Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dhoklas (Say No More)

        This is a haunting, apocalyptic winter morning following yesterday's snow-lightning storms and nearly fatal (for me; I hope others fared better) driving conditions.  But I need to head to Wilmington, Delaware for a promising business coven, which I expect I'll learn has been canceled sometime during the journey down there when reaching for the cell phone in the car at the most dangerous possible moment.

        No worry (rather, no worry worth indulging) -- if I get far enough, I can always visit Total Wine in Claymont, Delaware, just over the Pennsylvania border, a highly refined wine and spirits megastore, which offers visiting Pennsylvanians considerable savings while reminding them of the chasm of difference dividing individual imagination, ingenuity and drive from our local Soviet-style liquor sales and distribution system, which was put in place as a "temporary" (but of course never repealed)  revenue raising measure to deal with continuing financial burdens on the state following the now-ancient Johnstown flood.

        This is a piece about dhoklas, possibly the most delicious breakfast or snack (apart from Pennsylvania scrapple, savory fried cornmeal mush, or my own Breakfast Biblical Burritos) known to man.   It is a sort of Gujurati Indian version of American corn bread (the close resemblance is found in their texture and, to some extent, their appearance; the taste, which is informed by chickpea, mustard seed and green chili, is entirely different).  I've included a short Wikipedia article below for background information, a couple of pictures that appeal to me, and a recipe (whose English usage I've tried to regularize and will continue to improve in the future).  Dhoklas look easy and enjoyable to make, especially if you enjoy fooling around with steam and double- boilers.

        I would like very much to prepare fresh dhoklas myself, but I'm fortunate to have an Indian bakery source -- Royal India Grocery in Paoli -- just down the road.  They sell dhokla at a very reasonable price and I would hate for my merchant to lose a regular customer.

        I highly recommend adding dhoklas to your life immediately.  They are unforgettable and briefly, but always, chase away the blues.

From Wikipedia:

Dhokla or 'Khummun' is a snack from the Indian state of Gujarat made with a fermented batter of gram (chickpeas)

Chickpeas, or besan in some recipes, are soaked overnight. This paste is fermented for four to five hours, then is spiced by adding chile pepper, ginger, and baking soda.

The dhokla is then steamed for about 15 minutes on a flat dish and cut into pieces. It is fried in a distinct way, wherein oil is heated with mustard seeds in it, until mustard cracks, then assafoetida and chopped green chilies added to this. Sometimes, equal amount of water also added with little sugar to this oil, and then it is poured over the Khaman, after this only pieces are removed from dish. It is usually served with deep fried chilies and chutney made of besan. It is garnished with coriander and often with grated coconut.

Khatta dhokla, Khaman dhokla, Rasia dhokla, and cheese dhokla are varieties of dhokla prepared by Gujarati households and are now also locally available in sweet shops all over India.

Recipe (Adapted from Indian home cooking online source):

              1 cup besan (gram flour/chickpea flour)
·              2/3 cup of water
·              1/4 tsp turmeric powder
·              1 tsp salt
·              1 tsp ginger-green chilli paste
·              1 tbsp lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
·              1 tsp Eno fruit salt
·              1 tsp oil
·             Tempering (Tadka)
·              1 tbsp oil
·              100 ml water (1 small cup)
·              1 tsp mustard seeds (kali sarson)
·              1 tsp lemon juice
·              2-3 green chillies- slit vertically
·              1 tsp sugar 
·               Finely chopped coriander leaves for garnish

1.     1.  Put the besan in a bowl and add water little by little, mixing to create a lump-free batter.

2.     2.  Add salt, turmeric powder to the batter. Let rest, covered, for 20 minutes.

        3.  Grease the thali (platter) in which the dhokla is to be steamed.  Pour 1 glass of water in an outer container (double-boiler) and put it on the heat.  Let it come to a rolling boil.

        4.  In the meanwhile, add ginger-green chili paste to the batter.  In a small bowl, take lemon juice and mix 1 tsp oil and eno fruit salt.  Pour this over dhokla batter and mix.

        5.  Immediately pour this batter on the greased thali.  Put a stand on an inverted small bowl in the outer container containing boiling water and place this thali over it.  Cover the container with a plate. 

        6.  Let the dhokla steam for 5-7 minutes undisturbed over full flame.  Then let it steam for another 15 minutes (20 minutes in total).  The heat should be high so that a lot of steam is formed.  Check by inserting the tip of a clean knife.  If nothing sticks to it, the dhokla is ready.  Otherwise, steam a little longer.

        7.  Remove the thali containing the dhokla from the container and let it cool for 2-3 minutes.  Take out the dhokla from the thali and remove to another plate.  Let it cool down and then cut the dhokla into squares or diamonds.

        8. For the tadka, heat oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds.  When they pop, add green chilis.  After a few seconds, add water and sugar.  Let it come to a boil, turn off the heat and add lemon juice.  

        9.  Pour this tadka over dhokla pieces and put dhokla in the refrigerator.  Let the tadka get absorbed, turning the dhoklas soft.  Garnish the khamman dhokla with chopped coriander leaves. 

Bl   Blue Dwarf in the court of King Mahabali seeking alms. Not the blues I'm seeking to chase away.

·                 Notes: 

         1.The batter should not sit for long after adding Eno fruit salt otherwise dhokla will not rise.

·              2. Mix eno in the lemon juice first and not directly in the batter.

·              3. The gas stove should be on high heat or full flame for steaming the dhokla.

·              4. You can also make dhokla in an idli stand.

·              5. The tempering should contain water for soft dhokla.

·              6. The outer container could be a vessel or a kadhai/wok.

·              7. You can also steam in a pressure cooker with weight (whistle) removed.

·              8. The dhokla batter should neither be too thick nor thin otherwise dhokla won’t come out right.




  1. Total wine! Many a Swarthmore undergraduate ventured there...

  2. That's interesting. We never ventured toward Delaware at all. Our trips to the State Store in Media were very different, as were the State Stores then. Mostly people purchased large, fairly disgusting tasting bottles of a jug wine produced by a California company called Cribari. The label featured the picture of a man who looked like a skinnier relative of that famous Ghirlandaio painting of the old man with the syphilitic nose. Total Wine is a total improvement. The last two days down in S.E. PA have been nightmarish. Hope things are better where you are. Curtis