Food from the Indian subcontinent is marvellous and varied - so varied that grouping them all under one “Indian” cuisine is a discredit to the different styles to be found. The western state of Gujarat, for example, is home to many famous vegetarian dishes such as thali, and snacks such as samosas, pathra, and dhokla.
The latter is a fantastic example of a versatile dish that can be eaten as a snack, breakfast, side, or even as a main. Dhokla is essentially a batter from rice and chickpea flour that is left to soak and ferment overnight, then is spiced, baked, steamed, and/or fried. The small pieces are served by themselves or accompanied by rice, chutneys, and pickles.
Dhokla has a slightly thick texture similar to a spongy bread. The light fermentation it undergoes overnight imparts a slightly sour flavour that pairs nicely with the natural sweetness from the flours. The chosen spices and seeds mixed into the dhokla will determine the rest of the flavour profile: mustard seeds are common, as are curry leaves and green chillies. Because the savoury cake is such a blank canvas, a number of variations exist.
A popular version is khaman dhokla. Where traditional dhokla is made with a mix of rice and chickpea flours, khaman is made exclusively from chickpea flour (also referred to as chana dal flour, gram flour, or besan) and has a more yellow appearance. Khaman also generally has a higher amount of baking soda than dhokla to make a lighter texture.
There is also white dhokla, also known as khatta dhokla or idra. The flour mix is rice and skinless black lentils, or urad dal. The absence of chickpea flour and added yoghurt to help it sour are what makes this version white in colour.
The chickpea flour in dhokla makes the dish a good source of protein and fibre. And if you’re only steaming them and not frying, you won’t get the added oils that it can absorb. Finally, the fermentation the batter undergoes makes the ingredients more digestible as well as providing good bacteria that promote gut health.
Khaman dhokla is perhaps the most widespread and popular version of dhokla outside Gujarat. This recipe comes from Hebbar’s Kitchen and cuts out the long fermentation and includes ENO fruit salt instead for lift, making this an instant version.
1½ cup besan / gram flour
3 tbsp rava / semolina / suji, fine
½ tsp ginger paste
2 chilli, finely chopped
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp sugar
pinch hing / asafoetida
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp oil
1 cup water
½ tsp ENO fruit salt
3 tsp oil
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp cumin / jeera
1 tsp sesame / til
pinch hing / asafoetida
few curry leaves
2 chilli, slit
¼ cup water
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp coconut, grated
2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
Firstly, in a large mixing bowl sieve 1½ cup besan and 3 tbsp rava.
Add ½ tsp ginger paste, 2 chilli, ¼ tsp turmeric, 1 tsp sugar, pinch hing, ½ tsp salt, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp oil.
Prepare a smooth batter adding 1 cup of water or as required.
Additionally, add ½ tsp of eno fruit salt. You can alternatively use a pinch of baking soda.
Immediately steam the dhokla batter for 20 minutes.
Next, cut the dhokla and pour the tempering (to make the tempering, lightly fry the spices in the oil then add water until boiling, and reserve).
Garnish the dhokla with 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves and 2 tbsp fresh grated coconut.
Finally, serve instant khaman dhokla with green chutney and tamarind chutney.
Now add 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp ENO. Mix all the ingredients in the batter. Do not over mix.
Grease a mould using oil.
Pour the batter till ¾ (75%) of the mould.
Take a deep pan.
Add a base elevation. You can use any small bowl or plate or separator.
Fill ¼ part of the cooking kadai or cooker with water. The water should not cross the elevation.
Place the Dhokla mould on base elevation and cover it with lid. (if you are using cooker, do not put whistle on the lid)
Cook it on medium flame for 25 – 30 min.
Remove from the kadai/cooker and demould it on a plate.
Cut the dhokla in small pieces.
Dhokla recipe without ENO
ENO is a fruit salt made with 60% baking soda and 40% citric acid generally added to encourage lift. However, there are ways to make dhokla omitting this additive, such as in thisrecipe adapted from Achala Food.
For dhokla batter:
1 cup Gram flour Besan
2 tbsp Suji/Rava/Semolina
1 tbsp Oil
1 tbsp Lemon juice
1/2 tbsp Sugar
Salt as required
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder haldi
1 cup Water
1/2 tbsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp Baking soda
1 tbsp Oil
1 tbsp Red mustard seeds
1 tbsp Lemon juice
1 tbsp Sugar
Salt as per taste
6-7 Green chilies
Collect all the required ingredients.
In a mixing bowl add besan, suji, salt, turmeric powder, 1/2 tbsp sugar and mix well.
Add a little water at a time to make a thick batter. Mix it well.
Now add 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp of cooking oil. Mix everything really well.
Now cover and set aside for 30 minutes to ferment.
Grease the mould to be used for steaming the dhokla with some oil or ghee.
Take a vessel for steaming the dhokla with a lid. Add 2 cups of water to it and place a base stand (such as another smaller pot) inside the vessel. Cover and let it simmer on medium flame.
After the batter has fermented, add baking soda and baking powder.
Mix well. If the batter is too thick, water can be added to bring to a smooth consistency. The batter should froth and bubble, so you have to be quick.
Pour this batter over the greased mould and spread evenly.
When you see a gentle boil in the water, place the mould with batter over it.
Cover with lid and let it simmer on medium flame until the batter is cooked through. It will take 18-20 minutes.
After 18 minutes insert a knife or toothpick to check the consistency. If it doesn’t come out clean, leave to steam for a while longer.
Allow it to cool down for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a small pan and add red mustard seeds, cover, and allow them to crackle.
When the seeds are crackling, add 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp sugar, green chillies, and salt.
Mix well and let it simmer. Tempering is ready.
When the dhokla cools down a bit, with a knife gently slide along the edges to separate it from the plate.
Invert the mould over another plate. Dhokla will slide on the plate.
Slice the dhokla in small to medium size chunks as desired.
Pour this tempering over the dhokla evenly with the help of a spoon.
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