Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sabudana Thalipeeth - a Maharastrian delicacy made my way

Hope everyone's weekend was fun and fulfilling. Mine is (I have a few more hours left in the day and I definitely will milk it to the last possible minute:-)). With showers coming down strongly for the last 2 days, it has been a little cooler than it was earlier in the week. The trees and shrubs in the yard are doing a happy dance, fresh from their bath, the dust is washed off the leaves and they look spotless, brighter and happier.

I worked from home due to a really minor and freak fall I had at work (no worker's compensation material, this one :-)), lesson learnt - dont try to walk on a foot that is asleep, and don't lean on a chair handle that is not fixed. The foot swell up to a small pumpkin size and refused to go into the shoes. It was like Cinderalla's much bigger sister trying to squeeze her foot into the dainty little glass slippers, I gave up and opted to work from home for last 2 days. There was so much to catch up coming back from the 4 day long vacation and the working from home just seemed to stretch the days longer. I was exhausted completely when I wrapped up late Friday evening and the positivity of the vacation had almost wore off.
After 3.5 days of icing and keeping the foot elevated, it has shrunk to almost the original size and I am able to walk around normally. Getting up and walking around in the slightly wet, totally green and beautifully fragrant yard helped me to bounce back. We did our (hopefully) last round of spring cleaning this weekend, yeah it takes all of spring and then some to get it done :-), and are now just waiting excitedly for DD to get home next week. 3 weeks of summer bliss after that.

I recently read an article by a very popular Indian nutritionist named Rujuta Diwekar here. I will say it is one of the more comprehensive write ups about the food we eat, trends in people's food habits and the changing fads and notions about super foods at any given time. I say comprehensive because it almost touched on both sides of the coin and one term that resonated with me is the 'yo-yo' concept of adapting a certain trend as the super food only to find a few years later that it never was a super food and then jump to something different. I guess we humans take joy in transient things in life and are always on the look out for something??
I liked the detailed explanation in that article about why not to go after certain food fads, and her championing locally grown food. However, I personally feel that there is a need for tailoring the traditional food habits to the modern life too. Given the life style differences between our generation and that of our parents & grandparents, it simply is not realistic to assume that we would digest and benefit from the food in the same way they once did. My physical activity is nowhere to close to that of what my parents did, I sit infront of my laptop for more than 8 hours a day by way of work and then some more hours of browsing, emailing, personal work on the machine. I have to make a conscious effort to get my limbs moving while my parents got their 10K steps easily as part of their daily chores. It was much easier for them to digest the 2 spoons of ghee than it is for me :-). While I like her argument of continuing the traditional food habits, I would still tailor those to suit the current life style. If I were a farmer working in the field or someone doing manual labor every day, 2 spoons of ghee would have been a necessity perhaps, but for now it is a luxury that grows on my waistline :-). She is the nutritionist, I am not. So my opinion is my own and I am not asking anyone to follow it.
Talking of traditional food, here is one. Simple, delicious and preferred on 'vrat' days. Now that concept of 'vrat' when you are supposed to be eating light or fasting entirely is one of the most misused terms in Indian culture. Don't get me wrong, there are folks that do an honest 'fasting' and then there are some who just eat better tasting, richer food in the name of fasting/vrat :-). There is a funny poem in Kannada which goes like this, "aache mane subbamange, ivattu ekadasi upavasa, eno swalpa tintarante, avalakki, uppittu, paayasa .." :-). I won't attempt to translate it as it will spoil the fun for me but here is the synopsis of it - a lady named Subbamma was fasting on a day and she was eating a food mountain that had a multitude of dishes. Mostly, vrat days are those when people do not eat certain ingredients or ingredients in certain forms, the most common one being rice. So there is no cooked rice consumed on vrat days but there are a lot of great food and in some regions vrat foods are way more delicious than the every day, common man food.
My parents also would not eat rice on certain nights for dinner for religious beliefs and we would actually fight to get a bite of the delicious uppittu or avalakki or rotti instead of our boring anna-saaru for dinner. One of my aunts didn't eat rice in the evenings at all and her tiffin items were so sought after that she always made extra quantity for us kids :-).

This thalipeeth (or rotti) is a favored dish during vrat time in the western region of Maharashtra in India. But since I don't follow vrat, I end up making these whenever we fancy eating them. That is the best part about these traditions, they don't stop you from making/eating these delicacies on non vrat days :-). Traditionally, boiled potatoes are used in this recipe as the binding agent, I chose to add my favorite jicama instead. It works well and tastes delicious, less starchy than the spuds.

