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Khatta Dhokla                                                                                                                   

Dhokla are fermented savory cakes from the state of Gujarat on the west coast of India along the Arabian Sea. Typically, dhokla are made from a blend of rice and lentils like urad dal or chana dal that are soaked, blended into a batter, fermented, and steamed. Tasty, super nutritious, light, spongy with a mild tang, this healthier version of dhokla uses soy yogurt and brown rice and omits oils.  The batter is flavored with ginger, green Indian chilies, and garlic. Dhokla are fabulous as an appetizer or snack on their own or with a green and/or mango chutney.

 

Prep 7 hours to soak, 24 hours to ferment, plus 15 minutes

Cook 20 minutes

Makes two 9-inch cakes    

 

Spice blend

Small dry red Kashmiri pepper, lightly roasted and freshly ground (optional)

8 to 10 curry leaves, lightly roasted and freshly ground

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds, lightly roasted and freshly ground

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly roasted and freshly ground

1 tablespoon white or black sesame seeds

Big pinch asafoetida, freshly ground

 

Batter

2 cups brown basmati rice

¼ cup red poha rice (flattened red rice)

2/3 cup chana dal

½ teaspoon methi (fenugreek) seeds

1½ teaspoons shiro (mild, white) miso paste

½ teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)

1 cup unsweetened cultured soy yogurt

2 large cloves garlic, peeled, chopped, and ground to a paste with the ginger

1 inch ginger, peeled, chopped, and ground into a paste with the garlic

2 Indian green chilis, minced finely

 

Garnish

Cilantro leaves, chopped chives, slivered scallion, or chopped onion

 

Hints

  1. Find brown basmati rice, red poha rice, chana dal, methi seeds, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, and curry leaves at South Asian groceries.
  2. Asafoetida, or hing, is commonly sold preground as a powder. Instead, look online for rock asafoetida, sold in nuggets, and grind it fresh with a coffee grinder. Resinous asafoetida nuggets have no additives and much more potent flavor.
  3. As with all ferments, do not use treated chlorinated or fluoridated water as they will impede fermentation. Use spring water or reverse-osmosis water instead.
  4. Kashmiri chilies are mild, but if you prefer the dhokla to be less mouth-warming, omit it from the spice blend.

 

Make the Spice Blend

  • Heat a small skillet on medium-low for 2 minutes.  Add the small Kashmiri chili and curry leaves. Roast them for a few minutes, stirring, until the leaves dry, and the chili lightly toasts.  Remove them from the pan and add the black mustard and cumin seeds. Roast them, stirring constantly for 30 seconds to a minute, and remove as soon as your nose perceives their aromas. Do not over roast or the seeds will become bitter.
  • Now roast the sesame seeds until they lightly toast, about two minutes, stirring. As soon as they become fragrant remove them from the skillet.
  • Grind the roasted chili, curry leaves, black mustard and cumin seeds, and small nugget of asafoetida into powder.  Transfer them to a bowl and stir in the whole roasted sesame seeds.

 

Prepare the Batter

  • Rinse the brown basmati and flattened red poha rice, and transfer to a bowl. Cover with fresh spring (untreated) water.
  • Rinse the chana dal and methi seeds and transfer them to another bowl. Cover with fresh spring water.  Soak both overnight (7 to 8 hours).
  • Drain and reserve the water from the soaked rice. Transfer the soaked rice to a high-speed blender. Run on high speed for 5 minutes, adding back only as much of the soaking water as needed to blend the rice into a smooth batter.  Pour the blended rice into a very large glass mixing bowl.
  • Drain and reserve the water from the soaked chana dal and methi seeds. Transfer them to a high-speed blender. Run on high speed for 5 minutes, adding only as much of the dal soaking water as needed to yield a silky-smooth batter.
  • Combine the blended dal with the blended rice and stir to combine them well. 
  • Stir in the soy yogurt and shiro miso, dissolving them completely into the batter. The mixing bowl must be large enough to allow for batter to rise a few inches as it ferments.  Mark the level of the batter with a piece of tape so you can gauge how much it rises.
  • Place in a warm, draft-free space, a proofing box, or oven set to 100°F. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. 
  • Allow the batter to ferment for about 24 hours or until it becomes frothy and light.  Less time may be required if the ambient temperature is hot.  Stir and taste the batter occasionally. When the ferment is ready, the batter will have risen several inches, the batter should taste mildly tangy and smell fresh.
  • Do not over-ferment the batter. If you do, the lactobacilli bacteria will deplete the nutrients they consume and eventually begin to die off. If that happens, the batter will begin to fall and develop off-flavors, and it will be necessary to make a fresh batch.
  • Combine the chopped garlic and ginger in a coffee grinder and grind them into a smooth garlic-ginger paste.
  • Fold in turmeric powder, garlic-ginger paste, and minced green chilis.
  • Line a steamer or a baking pan that can fit in a larger pot for steaming with parchment paper. Pour in the batter to desired thickness, typically 1 inch.
  • Sprinkle the spice blend over the surface of the batter.
  • Steam for 20 to 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.  Cool.  Gently pull away parchment paper.
  • Cut Khatta Dhokla into small squares. Plate the and garnish if you like with cilantro leaves, and chopped onion, sliced scallion, or chives.

 

Khatta Dhokla

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