In a medium pot, heat water to boiling. Add rice and 1/2 tsp. salt; reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. Let rice stand covered 10 minutes, then spread on sheet pan to cool and prevent sticking.
In large skillet over medium heat, toast pecan halves until lightly browned and fragrant about 4 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add oil to skillet and heat. Add onion and ginger; cook 5 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin, turmeric and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook 5 minutes longer.
In large serving bowl, combine cool rice, onion mixture and pecans. Toss gently until well mixed and all rice is tinted yellow from the spices; add cilantro and sugar, mixing briefly. Set aside at least 20 minutes before serving at room temperature.