5/16/16 update: Thank you all for your interest in the recipe and questions about Jicama (pronounced as Hee Ka Ma). I realized I should have given some details about this vegetable since it is not a common one we use. Jicama is a tuber grown widely in South America (and other parts of the world) and is used commonly in Mexican cuisine. It is a tuber, usually round in shape and has a thick outer skin that needs to be peeled off. You can eat it raw or cooked, it imparts a crisp, slightly sweetish taste to the dishes. Find more information here. I have used these in cutlets and also salads.

What do you need? 
Makes about 7 thalipeeths (good bf for 2 people)
1 cup sago/sabudana/sabbakki
1 small jicama
1/4 cup peanuts (raw or roasted)
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
2 green chilies (finely chopped
2 Tbsp Rajgira flour (replace with rice flour if you like)
3/4 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 Tsp oil to roast thalipeeth
How do you make? 
  • Wash sago in 2-3 changes of water, soak in water just above the sago level(about a cup) in a wide pan over night or atleast 5 hours. 
  • You will get plumped up (it doubles in size) sago and if the amount of water is right, it will all be soaked in. 
  • If you had added extra water, don't fret, just take the entire soaked sago into a colander and let it sit and drain for 10-15 minutes before using.
  • If you had less water, don't  fret either, sprinkle a couple Tbsp water on the sago and let it sit for another 15-20 minutes
  • And finally, if the soaked sago is a little mushy, don't fret at all :-) as it helps in forming a dough easily. Remember you are looking for a soft, soaked sago with no running water accompanying it.
  • Wash, peel jicama and chop into quarters. Take it in a microwave safe bowl, cover with water and cook until soft and given in when pressed (about 10mins and I removed the bowl after 5 mins and set it back again)
  • If you are not a MW user, go ahead and boil the jicama pieces in a pot of water until they are tender. 
  • Take them out of water, let cool down and grate. You need about a cup of grated, boiled jicama for this recipe. 
  • If you are using roasted peanuts, just crush them (you can make a powder if you like or keep some pieces for the bite in the thalipeeth, choice is yours)
  • If using raw peanuts, roast them dry in a pan until the skin develops golden spots, let cool, remove the skin by rubbing the nuts together ina ziplock. Crush or powder them. 
  • Or you can even use the peanut powder if you have it ready at home :-) and save some work. 
  • Take a wide bowl (where you can work your hand muscles), add soaked sago, crushed peanuts, salt, chopped cilantro, green chilies and grated jicama. Use the hand and fingers to bring them all together into a mushy dough. 
  • Add the flour and mix well. If you take a handful of mixture it should stay as a ball and not break/fall apart at this stage. 
  • Heat a flat griddle on medium heat. 
  • Take an aluminium foil, put a couple drops of oil and spread it around. 
  • Pinch off a big lemon sized piece from the dough, place it in the center of foil and pat into a circle of desired thickness and size using your fingers. Dip your fingers in water to help the patting process and avoid sticking of the dough. 
  • Spread a couple drops of oil on the griddle, place the sheet with the thalipeeth side down and let it cook for a minute. 
  • Gently lift and peel off the sheet after a minute and let the thalipeeth cook for another 30seconds or until you notice the underside get golden brown spots all over. 
  • Flip it and let the other side cook for a minute. 
  • On medium-low heat, a thalipeeth takes about 2.5-3 minutes to cook completely. Do not do this on high heat. 
  • Transfer the cooked thalipeeth to a plate and enjoy when it is hot with a cup of yogurt of chutney/chutney pudi of choice. 
Notes: 
  • Sago should be soaked until soft for this recipe, do not use if it is dry, add some more water and let it soak.
  • Jicama starts off fibrous(like kohlrabi) when it is raw but gains a little starch as it is cooked and works its charm.
  • You can use a plastic sheet to pat the thalipeeth, and transfer them onto your hand and then to the griddle if you like :-). I prefer the ease of aluminium sheets as they can be put on the hot griddle and left there for a minute before peeling off of the thalipeeth. Plastic will not stand the heat. 
  • If you have access to banana leaves, go ahead and use them, they are the best :-)
  • The flour helps absorb excess moisture and make the dough pliable. If you choose not to add any dough at all, be gentle while patting, transferring and flipping the thalipeeth as it will easily break.
  • This thalipeeth tastes best when eaten right off the griddle, it tends to become stretchy as it cools down due to the inherent sago texture. 
  • Use potatoes (as in the classic, traditional recipe) by all means, I sometimes like to experiment with locally available veggies.