Food writing Recipes Travel

Siddu – Steamed wholewheat bread

Sidku

I have written multiple posts about my trekking experiences in Himachal, my love for the vibrance and bustle of Manali and Bhuntar, the relative calm in the mountain villages, the friendly nature of the village folk, endless plates of maggi at chai-tapris, and my love for Himachali food. The several commas that follow every time I mention Himachal may please be excused. I swear; this is after I removed many aspects!

I last went on a Himalayan trek wo years back along with my son, who shares none of my zest for climbs. That year the weather went for a toss. We were forced to descend from the penultimate point after a miserable climb under difficult circumstances. Truth be told, I loved it. Not knowing what comes next thrills me. Jr.P however hasn’t changed his mind. Some physical injuries due to walking on city roads however incapacitated me from further physical activities and this year you-know-who struck. Now I am raring to take off again.

Coming back to the focus of this post, we stayed in Manali for a day or two and I showed junior some favourite haunts.  He loved one place that he couldn’t get enough of; Fauji Tea Stall. Since the last few years a revivalist movement has taken over food-exploration in the form of food-walks. It is now a vital part of the tourism industry as more and more tourists travel for appreciation of local cuisines apart from places.  In response, several eateries in Himachal have started serving local Himachali cuisine — revamped rather than authentic. One such delicacy is siddu (aka sidku). Fauji Tea Stall has been serving it even before the trend. Pradhyu loved siddu so much that we had it twice, once on the day we landed and the next day. We had two packed for our return bus journey.

Loosely defined, siddu is a steamed bread, but the fillings make it unique. While most people make it with whole wheat or maida, Fauji Tea Stall owner told me that her’s is made with rice flour. I am still surprised as it held so well. However, every tea stall now uses yeast to make the bread, that was once made with baasi-atta. Baasi atta or malera is a sourdough starter indigenous to India. Himachal is a cold place and the left-over roti atta was never wasted. It was kept near the hearth to proof and used as a starter the next day. The process would continue making it a strong starter over time but these cultures are no longer preserved and hence I had to write about it.

I respect  giving traditional recipes new forms as food itself is a perennially evolving process. I give makeover to traditional recipes too. But, I am saddened when in our quest for newness we discard an ancient method that is more nutritive, delicious, scientific and budget-friendly. Recipes are as much a heirloom as any other tangible article that need to be documented in their fully glory. If not, they will be lost forever to future generations and exist only in microbiology theses in the form of flow charts.

Mr. P has never been to Himachal so I brought Himachal to him — on a platter. Pradhyu was given the task of shooting a video as I cooked. I am an excited electron (no other apt metaphor) that has never known calm so I stuttered and fumbled, my thoughts running ahead of the pace of the shoot. But — we made the video, unabashed. You can see it on igtv @hariniandharsha. Please follow us on instagram. I miss interactions with my readers and facebook friends, having deleted my account there. It would be great to connect with you all once again on instagram. I am still raw on that platform having taken a sabbatical from social media but I am learning fast. Let me know if you would like me to make the videos in Hindi.

That’s that. C’mon lets get down to work on siddu dears!

Shaping: Siddu is shaped differently in different regions of Himachal. Mandi serves siddu like a momo. In Manali it is folded into a half-moon shape as for empanadas, gujiya etc.

Siddu dough after proofing
Siddu dough ready to be made

Recipe: Siddu / Sidku / Stuffed bao bun
(Siddu: Steamed and stuffed bread from Himachal, made with indigenous starter malera / maleda)
Serves 3, Makes about 8-10 depending on size
Equipment: Steamer

Ingredients:

Starter / Malera / Maleda / Baasi atta to be made a night or 7-8 hours before the rest of the preparation:

You can use left-over roti, paratha or whole wheat bread dough or simply knead 1 cup flour with water (room temperature if in warm regions, and warm if in cold regions). I generally use about 60-70 ml water but it can vary and does not make a difference a little here or there.

Dough

Whole wheat flour / Atta – 2.5 cups
Water – As needed to make a soft, supple dough, about half the flour
Salt – 1/4 tsp, or to taste

Filling:

Roasted peanuts or raw walnuts, almonds found in seeds of plums – 2 cups
Garlic, chopped – 4-5 cloves (optional)
Green chillies, finely chopped – 1
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp or as per tolerance
Turmeric powder – 1/8 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Black salt – 1/8 tsp
Pink salt (saindhav namak) – To taste
Onions, medium sized, finely chopped – 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves, finely chopped – 2-3 tbsp
Poppy seeds (I used black) – 1 tbsp {optional)

Method:

Filling:

Grind onions with garlic cloves and green chillies to a very coarse texture. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and stir to get a uniform mixture. Sprinkle about 1-2 tbsps of water to make it a clumpy mixture.

The dough:

Place the flour in a mixing bowl with salt and stir. Sprinkle enough water all over to wet the dough and form a course mix.

Pinch of small pieces of starter and add it to the mixing bowl.

Gather and knead into a dough, using water little by little as needed to make a soft and supple dough. The dough should have the suppleness of a roti or naan dough. It should not be firm like the dough used for pooris.

Cover and let the dough raise for about 1.5 hours or till it is proofed, almost doubled and not more. The time taken depends on the room temperature and may vary.

Prepare a steamer by greasing the slotted vessel and filling the bottom vessel with enough water. Bring it to a boil before shaping the dough so that the siddus are ready to go in.

Pinch out golf-ball-sized dough and roll it to a smooth sphere. Flour your palms and pat between the palms into a flat circle about 4 inches in diameter. The center should be about 4-5 mm and the periphery thinner.

Place about 2 tbsps of filling in the center of the circle. Fold over and make a half-moon shape. Pinch the two sides together to seal the filling.

Prepare 2-4 as per the capacity of your steamer. I have two vessels that can hold two each. I place the siddus in the steamer as and when I finish shaping them. You can do that or shape them all first, keep them covered in a cloth and place everything together if the shaping takes long.

Cover the top vessel with a clean cotton muslin cloth before placing a lid. This will catch the condensed water droplets and prevent the siddus from getting wet.

Steam for 15-20 minutes approximately. The siddus are done when they appear puffed like a bun and the skin develops a sheen.

Remove and serve hot with mint chutney, any spicy sauce like schezwan sauce or sriracha. A cup of chai on the side completes it for me.

Tips:

Remember to set aside any bread dough you are using to make siddu. Could be dough used for making pooris, parathas, naan, kulcha, or tandoori roti or even a pizza. It is the wild yeast and sourdough that matters, not the region it comes from.

I have tried making with as little as 1/2 cup of starter and it works too. Go by feel. My dough gets ready in 2 hours but yours might take less or more time to proof.

Filling can be readied the previous day or before. It stays perfect for more than a week. Omit onions if refrigerating the filling as it leads to spoilage. Keep the refrigerated filling dry and sprinkle water only while making.

You can refrigerate the un-proofed dough and remove it the next morning. Thaw for 2-3 hours and then make.

This bread should not be patted thin as the structure is lost. It has to be thick except for the periphery. The bread crumb should be similar to that of a chinese mantou bread. No large holes or tunnels.

If the siddu covering separates from the filling and deflates it means that either you dough has overproofed or it has been rolled too thin. Patting yields good results. Rolling spoils the texture.

LINKS:

Recipe link: https://hariniandharsha.com/siddu-steamed-wholewheat-bread/

Instagram: @hariniandharsha

Facebook: Tongue Ticklers

If you make siddus my authentic way please tag us on instagram. I am not available on facebook and the page is managed by my daughter. She may not respond to queries or comments, but I am available via email, instagram or comments here.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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