and so on, which, from my research, many people don’t seem to realise they can do.
Unfortunately we own a very straightforward and ageing rice cooker here in Siem Reap, where we’ve never had access to all those fabulous kitchen brands you have where you live, but one day, when we do, we’d love to buy something like this handsome stainless steel Cuisinart rice cooker or this cute and curvy Cuckoo rice cooker. Let us know if you have a rice cooker brand you love.
As for the dish itself, let’s start with the rice. Only use basmati or any other long grain rice. Jasmine rice works. But short grain will not work.
I notice most recipes don’t say to rinse the rice first, but unless you’re using organic rice, you really should rinse the rice before cooking in a fine mesh strainer to remove impurities, bugs, excess starch, and traces of chemicals.
This Cape Malay yellow rice is often called a ‘sweet yellow rice’ due to the inclusion of raisins and sugar. I personally like this rice dish as salty as it is sweet and I think the dried fruit gives the rice enough sweetness.
But in Cape Town we were told sugar was essential, so you should try the recipe with the sugar the first time and then adjust the next to suit your taste. Because there will be a next time. You will want to make the Cape Malay chicken curry again, and this yellow rice is the perfect accompaniment.
Cape Malay Yellow Rice Recipe for the Rice Cooker
- 2 cups basmati rice or other long grain white rice
- water - as per rice cooker indicator
- 100 g raisins
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 12 cardamom pods - crushed
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp fresh coriander leaves
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- Use a fine mesh strainer to wash the rice under a running tap until the water is clear to remove impurities, then shake any excess water off, and transfer to the rice cooker.
- Add water according to the rice cooker indicator, then add the raisins, spices, sugar, salt, and white pepper, stir well to combine everything, and turn on the rice cooker.
- Once the rice cooker turns off, leave it for 5 minutes, then open the lid a little so as not to release all the steam, then stir to combine the flavours and fluff up the rice. Don’t worry if it looks a little wet, as you’re going to close the lid and leave it for another 5 minutes or so for the moisture to evaporate and flavours to meld.
- Transfer the rice to a bowl, garnish with fresh coriander leaves and lemon zest, and serve immediately with your Cape Malay curry and sambals.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this Cape Malay yellow rice recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.