For the one who has not seen a modak before, it is quite likely that he or she will mistake it for an oddly shaped momo. Another way to describe this delicacy from the western and southern states of India is to call them sweet dumplings. The word dumpling brings to our mind a vivid picture of the oriental cuisine. After all, momo is a dumpling and it originated in Tibet. It also has its distant cousins—some sweet and others savoury—in China. But our very own Indian cuisine has a wide variety of this delicacy, be it steamed or fried, sweet or savoury.
History says that modak originated in Maharashtra. But you will also find it in Karnataka with a slightly different name—modhaka. In Tamil Nadu it is known as kozhakkattai and in Andhra Pradesh these sweet dumplings are called kudumu. The core ingredients of modak are coconut and jaggery. A mixture of these two ingredients along with raisins, cashew nut and cardamom is used to make the filling of this sweet dish. Rice flour dough is rolled out in circular shape and is filled with coconut stuffing. These are then steamed or fried.
Dumplings in India are not restricted to modak. Could you name a traditional Indian delicacy that is cooked like the Italian ravioli? Fara. It is a traditional recipe from Varanasi. Made from rice flour dough and steamed, fara is popular for the different kind of stuffing that it can be experimented with.
Kolukattai and pidi, although may not be hugely popular in mainstream India as the southern delicacy dosa is, are delicious rice dumplings from Kerala. Traditionally kolukattai is sweet rice dumplings with coconut and jaggery fillings and pidi is cooked rice balls prepared with a mixture of rice powder, grated coconut and onion-garlic paste. Pidiyum Kozhiyum is an interesting combination of rice balls and traditional chicken gravy cooked with coconut and curry leaves. This simple yet elaborate preparation is a mouth-watering delicacy where the steamed rice balls compliment the fiery flavours of the chicken gravy.
Pitha is a sweet dish that represents a wide genre of traditional recipes in Assam. Steamed pitha, with a preparation almost like modak, is a popular rice dumpling with coconut and jaggery or sugar fillings.
For the filling
- 1 cup grated coconut
- 1 cup grated jaggery
- 5-6 cardamom
- 2 tbsp ghee
For the shell
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tsp ghee
- 1 cup of rice flour
For the fillling
- Heat a pan, add the grated coconut and jaggery.
- Stir for about five minutes. Add the cardamom and ghee, mix well.
- Cook for another five minutes and keep aside.
For the modak
- Boil water in a heavy bottom kadhai. Add the rice flour and ghee.
- Mix well and keep stirring.
- Cover and cook till the mixture is half done.
- Grease a dish with ghee and knead the rice dough while it is still warm.
- Take a little dough and make it into a ball like the ones made for chapattis.
- Flatten the ball and roll it into a circular shape.
- Put a spoonful of the filling into it and seal the sides.
- Do the same for the rest of the dough and filling.
- Steam the dumplings in a steamer for 10-15 minutes or till they are done.