Posted in Breakfast, Recipes, Snacks, Traditional Gujarati Recipes

Surti Khaman / Vati Daal na Khaman!

I am pretty sure Dhoklas need no introduction. There are numerous versions of Dhoklas. Khatta Dhokla ( made of rice and Urad Daal ) is easily distinguishable from the Khaman because of the colour and composition. While the Instant Nylon Khaman ( made with Besan/Chickpea flour and eno/cooking soda ) is immensely popular among folks, popular even among folks even outside Gujarat, we South Gujaratis ( especially folks from in and around Surat ), favour the overnight fermented version much more over the instant ones. Vaati Daal Na Khaman is distinct from the Nylon Khaman in the sense that they are made of Chana Daal, that has been soaked, ground and fermented overnight and does not have any soda or citric acid in the batter, at least my version doesn’t. It is dense and crumbly at the same time unlike the soda-induced sponginess of Nylon Khaman. The ground batter is then spiced with ginger chilli paste, turmeric powder, lemon juice and salt. Instant / Nylon Khaman has a slight aftertaste of cooking/baking soda which puts me off personally.

Contrary to the image of it being extremely complicated, this version has very few ingredients and is pretty simple in terms of flavour. This version doesn’t have the nationwide popularity unlike the instant version, but for us Gujaratis, this is special! ❤️ It is typically served tempered, drizzled with Nylon Sev and accompanied by fried chillies / sliced onions.

From the same batter as Vati Daal na Khaman, I also make Locho. Surti Locho is a breakfast/snack from Surat, Gujarat made from a ground and fermented batter of Chana Daal. It probably was introduced as a case of Khaman Batter accidentally diluted too much and made over to be served in a way that it was appetising and the owner of the eatery could salvage a part of the expenses. In any case, it is one of the favourites for every Surti and a lot of Gujaratis I know. It has a consistency of soft buttery mashed potatoes, but the flavour is similar to Khaman ( not the instant Besan variant/Nylon Khaman, but the other version ). The batter is again seasoned with salt, turmeric and ginger-green chilli paste.

I will first share the method to make Vati Daal na Khaman and then describe the changes to make Locho.

Recipe: ( Serves 3-4, adapted, with changes, from the cookbook “Aneri-My Favourite Recipes” by Nayana Shah by Navneet Publications)

Key Points before you start:

  1. You might want to ask me why do I ferment the batter and not just use baking soda/cooking soda/eno before steaming. I would say it is a personal preference. I know I will not die if I consume soda in one dish. But, whenever possible, I like to avoid adding this. Let me just say this, we don’t add eno to Idli/Dosa batter which we consume on a frequent basis, do we? Naturally fermented food suits me better and therefore I am willing to do the extra effort.
  2. Proper fermentation is the key to getting the correct sponginess/texture of the Khaman. If you are unable to get the batter to ferment, because of extremely cold weather, I would suggest you add 1 tsp of Eno ( not flavoured, the plain variant ) or cooking soda to the batter just before you pour the seasoned batter into greased plates for steaming. Mix well, folding in one direction until the batter is frothy. Steam it immediately after mixing. Do not let it rest once you have added the soda.
  3. However, if you grind Urad Daal to proper texture ( I have added the Tip in the method ), I think, natural fermentation would not be very difficult. When the weather is cooler, I like to leave my vessel, usually stainless steel pan, in a preheated ( and consequently switched off ) convection oven. Whatever conditions help you to get your idli batter to ferment will help you here too.
  4. You may use rice/idli rava in place of Poha. However, I find that Poha really, really helps accelerate fermentation, and impart softness to Dhoklas and even Idlis.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup, Chana Daal ( split and skinned Bengal Gram ),
  • 1/4th cup of Urad Daal ( skinned Black lentils ),
  • 1/4th cup Poha ( flattened rice flakes / parched rice, the thick variety used for making the breakfast Poha  ),
  • Salt, to taste,
  • Turmeric Powder, 1/2 tsp,
  • Ginger Chilli Paste, 1 tbsp,
  • Juice of 1 large lemon. ( OR 1 tsp of citric acid crystals, I never used it though, I prefer fresh lemon juice ),
  • Water as needed.
  • 2 tbsp of oil, ( preferably peanut oil, but any other neutral flavoured oil will work equally well ),
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds,
  • 1/4th tsp or a few fat pinches of asafoetida,
  • a few curry leaves,
  • some finely chopped coriander to garnish.

