What is Dhokla?
Dhokla is a nutritious Indian food with a base of fermented chickpea batter and rice. It originates from the Gujarat region, though its popularity has spread throughout India. While the base for the recipe stays essentially the same, its flavor can be adjusted in various ways with curd, yogurt, cheese, and a wide array of spices. It is a snack commonly found in sweet shops.
The base for dhokla consists of rice and chickpeas, or a chickpea flour which is known as besan. In some recipes, the batter is also prepared with yogurt. All of these ingredients are first soaked for many hours, often overnight. The soaked ingredients are then mashed into a paste which is allowed to ferment for several more hours.
After fermentation, spices such as ginger and chili peppers and baking soda are added to the batter. The dough is steamed for several minutes. Then it is cut into pieces and fried with mustard seeds. The frying process is complete when the seeds begin to crackle and pop. Then the dish is further seasoned with green chopped chilies and an herb with a similar flavor to leeks called assafoetida.
In some recipes, a mixture of water, sugar and oil are poured over the completed dish. Dhokla is often garnished with coconut or coriander. It is also frequently served with besan chutney and deep-fried chilies.
Recipes for dhokla can vary by household and region. Instead of chickpeas, the type of lentil could be another variety such as urad dal, also known black grams. The dish can also be prepared with paneer cheese and used as a sandwich filling. Khatta dhokla is a version of the dish made with sour curds. Rasiya dhokla contains a dramatically different mix of spices, including tarmind, jiggery and garam masala.
The dish is often mistaken for khamman dhokla, a similar snack food with a batter made primarily of chickpeas or besan. The primary difference between the two is that there is no rice in the base recipe and it is not fermented. Khamman, like dhokla, is also seasoned with chilies and mustard seed and garnished with coconut and coriander.
The Gujarat region is in northwestern India, and consists of four major areas: North Gujarat, Kathiawad, Kachchh, and South Gujarat. Gujarati cuisine is mostly vegetarian, with a wide variety in recipes across these regions. Common dishes tend to consist of a mix of spicy, sweet, and salty flavors.
@burcidi-- You don't have to do it that way. If you have an Indian or Southeast Asian grocery nearby, you can find both rice flour and lentil flour there.
Sometimes, they even carry dhokla flour which has both pre-mixed in a package. All you have to do is add hot water and any spices or yogurt in it that you want. But do this the night before and leave it to ferment just like the original recipe of dhokla.
As for steaming, if you don't have a steamer, you can put the batter into heat resistant molds and into a large pot with some water in it. It will steam in about 10-15 minutes on the stove like that. It's okay if the shape is different.
I've been looking for new vegetarian recipes and ran into this which sounds great. I love foods that combine a starch and a protein because it makes a complete meal.
The hardest part of a vegetarian diet for me is getting enough protein. The options can be kind of limited and boring. I think I've had enough of tofu and hummus for the rest of my life!
I really want to try making dhokla, but it does sound like it requires a lot of preparation- soaking the lentils, rice and then grinding it.
And do I need a special steamer for this? All of the dhokla recipes I've seen showed the dhokla cooked in a tray and cut into cubes. What's the best and easiest way to steam dhokla?
I've been to India before and have many Indian friends. Every region in India has a unique cuisine and different stable foods. For example, in Punjab, parathas (stuffed flatbreads) are popular, in South India, dosa (lentil bread) is eaten a lot. In Gujarat, it's the dhokla.
Even though I did see some dhokla and other Gujrati foods in other parts of India, they were in restaurants owned by Gujratis. So I think that dhokla is still largely unique to Gujarat and the Gujju community. In fact, some of my non-Gujrati friends don't understand why Gujratis love dhokla and don't really like to eat it.
I personally like dhokla. The ones I've had were all fluffy and mildly sweet. It makes for a great mid-meal snack and is absolutely delicious with green chutney. I still eat them, I can get instant dhokla at some Indian groceries. It's not as good as the fresh ones, but still pretty good.
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