Thursday, March 15, 2007

Snacks: Nonbu Adai/Kozhukkattai

Wednesday last week, (March 14, 2007), was kaaradaiyaan nonbu. It is a nonbu/feast/festival conducted by women for the well-being and long life of their spouses, as well as by little girls to get good husbands. This is the time when the Tamil month of Maasi ends, and Panguni begins. The mythological Savitri is said to have made these simple steamed adais/cakes/dumplings in gratitude to the Gods when she was able to persuade Yama, the God of death, to return her loving husband's life to him.

Sentiment aside, the nonbu features a very tasty kozhukkattai (or dumpling as you've heard me say in an earlier post), which some refer to as adai. These are simply rice-flour and red-bean treats, whose dough is cooked on stove-top first, made into flat discs with a hole in the center, and steam-cooked again. There are two types of nonbu adais or kozhukkattais -- a sweet one and a savory one. Both of them are made of freshly made rice flour (will describe how in a minute), fresh diced coconut pieces, and karamani or red beans. If you can't find red beans, use black-eyed peas/beans by all means - not the canned ones, but the dry ones that are water-soaked and boiled freshly. After that they assume a life of their own. The sweet one is sweetened with jaggery, and flavored with cardamom and dried ginger. The savory one is flavored with curry leaves, green chillies, and asafoetida. I know of cooks who add red chillies and ginger as well to the savory one. No matter which you prefer, the final flavor and the lush look comes from placing a dab of soft butter on steam-softened kozhukkattai, and as it melts and releases its rich buttery essence, you get to enjoy the slippery dough with surprising crunch where you bite into a coconut, and chewiness where the boiled bean is hidden.

We don't prepare this as an everyday snack typically, but definitely once a year on kaadaraiyaan nonbu. This nonbu also breaks the old tradition of men eating their meal first. The nonbu kozhukkattai is first eaten by the women and girls in the household after the neivedyam or offering.

On to the recipe....

Nonbu Adai/Kozhukkattai
Yield: 20-25 pieces


3 C Home Processed Rice Flour (Recipe follows at the end)
2 Tbsp. dry red beans (Kaaraamani) or black eyed peas
4 small green chillies
2 dry red chillies
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. virgin sesame oil (or peanut or vegetable oil)
2 Sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp. asafoetida (hing/perungaayam) powder
3 Tbsp. fresh coconut pieces (see picture)
3 C Water
1.5 tsp. salt


1. Heat a large kadai or wok (non-stick would be easy) on medium-high heat.
2. Add the dry red beans or black eyed peas and roast for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring gently, until fragrant. Do not let it become brown. Remove from heat.
3. Adding a cup of water, cook it in a pressure cooker (1 whistle) or stove top, till half-cooked.
4. When cool, rinse the beans in cold water and drain.
5. Thinly slice green chillies, and the curry leaves.
6. Heat the oil in a wok/kadai.
7. Add asafoetida, lower the heat, add mustard seeds, and broken red chillies.
8. When the seeds splutter, add the green chillies, curry leaves, and the coconut pieces. Stir briefly.
9. Add water and salt. Raise the heat and bring to a boil.
10. When the water begins to boil, lower the heat to medium, and gradually add rice flour a little at a time, while constantly stirring the mixture. Ensure that there are no lumps.
[Beginners: Here is another way to do this so that the above step is easier. After step 8, remove the kadai from heat and keep aside. Whisk the processed rice flour with the 3 C water (room temperature), in a bowl. Add the chilli/bean mixture to this and stir. Place this in the kadai and back on the stove, and resume cooking].
11. Cook until the mixture becomes a solid dough (see picture). Remove from stove and let it cool.
12. Smearing a little oil in your hands, make 20-25 balls, and press them flat in the palm of your hand like a flat vada or donut, pressing a hole in the middle (see picture).
13. In a wet-cloth or wet towel lined bamboo steamer or idli vessel, place the adais in a single layer (so that they don't stick to one another) and steam for 10-15 minutes until they appear to be coated with steam and look glossy.
14. Serve hot with a dab of softened butter.

Note: The adais can be reheated as needed.

Method to Prepare Processed Raw Rice Flour
1. For 3 cups of flour, soak 2 C of raw rice such as ponni or sona masoori (not parboiled, not jasmine rice, definitely not basmati) in water for an hour.
2. Drain in a colander (see picture). Spread the rice on a clean towel until it is just damp and semi-dry.
3. In a mixie or blender, powder the rice until fine. Using a sieve, sift the rice so that there are no lumps in the flour.
4. Use it as needed.

Variation: The above flour can be dry-roasted very slightly until somewhat aromatic and a little rice held between the fingers falls dryly and does not lump up. You may also try to draw a line with the powder. It should fly like dry sand. Ensure that the color does not change.


Vasi Maami


  1. Athai... it looks yummy.. !!

  2. Hello Vasi Maami,

    Just came across your blog - your recipes look great. Nothing to beat experience.

    I'm still young - but trying to gain some experience cooking different stuff - wanted to share my version of the nombu kozhukattai with you -

    Check it out.

    Post more recipes soon!