La vie est une noix de coco – Boulettes de riz à la noix de coco farcies aux crevettes, courgettes et citronnelle

Yes, life is a coconut, after the hard work of breaking the shell, you get the good stuff – I am on a coconut craze lately, and I make everyone around me eat coconut. It’s delicious in anything sweet or savory, I just cannot get enough of it. In this recipe, you need some kind of sticky rice, a non sticky rice such as basmati would not work very well. When making the balls, it will fall apart, and you won’t be able to stuff them. Jasmine rice would be better, or if you like the real sticky rice, you can use it too.

I inspired myself from the Italian risotto balls called “supplì“, those delicious rice balls stuffed with mozzarella and fried. Of course, these are more exotic (for me they are, since I did not grow up with Asian flavors) and are perfect when you feel like something different. They should be about 1.5 inches in diameter, a little bigger than a walnut.

Now there are different ways to cook these balls, one way is to steam them, the other way is to bake them. You can chose the method that is more appealing to you. In my case, I rolled them in panko breadcrumbs mixed with shredded coconut and I baked them. If you steam them, no need to roll them in that mixture. I am not a fan of frying, and always bake instead of frying unless, I have been requested a very specific dish, for which I have no other choice. But if you are into frying, you can try it out.

For the stuffing, you can substitute the zucchini with shiitake mushrooms, and of course play with the stuffing if you are in the mood for playing.

For coconut milk quantities, or other liquid when I cook rice, my Cambodian childhood friend taught me to measure the rice/liquid ratio “à vue d’oeil” as we say in French (with naked eye). There needs to be 1 cm (about 0.40 inches) of liquid above the rice. In this case, the metric system makes a lot more sense (as in many other cases!). I will never get used to imperial system.

Ingredients for about 7-8 balls

For the rice

  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup rice
  • coconut milk
  • 3 tbs shredded coconut, unsweetened (+ 2 tbs)
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 egg beaten
  • salt
  • chili sauce for dipping

For the stuffing

  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • lemongrass (2 inches stem), cut finely
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 6 large shrimps, uncooked and cut very finely
  • 1/2 zucchini, grated
  • 1 tbs cilantro, finely chopped
  • sichuan pepper
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • salt


For the rice

Heat olive oil in a pan, add onions and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add rice and transfer to a rice cooker or a pot. Add salt and coconut milk. Steam rice for about 15-20 minutes until cooked. Remove from stove and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

For the stuffing

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onion, lemongrass and ginger and cook for about 10 minutes at low heat. Add garlic and stir well. Add shrimps. Using your hands, squeeze water from zucchini and add to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes at medium heat. remove excess water if any. Add soy sauce, salt and pepper. stir well, then add cilantro. Mix everything well.

Using your hands, take a good amount of rice and place some of the stuffing in the middle, and form a ball.

Mix panko with shredded coconut.

Dip a ball in the beaten egg, then in the panko/coconut mixture.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400F for about 15 minutes, until the balls turn golden brown. If you want to steam them, omit the panko mixture and steam in a bamboo steamer.

Serve with chili sauce.