Kundu Thosai / Paniyaram

(30-45 minutes + soaking & fermenting time, makes 25-30)

Kundu thosai are round lentil & flour ‘pancake balls,’ similar to Dutch poffertjes, Danish aebelskiver, or Japanese takoyaki in approach, and they can be made in the same kind of pan. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they came to Sri Lanka by way of Dutch colonizers, though you’d need to consult a food historian to be sure!

Poffertjes use a pan with smaller (and more) indentations than aebelskiver — depending on your pan, you may need to adjust cooking time appropriately for your kundu thosai; larger balls will take a few minutes longer to cook through.

They’re typically made with leftover thosai batter, but you can certainly just make kundu thosai straight up. Remember to start at least a day and a half before you plan to eat them, as there’s a soaking lentils 6-8 hr step and a fermenting batter 6-8 hr step. They can be made with rice flour (traditional), wheat flour (softer), or a combination of the two.

Savory versions are sometimes dressed up with a little onion and chili (raw or sautéed briefly), and sweet versions add in jaggery, cardamom and fresh coconut. Do note that the sweet versions are still using fermented batter, so the sour-sweet flavor combo may not be what you expect; I have to admit that my kids have not quite decided if they approve or not!

Savory kundu thosai served with a little coconut chutney is a pretty perfect breakfast for me, and the lentils give a great healthy boost to your day.

INGREDIENTS:

1 c. urad dal / black gram / ulunththu, skinless and split
1 c. flour, divided
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
water to make batter

vegetable oil

Savory variation: 1/2 – 1 c. chopped onions and 1-3 chopped green chilies

Sweet variation: 1/4 – 1/2 c. jaggery or brown sugar, 1/2 t. cardamom, and 1/2 c. fresh coconut

1. Soak black gram for 6-8 hours or overnight (I would usually start this the afternoon before I planned to serve them, so starting Saturday afternoon for Sunday brunch). Grind finely using a grinder or food processor, to a thick paste — add a little water if needed for smooth grinding.

2. In a frying pan, toast 1/2 c. flour on high heat, stirring constantly, until light brown (5-10 minutes).

3. Mix toasted flour, remaining 1/2 c. flour, baking soda, salt. Add in ground dal and sufficient water to mix and create a batter. You’re aiming for a pourable batter, a little thicker than pancake batter; stir in water 1/2 c. at a time until you get the consistency right.

4. Set aside batter in a warm place to ferment for 6-8 hours or overnight. (If you’re in a cool climate, a good option is an oven that’s been warmed up and then turned off.) The batter should rise and likely double in bulk, so be sure there’s enough room in your bowl for that; you may want to put something under it to catch any spills.

Ready to cook! (If you haven’t made coconut chutney yet, pause and make that now, so that it’s ready when the kundu thosai start coming hot out of the pan.)

5. Stir batter (it will deflate). Heat molded pan on medium heat and add a little oil to each indentation. When oil is hot, add a spoonful of batter to each. Use a skewer, fork, or chopsticks to turn the kundu thosai to cook on the other side. (In Denmark, knitting needles are traditional!)

6. Remove from molds when cooked through, a few minutes each; serve warm with coconut chutney (recommended). You can also serve with other chutneys or with curry.

SAVORY VARIATION: Chop some onion, green chili, and curry leaves; sauté in oil for a few minutes if you like, or leave raw. Stir into batter.

SWEET VARIATION: Add some jaggery or brown sugar, ground cardamom, and fresh grated coconut to the batter. Note that they’ll look darker as they come off the pan, due to the caramelizing sugar in the batter.

Sometimes My Cooking Isn’t so Fancy

When I was working on the keerai (spinach) pittu recipe last week, I needed a curry to go with it. Jed was still visiting then, so I went for something vegetarian — I was also trying to use up various tired veggies in the fridge. This is a really basic approach to a default Sri Lankan vegetable curry. (It’s usually referred to as a ‘white’ curry there, because it doesn’t contain red chili or turmeric, though it’s actually more of a light tan.)

Step 1 — Chop onions (always step 1 for curries). If you’re feeling energetic, add in some chopped ginger and garlic. Heat oil and sauté with mustard seed, cumin seed, and salt until onions are golden-translucent. Add pepper if you want; if you like fenugreek or fennel seed, feel free to stir some of those in too. (If you put in lots of fenugreek, which is a galactagogue, white curries are traditional preparations for nursing mothers.)

Step 2 — Sauté. Add in whatever veggies you like, based on cooking time — root vegetables cut small and added at least 10 minutes before softer veggies like bell peppers or eggplant. I had some green chilies, tired shredded carrots, chopped sugar snap pea pods, curry leaves, and I’m not sure what else got tossed in. 🙂

Step 3 — Add some water and simmer a bit ’til veggies are cooked through. Taste and see if you’d like a little lime juice for balance — I usually do. You could stop and eat it at this point.

Step 4 — If you’d like it a little more rich (recommended), add in a can of coconut milk (or cow / goat / etc. milk is fine too) and simmer, stirring, until well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Step 4 — For added heft, boil some eggs, slice in half, and slip those in too. Yum.

