This harissa and coconut fried rice  is created out of my love of vegetable pilaf and Middle Eastern food. If you are not familiar with harissa, it is a fiery chili paste commonly used in North Africa and Middle Eastern cuisine. It packs quite a punch so a little teaspoon of harissa goes a long way unless you are a chilli lover like I am!

I love to make this rice dish to go with the charcoal chicken I brought home from Choox.  It is an easy one dish accompaniment that contains vegetables and carbohydrate and it is so quick to prepare as well as very flavoursome!

In my head, I have always called it as an express vegetable “pilaf”. However, as it does not cooked in season broth, pilaf purists may have an issue with me calling it a pilaf ha! The method of cooking is a bit ad hoc in the sense that I combine my Chinese fried rice skill with Middle Eastern ingredients like ground cumin powder and harissa.

I used brown rice for this recipe as I find the nuttiness of brown rice comes through perfectly with the earthiness of cumin and the spicy hint of harissa. Furthermore, brown rice is more textural as compared to white rice, so it creates more excitement to your palate while chewing with soft but firm vegetables.

I stressed that this is more than a simple vegetable fried rice.

What also adds depth to the flavour of this wonderful rice dish is the toasted desiccated coconut that is used to finish off the dish. Just imagine the flavour when you stir through with a handful of fresh coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice! What is supposed to be an accompaniment is satisfying enough to stand on its own as a main dish with a garlicky yoghurt or hummus.

PrintMiddle Eastern Harissa and Coconut Fried Rice

4 Servings


  • 2 Tablespoons dehydrated unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon of cooking oil
  • 2 teaspoons harissa (adjust to taste)
  • ¼ Tablespoon of ground cumin powder
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 3 Tablespoons of water
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • A handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • 2 lemon wedges


  1. Add desiccated coconut on a large dry stir fry pan. Toast the coconut over low-medium flame until it becomes golden brown. Transfer to plate/bowl to set aside. (Note – please keep a close eye while toasting the coconut as it gets burnt quite easily.)
  2. In the same pan (keeping the stove off for the moment), add harissa and ground cumin powder. Then turn on the stove and allow the spices to cook over low heat to render a flavourful spiced oil.
  3. When oil becomes red and sizzling, add brown onion and sauté until it becomes translucent.
  4. Add garlic and carrot to the pan. Continue to sauté until the brown onion becomes slightly golden brown and the carrot is slightly softened.
  5. Add zucchini and capsicum with about 3 tablespoons of water. This is to help the vegetables to cook through properly.
  6. When the vegetables are slightly softened and the water is completely evaporated, add cooked brown rice and mix to combine.
  7. Cook the mixture until the rice is well heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. To serve, stir in the toasted desiccated coconut and fresh coriander leaves with the rice. Squeeze in some lemon juice before eating. Enjoy!

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