Method ( for Khaman ) :

  1. Soak the Chana Daal and the Urad Daal separately in lots of water for at least 4-6 hours. Wash poha in running water and soak it separately in just enough water about 20-30 mins before you decide to grind the batter.
  2. When the daal is soaked properly, drain the water from all three ingredients. Start with Urad daal. Grind in the wet grinder or the grinding attachment of your food processor adding a little water at a time. Do not crowd the grinder jar with all the daal at once. Initially, do not add any water. Once it is coarsely ground add a couple of tbsps of water at a time and grind till its a smooth and fluffy paste. Tip: To check if the Urad Daal is ground properly, drop a small amount of ground daal into a bowl of water. If it sinks, it is not enough light/fluffy, scrape down from the sides, add a tiny amount of water, grind more and test again. Once the drop blob of ground Urad Dal floats up / rises up immediately, it is done. 
  3. Transfer into a deep vessel.
  4. Transfer the soaked Poha into the grinding jar next. Grind it to a smooth, slightly thick mass/texture, scraping down the sides, once or twice, adding a tsp or two of water ONLY if necessary. Transfer it to the vessel with ground Urad Daal. It will look starchy/translucent when it is ground smoothly.
  5. Finally, grind the Chana Daal in the same jar. I like a bit of grainy texture in my Vati Daal na Khaman. So, I highly recommend that you grind it, to a coarse grainy texture, adding as little water as possible. If it is too dry, add a tbsp of water at a time, scrape the sides and grind again.
  6. Once everything is ground, mix well with clean hands or a spoon. The Urad daal will tend to settle down at the bottom of the vessel, so mix very well.
  7. Cover with a lid and leave it in a clean place for about 12 hours to ferment.
  8. Once fermented, season the batter with salt, ginger-green chilli paste, turmeric and lemon juice. Mix well but not so vigorously that you punch out all the air bubble from the batter. If the batter feels too thick, add a little water. Preferably, the consistency of the batter should be just a little thicker than idli batter, definitely not a free-flowing batter like the one made for pakoras and besan chillas.
  9. When you are ready to steam, bring the water to a boil in your steamer/any vessel you want to use for steaming.
  10. Meanwhile, grease the plates of your Dhokla Steamer/Any other plate that fits in the vessel you are using, well with some oil.
  11. Pour the batter into a thali/plate and steam for 15-20 mins or as needed. I like this Dhokla to be spread a little thick, about 3/4th to 1-inch thick layer. You may spread it thinner if you like.  Depending on the size of your plates, you might need to do this in more than one batches.
  12. To check if the dhokla is done, you can insert a toothpick or a knife and if it comes clean, it’s done, remove the thali and let it cool down completely before tempering. Only once it has completely cooled down, cut it into squares. 
  13. Make a tempering of oil,  mustard seeds, asafoetida and a few curry leaves and pour it over the dhokla. Sprinkle some finely chopped coriander if you like. Serve hot with a chutney/sauce of your choice and garam chai! 😊

Method ( for Locho ):

  1. Make the exact same batter using the steps 1 to 7.
  2. Once fermented, season the batter with salt, ginger-green chilli paste, turmeric and lemon juice. Mix well but not so vigorously that you punch out all the air bubble from the batter. Thin out the batter adding a little water at a time, to get a free flowing batter.  Preferably, the consistency of the batter should be the same as dosa batter, a smooth, free-flowing batter like the one made for pakoras and besan chillas.
  3. When you are ready to steam, bring the water to a boil in your steamer/any vessel you want to use for steaming.
  4. Meanwhile, grease the plates of your Dhokla Steamer/Any other plate that fits in the vessel you are using, well with some oil.
  5. Pour the batter into several plates or thalis into a thin layer, not thicker than 1 to 1.5 cms and steam for 10-12 mins or as needed. Depending on the size of your plates, you might need to do this in more than one batches.
  6. The batter should just thicken when you are making Locho, and not turn extremely firm like in case of Khaman or Dhoklas. Turn the heat off, and remove the plates from the steamer. Cool it for 5 mins and transfer the steamed batter, now Locho, into serving plate. Drizzle with peanut oil ( or top generously with salted Butter) and optionally red chilli powder/chaat masala/Gujarati Methiya Masala ( Pickle Spice mix ). Sprinkle some nylon sev and serve it while still steaming with green chutney and finely chopped onions.
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