Life in the village is more joyful during festival times. You get to taste pooja offerings from temples and neighbors. I used to particularly look forward to Ganesh Chathurthi when one of my favorite items was made – Kozhukattai. I cherish the sweet ones. Along with the sweet ones, mami (my neighbor) would make savory kozhukattais too. As a kid, I was not fond of savory items. With Ganesh Chathurthi approaching, I remembered and missed mami’s Uppu Kozhukattai (savory kozhukattai). A bit of googling and checking for recipes and I made my version of uppu kozhukattai. This is offered to Lord Ganesh on his birthday along with the sweet kozhukattai variety. The salty ones are shaped differently so that it is easy to distinguish between the two varieties. I warn you that you need to have at least an hour and a half in hand to make these steamed delights. So here is uppu kozhukattai.
Appam/Idiayappam podi (rice powder available in leading markets) – 2 cups
Water – 2-1/2 cups
Salt as needed
Sesame oil – 1 tsp
Urad dal (Black/white) – 1/2 cup
Chana dal – 1/2 cup
Green chili – 1
Dry red chili – 1
Hing – a pinch
Jeera – 1 tsp
Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
Dill leaves finely chopped (optional) – 1/4 cup
Salt as needed
Oil (coconut/sunflower) – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Soak the dals for one hour. Grind along with the chilies, hing, and salt to a coarse paste. Use very little water. The paste should not be watery. Make lemon-sized balls out of this coarse paste. Place in an idli stand and steam in a cooker for about 15 mins. Turn off and take out the steamed dal. Let it cool for couple of minutes. Use your hands to crush them into small pieces. Ensure that there are no lumps.
Keep a wok on fire, pour oil and splutter mustard seeds. Add curry leaves and then add the crushed steamed dal pieces and stir for 2 minutes. Turn off fire. Crush jeera and add this and grated coconut to the cooked dal mixture. If you are adding dill leaves, add them now. Mix well and keep aside.
Tip: Always make the filling first then make the dough for the outer covering. This ensures that the rice dough does not get dried up.
Take the rice powder in a wide vessel. Add salt. In a pot, boil water to boiling point (bubbling hot). Carefully add small quantities of boiling water to the rice powder. Stir using a flat ladle, mix well, to make a soft, smooth, elastic, half-cooked dough. Be very careful with the amount of water you add. Towards the end, use your hands to roll the dough into a tight yet smooth, elastic, and pliable mass. Cover the vessel in which the dough is kept with a clean and moist cloth. This is to avoid the surface drying up.
Grease your hands lightly with some sesame oil. Take small lime-sized quantities of the rice dough and use your palms to make small rounds. Use your fingers to flatten the balls to make small cups (about 2 inches diameter). When you flatten to make cups, make sure that the thickness of the dough is even. Take about a teaspoon of the steamed dal filling and place it towards one half of the flattened dough. Take the other half of the flattened dough and carefully bring the edges together to seal and make a half moon shaped stuffed pouch that is sealed from the edges properly.
Repeat to make more such kozhukattais. I find so much joy in making kozhukattai. It takes so much care, focus, and attention to make a good looking kozhukattai. What else can be a better gift to God and your loved ones than your time and attention?
When you have finished making all of them, place them carefully in a steamer/pressure cooker (without weight). It is okay if they are placed one on top of the other but ensure none of the kozhukattai touches the edges of the steamer. Steam in medium heat for about 10-15 mins. Open the lid. Well-cooked kozhukattais will look glossy but would have turned pale in color. Take out from the steamer and wait to cool (2 mins). Kozhukattais will be sticky if you handle them immediately after taking out of the steamer. So ensure that you wait for a couple of minutes.
Soft uppu kozhukattais are ready.
Notes: It is very important that you use the right kind of raw rice powder for this recipe. Otherwise, your kozhukatai might break or become hard. It should be raw rice that is finely powdered and not a coarse powder.
Always make the filling first then make the dough for the outer covering. This ensures that the rice dough does not get dried up.
Remember to lightly grease the steamer plate/idly tray in which you arrange the kozhukatai for steaming. This ensures that they don’t stick to the plate.
After the kozhukatais are steamed, turn off the heat and take out the plate/idly tray of kozhukatai. Let it cool off a bit. Wait for a couple of minutes before you touch them because they would be delicate due to all the steam and and heat and tend to break easily.
For modaks that will stay soft and fresh for more than 24 hours, you can follow another method to make the dough. This is explained here.
You can also make a different filling by substituting the urad and chana dal with mung dal.
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