Gujarat is one of the western states of India with rich heritage and culture. State has a long history dating back to Indus Valley Civilization. The state shares a border with Rajasthan in the North, Madhya Pradesh in the East, Maharashtra in the South and, Arabian Sea & an international border with Pakistan in the West. Gujarat is one the most industrial states in the country and has a per capita GDP above the national average. Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, first deputy prime minister of India were favorite sons of the state. Lately, another favorite son of the state is the spot light. The current Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi is the leading front runner in the prime ministerial race. India has a parliamentary system and Mr. Modi’s party is expected to win majority of the seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
I usually do not follow politics closely but my husband does; both US and international politics. But this year, he is has been super excited about the Indian elections and to add to that excitement, this time we have a 24 hour Indian News channel to entertain his interest. I do not even remember the last time he watched Fox or CNN in the last few months. I have never seen him this excited about Indian elections since I met him.
Last one month I have been on cooking spree preparing for this month long marathon. For Gujarat I had listed down as Dhokla and when I mentioned it to Mr. U, he wasn’t interested in it. He is not a big fan of idlies and dhoklas. He wanted me to make a curry, rather a shaak as it is known in Gujarati. So I changed the menu. The day before I planned on cooking for this state, I had mentioned it to him. The following day before leaving to work he tells me, so today is our Narendra bhai (brother) Modi’s home state! Cook a good decent meal! And yes, I had planned to cook only Gujarati food for dinner, oondhiyu & poori that evening and unfortunately the recipe I followed failed me It was a lengthy preparation and I was very disappointed. Since that was the only food I cooked that day, we had to ate it with very little left over gravy from previous night. After a disastrous day in the kitchen, I did not want to redo the same recipe. Few days later I decide to do an easy dhokla and he wasn’t interested in it. I promised I will cook a good Gujarati meal for him once Mr. Modi is sworn in as the prime minister of India. And I am going to have 23 tried and tasted recipes to pick from after today.
Coming to Gujarati cuisine, this is a vegetarian cuisine despite having a long coastline. Very few communities living in the coastal area do eat seafood but that number is very small. There is more to this cuisine than just dhokla, khandvi, khakra and thepla. A Gujarati thali consists of roti, dal or kadhi, rice and shaak with pickles and chhundo as condiments, with a glass of chaas (buttermilk) and a sweet. Shaak is a subzi or a vegetable curry made of different combination of vegetables and chhundo is sweet and sour preserve made with grated mango. Most of the Gujarati dishes are sweet, salty and spicy. The food varies depending on the region.
Food from the region:
Breads: Bajra ki roti or millet flour flat bread, Bhakri made with whole wheat flour and thicker than roti, roti, Jhavor ki roti or sorghum flat bread, thepla and poori are some of the bread from the region. Thepla is spiced bread made with mixture of flours and often has shredded vegetables or green leafy vegetables.
Rice: Apart from plain white rice, khichdi, pulao, dhoodpak and khatta mittha bhaat are few rice dished form the region. Khichdi is preparation of rice and dal, served with yogurt & pickles. Dhoodpak is rice pudding made with rice milk, sugar and dry nuts.
Will post the recipe for moong dal dhokla in few days
Shaak: Vegetable curries are called shaak and are prepared with variety of vegetables available in the region. Oondhiyu or Undhiyu is one of the most popular and loved shaak by the Gujaratis. It is a mixed vegetable curry that is traditionally cooked in earthen pot which is turned upside down on to the fire. “The name of this dish comes from the Gujarati words “matlu” meaning earthen pot and “undhu” meaning upside down since they have been traditionally cooked upside down underground in earthen pots fired from above.” (Wiki) This curry is made with vegetables available during the season including potato, sweet potato, brinjal~eggplant and yam, including broad beans ~ val and sruthi papdi ~ hyacinth bean . Beans are cooked until tender and rest of the vegetables are deep fried. All these veggies are cooked together with spices to make a delicious curry. It usually served with poori during weddings. It can be served for breakfast or for lunch. This curry is cooked for Makar Sankranti.
Farsan: is a side dish that compliments the meal and some farsan be served as it is as a light meal or a snack. Some of the farsan are bhajiya (fritters), chaat, dahi vada, dhokla, khandvi, handvo and kachori.
