Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Tasty Traditions Snacks: Pidi Kozhukkattai
Pidi Kozhukkattai (meaning, fist-shaped dumplings) are a favorite snack in many parts of South India. There are many kinds of dumplings or kozhukkattai with or without filling, savory or sweet, steamed or deep-fried, but this here is an easy one. I shall post recipes for the others later. Pidi-kozhukkattai is a traditional food item that can be made with or without much oil. Either way, it tastes great! Typically, these are served in between big meals, as a tiffin or snack, along with coffee. The dumplings can be had plain, or served with eggplant gotsu, coconut chutney, tomato chutney, saambaar, or mor-kuzhambu. The shape deserves a mention: I used to prepare them in a spherical shape until Marudhambal, who was our domestic help for many years, demonstrated an aesthetic way of shaping the dumplings by closing them in a fist and leaving the imprint of fingers over each of them. Whenever someone gives you a silent treatment, the saying goes, "What, do you have kozhukkattai in your mouth?" the idea being that kozhukkattai is so tasty that people stuff their mouths with it while eating, and hence no talk occurs.
There is an old story for children called "Aithiribaacha." This is about a man who went to visit his in-laws in the neighboring village. His in-laws had made kozhukkattai in honor of his visit. The man, having never seen or tasted these ever before, wanted to know the name of this delicacy because he just loved the taste! The flattered mother-in-law replied, 'Oh! Pidi kozhukkattai! Just simple kozhukkattai!" The man repeated the name to himself, and wanted to go back home and ask his wife to prepare the same. He chanted the name "kozhukkattai, kozhukkattai, kozhukkattai" throughout his way back so as not to forget the strange name. When he was close to his house, he had to cross a puddle. As he leaped across the puddle, he exclaimed "Aithiribaacha," a meaningless sound uttered when doing certain physical activities. Then he forgot the name "kozhukkattai." He began repeating the new word 'Aithiribaacha, aithiribaacha," the rest of the way home. When he reached home, he asked his wife if he could have some aithiribaacha. She was puzzled and amused. "What? What are you talking about?" she asked. "That's what your parents fed me today," he said, "Aithiribaacha." "There is no such thing as aithiribaacha!" she insisted and laughed so hard at him that he got mad, and refused to talk to her for days. Finally, the wife couldn't stand it anymore. She confronted the silence with, "Enough is enough! You haven't spoken to me in days. Say something to me. Or do you have kozhukkattai in your mouth?" The man heard the word he had forgotten and was extremely delighted at the sudden recollection. He jumped with joy, thanked her, apologized for his silence, and begged her to make some kozhukkattai for him!
On to the recipe:
STEP 1: Initial Preparation: This step enables you to prepare the base for the kozhukkattai ahead of time and store it for future use, and use the required amount as and when you prepare the kozhukkattai. The base is prepared using a mixture of raw rice (not parboiled, not cooked, ponni or sona masoori types are good; NO BASMATI PLEASE) and urad dal, in the ratio of 5:1 (rice: urad dal).
Step 1 Ingredients (To prepare about 15 kozhukkattai):
1.25 C Raw Rice
0.25 C Urad Dal
1-2 Tbsp water
1. Take rice in a bowl, and sprinkle a handful (1-2 Tbsp.) water, and mix thoroughly. Keep aside for 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, in a spice grinder or dry blender, dry-grind raw ural dal to the consistency of coarse rava or cornmeal. Keep aside.
3. Next, grind the semi-dry rice to a coarse powder. Mix the two ground powders together.
To store: If you want to prepare a large quantity ahead, just follow the above steps for larger proportions, and ensure that the mixture is spread out to dry on a thali or towel for a day, and then store in an airtight container. Moisture will lead to spoilage and fungal growth.
Step 2: Ingredients
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp virgin sesame oil (if you can't find either oil, you may substitute with equivalent amount of vegetable or refined oil, but the flavor will suffer)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 Tbsp. channal dal
1 Tbsp. urad dal
1 tsp. asafoetida powder (hing)
2-4 thinly sliced green chillies
2 red chillies, broken into bits
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves, stripped
2.5 C water
3/4 to 1 tsp. salt
1/2 C fresh coconut, cut into small pieces (or 1/2 C freshly grated coconut); if this is not available, get the unsweetened, dry, shredded coconut from Indian stores; there will be some loss of texture, taste, and flavor.
1. Heat a wok or pan on high heat, non-stick will be easier
2. Pour the oil, and when it is hot, add asafoetida.
3. Lower the heat, and add the following in the order specified:
a. Mustard Seeds. Let it crackle first.
b. Channa, urad, and red chillies. Wait till they turn golden.
c. Add green chillies, curry leaves, and coconut pieces or grated coconut.
d. Almost immediately, add water and salt. Raise the heat, and bring the mixture to a boil .
4. Lower the heat when it begins to boil, and stir in the rice-dal mixture a little at a time, and keep stirring for 2-3 minutes after, till there are no lumps, and it turns into a solid mass.
5. Remove from heat, place in a bowl, and let it cool.
6. Apply some oil in your hands, and make about 15 even sized balls, or fist-shaped kozhukkattai's.
7. You may use an idli steamer, or a wet-cloth lined bamboo steamer, to cook the kozhukkattais. Heat water in the steamer's base container or wok. Place the dumplings in a single layer on the steamer baskets/plates. Steam covered for 10-12 minutes on high heat.
8. When done, sprinkle some cold water on the dumplings before removing the plates/baskets from the stove.
9. Serve hot with one or more of the chosen side dishes listed earlier.
After removing from steam, heat 2 Tbsp of coconut oil (preferred) in a kadai/wok, non-stick preferred. Add a sprig of fresh curry leaves to the oil. Add all the steamed kozhukkattais to the oil, and toss briefly. Keep over low heat for about 5-10 minutes, with gentle, intermittent tosses. This results in kozhukkattai that have a delicately crunchy, glossy, crust with a soft inside, fragrant with coconut oil and curry leaves. These are bound to make you crave for more.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think!