This article was originally written by me for Beyond Curries.
I hail from Palakkad and our cuisine is a combination of the best from the regions of Tamilnadu and Kerala. Every festival is celebrated with sweets and savouries that are unique to that festival. The traditional sweets made for Ganesh Chaturthi in Palakkad, are ‘vella kozhokottai‘ (Steamed jaggery and coconut filled sweets) and ‘sugiyan‘ (Fried jaggery and coconut balls). The savouries comprise of vadai (lentil fritters) and many varieties of savoury kozhokottais (steamed dumplings).Kozhakottai is said to be Lord Ganesha’s favorite snack, and when you eat you will know that it is rightfully so. It is basically a sweet or savoury filling wrapped in steamed dough made of rice flour.
There are two methods to make the dumpling wrap. The popular method involves the usage of pounded rice flour. It was the method I followed for a long time until one day, when my sister told me to try the method I am sharing today. With this method, the results were so good that I couldn’t bother to look back!
Earlier, I had tried using shop bought rice flour and home made rice flour. The former yields the worst results. The latter is time consuming and involves lot of prep work. The rice has to be soaked for about 20-30 mins, drained, spread on a clean cloth and air dried, and then pounded to fine flour. I do not mind the labour-intensive process but the method yields kozhakottai that are soft only for some time. After about 7-10 hours the steamed covering starts to harden slightly.
Now, this method that I am sharing is much easier. It can be made from scratch in one day – no prep work ahead! Using raw rice batter yields soft, pliable dough. This is because it retains moisture well as compared to the ‘rice flour’ method. The test is to eat a few kozhakottais the day after or after 7-10 hours. The kozhakottais made this way will remain as soft as the fresh ones. That is where the earlier methods fail.
Try it. You will not regret. You will never go back.
Recipe: Uppu Kozhokottai ~ Steamed savoury rice dumpling filled with lentil mixture
Preparation Time : 30 minutes
Serves : 15 pieces
1/2 cup Black gram dal (Urad dal)
Water to cover the dal
salt to taste
1 green chilli
A sprig of curry leaves
3 tbsp. of fresh grated coconut
1.5 cups, raw rice
1.5 + 1.5 cups, water
3 tbsps. oil (I use sesame oil)
1/2 tsp. salt
Soak the split, husked, black gram dal in just enough water for at least half an hour. Drain completely and add the chopped green chillies and chopped curry leaves. Mix in salt.
Grind without water to a rough paste. (We do not want a soft paste. The paste has to be dry and retain some coarseness due to broken dal). See picture below.
Steam the mixture in a steamer or cooker (without weight/whistle) for about 15minutes till done. Cool and crumble to granules. Mix in grated coconut to distribute it uniformly throughout the mixture. Set aside and prepare the covering.
Soak rice in 1.5 cups of water for at least an hour (or upto four hours). Grind to a smooth paste with the water used for soaking. Do not add more water.
In a heavy bottomed vessel or wok, heat the oil. Add 1.5 cups of water and salt and bring it to a boil. Now pour the rice paste into the water stirring all the while to avoid lump formation. You will not be able to avoid the lumps completely but keep stirring and if any lumps form on the sides of the vessel, scrape it back into the center. Cook till all the liquid forms into a rough ball, leaving the sides of the vessel. It will take about 5 to 6 minutes on medium flame.
Cover with a tight lid and let the dough cook in residual heat without disturbing for another 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and let cool till warm enough to handle. This process helps the dough cook and relax and therefore is crucial.
Turn onto a large ‘paraat’ or plate or working space. Grease hands lightly and knead the dough till firm, smooth but soft as shown below.
Filling and shaping the dumplings:
Pinch a ball of dough about the size of a table tennis ball. Roll it between your palms to a smooth sphere. Flatten lightly and keeping it on a clean surface, keep pressing with light fingers to form a disc about 5 to 6 cms in diameter. The disc should be about 2mm in thickness.
Place a tablespoon of the filling in the center leaving space around the rim. Fold to a semi circle and press the sides of the semi circle to seal the opening. Similarly form the rest of the kozhokottais.
Please see the photograph at the top of this post.
Place the kozhokottais on a greased plate, in a hot steamer and steam till the covering turns translucent and cooked. About 15 minutes.
If you do not have a steamer, heat water in a pressure cooker. Place a deep vessel filled upto 1/4 of its height with water. Now place the plate of kozhokottais over the vessel. Cover the cooker and steam for 15 minutes with the lid on and no weight, on moderate heat.
When cool enough to handle, remove the plate from the steamer/cooker. The kozhokottais are now ready to be served. Traditionally these are served eaten without any accompaniment and taste good as such. I like it with a dash of spicy szechuan sauce.
Do not hurry up or skip the part where you have to fit the lid and let the dough cook in the residual heat else you will have raw, uncooked dough and you won’t be able to shape them.
During festivals dishes are prepared from scratch on the day of the festival. I have found that soaking rice for about 4 hours gives a nicer dough. But one hour is enough to get good results.