Most of the snacks called nasta are not deep fried and made with gram flour. Some the nastas are khakhra, mathia, sev and chakri. Daals are part of daily food. Sweets also know as mithai and some of the mithai from this state are malpua, jalebi, basundi, ghari, son papdi, guhghra, lapsi, shrikhand, shakkarpara.
Today I have one of popular and well known dishes from this cuisine, Khaman Dhokla. Dhokla is steamed cake with rice flour or lentils. When I was searching for dhokla recipes, I came across recipes that were made with rice flour, urad dal, moong dal, chana dal and gram flour. Dhokla made with gram flour or chana dal is khaman dhokla. Khaman dhokla made with chana dal needs to be ferment but the instant version is made using the flour using ENO fruit salt. I tried 2-3 recipes and liked this one better. It uses little bit of sooji and yogurt.
Total Time: 20 – 25 minutes
Preparation: 5 – 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 15 – 20 pieces (1 – 1 ½ squares)
- ½ cup Gram Flour ~ Besan
- ½ tbsp. Sooji ~ Semolina
- 1 – 2 tsp. Lime Juice
- ½ t – ¾ tsp. Green Chili Ginger Paste (1 green chili + ½ tsp. chopped ginger)
- 2 tbsp. Yogurt
- 1/3 tsp Salt (¼ + 1/8 tsp)
- 1/3 cup Water
- ½ tsp. ENO Fruit Salt (available in Indian stores)
- ½ – 1 tsp. Oil for greasing
- 1 tbsp. Oil
- 5 Curry Leaves
- Dash of Asafoetida ~ Hing
- ¼ tsp. Mustard Seeds
- ¼ tsp. Cumin Seeds (opt.)
- ½ tsp. Sesame seeds
- 1 – 1 ½ tsp. Sugar (I used 1 tsp. and I personally prefer less sugar in savory dishes and felt I should have used less. See notes)
- 1 – 2 Green Chilies cut lengthwise and cut into two or desired size (I used 1 chili)
- 1 tbsp. Coriander leaves ~ Cilantro chopped
- 1 tbsp. Fresh Coconut grated (I did not use)
- ¼ cup Water
- Pressure Cooker Pan or a wide sauce pan or a steamer
- Steamer plate
- Dhokla plates or 1 round pan. I used a stainless 7″ diameter container
- Take pressure cooker pan or a wide saucepan in which dhoklas are going to be steamed. I used a pressure cooker pan. Take 1 – 1 ½ cups of water in cooker pan and bring it to a boil. Add the steamer plate. Grease the dhokla steaming container with oil and keep aside.
- Sift gram flour and take in a bowl. Sifting the flour makes it easy to make a lump free batter.
- Add sooji, green chili ginger paste, salt, yogurt, water, lime juice and mix it into a lump free batter.
- Add fruit salt to the batter and mix it in one direction for approximately one minute until the fruit salt mixes well. Batter will increase in size. I have not done it when I made this dhokla but adding or pouring 1 tsp water on fruit salt before mixing it activates the fruit salt and the batter fluffs up and increases in volume right way. Add fruit salt just before steaming the dhokla.
- Pour the batter into a greased plate or container up to ½” thickness.
- Place the container on the steamer plate, close the cooker and steam it on medium flame for 10-12 minutes. I steamed for 12 minutes. When cooking in a pressure cooker, DO NOT use the whistle.
- After 10 – 12 minutes, insert a knife or a toothpick into dhokla to check if the dhokla is done. The knife should come out clean. If it doesn’t, cover the cooker and steam for another 2-3 minutes.
- Take dhokla container out of the pressure cooker and let it cool for few minutes. Cut the dhokla into small squares using a knife.
- Tempering – Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and asafetida. When the seeds splutter, add cumin, sesame seeds, green chilies, curry leaves and sauté for few seconds.
- Add water, sugar and bring to a boil. Let boil for a minute on high flame.
- Pour the tempering over the dhokla and spread the tempering to coat all the dhoklas.
- Garnish with cilantro and fresh coconut.
- Serve hot or cold with green chutney.
- I used 1 tsp. of sugar and felt I could have used less sugar. But, if using 1 tsp. sugar and want a spicy dhokla, I would suggest using green chilies for the tempering.
- Fruit salt should be added to the batter just before steaming it.
- Adding water to the tempering is crucial for a soft dhokla.