Finalizing Recipes

Okay, and here the recipes still to finalize, I think. Coming soon! Although there are 24 here, and only supposed to be 15 or so, so some may be cut — if there are recipes here you’d particularly like to see, let me know!

Grains:
* jaggery rice– serve with plantains
* kundu thosai
* kurakkan (millet) roti
* hal piti roti (onion-chili bread)

* steamed roasted appams

Soups and Gravies:
* dhal rasam

* fenugreek gravy

Savory Fruits, Flowers and Vegetables:
* whole eggplant fry
* kaliya curry (Muslim dish, eggplant, plantain, and potato)
* spicy long beans

* spicy mashed green gram balls

Fake Meats:

• “Beyond” chicken curry?

Accompaniments:
* rose & hibiscus salad
* ginger sambal

* tomato & passionfruit jam

Snacks:

• bonda

Desserts:
* bibbikan, mixed spice coconut slices
* vatalappam with aquafaba (might not work!)
* sesame, date, and coconut balls
* Dutch flower cookies
* mashed banana fritters

* green gram pudding

Drinks:

* pineapple and cinnamon sherbet

* beetroot juice with cardamom and lime

Working On the Table of Contents

Spending a little time this morning trying to figure out what I want to include in Vegan Serendib. I’d really like to finalize the table of contents by the end of April, and I think that’s do-able. The plan was to remove all the meat and fish and egg recipes from Feast (about 40), and replace those with 40 new vegan recipes from Sri Lanka.

The problem isn’t finding those — the problem is narrowing down which ones to include. So far, I’m pretty happy with all of these, which means I probably have room for about 10-15 more. I kind of lost track of my test cooks last fall when things got busy (I blame the pandemic and switching to online teaching), so I need to ask people to start test cooking recipes again.

I kind of love that the Vegetables section has expanded to Savory Fruits, Flowers, and Vegetables. There’s a rose & hibiscus salad coming, for example. 🙂

*****

SAVORY FRUITS, FLOWERS, and VEGETABLES:

• Bottle Gourd and Spinach Curry: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161550809829616

• Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Jaggery, Balsamic, and Cayenne:

https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161625256254616

• Green Chili Curry: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10162062139529616

• Green Tomato and Lentil Curry: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161542190374616

– tested by Taylor, Lucinda, Jennifer, Linda

• Dried Hibiscus Poriyal: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161534798914616

• Hibiscus (Shoeflower) Curry / Sembaruthipoo Kari: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161535931054616

• Pineapple Curry with Coconut Milk and Saffron: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161949008449616

• Mild Green Plantain Curry: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161568742619616

• Spicy Plantain Curry: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161568698699616

• Tempered Green Plantain Peel: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161570297779616

• Pumpkin Curry: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161581447339616

ACCOMPANIMENTS:

• Green Tomato Chutney with Apples: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161531491924616

– tested by Jude and Jessica

• Quick-Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161534135234616

– tested by Maya

• Eggplant Pickle / Brinjal Moju: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161597857279616

• Spicy Pineapple Pickle (Achar): https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161948554219616

• Plantain Sambol: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161569885339616

• Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161582154884616

SOUPS:

• Curried Pumpkin Soup: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161582206649616

GRAINS:

• Keerai (Spinach) Pittu: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10162072391064616

• Milk Rice / Kiri Bath (with Bottle Gourd variation): https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161553704479616

• Tamarind Rice with Black Lentils: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161951228944616

• Toasted Coconut and Sesame Rice, with Black Lentils: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161952261869616

SWEETS:

• Lime & Coconut Scones, with Lime Glaze: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161969747104616

• Mango-Ginger Scones, topped with Jaggery: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10161854232729616

• Irasavalli Kizhangu Kanji / Purple Yam Pudding or Porridge: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj/posts/10162109419154616

Irasavalli Kizhangu Kanji / Purple Yam Pudding or Porridge

(30 minutes, serves 4)

This is one of the prettiest Sri Lankan dishes — the color is sure to delight dinner guests and children. It’s healthy too! Yams are good for you, and so is coconut milk; you can feel happy serving this dessert to one and all. Irasavalli is also often eaten for breakfast, in the same way as a rice congee (or oatmeal).

Purple yam (Dioscorea alata), also known as ube (Philippines) or isu ewura (Nigeria), is native to Southeast Asia. It can be found fresh and frozen in your local Asian grocery stores.

2 c. purple yams, peeled and diced
2 c. coconut milk
1 c. water
1/4 c. sugar or honey
1 T lime juice
pinch of salt

1 drop rose essence, or pinch of cardamom (optional)

1. In a saucepan, combine yams, coconut milk, and water. Bring to a boil and cook ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until yams are cooked through.

2. Remove from heat and either mash with the back of a wooden spoon, or use a blender (an immersion blender makes it easy) to puree the yam and combine it with the coconut milk.

3. When well blended, return to heat, add remaining ingredients, and simmer 10-15 minutes more, stirring, until pudding is thick and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan.

4. Serve hot, with your choice of garnishes — ripe banana, ripe mango, coconut flakes are all good options.

NOTE: If you’re using frozen yams, they may have lost some color in the freezing process. If the purple is not sufficiently purple for your delight, do feel free to add a drop or two of food coloring.

Sri Lankan Sesame Seed Balls Experiments

Well, that was a little frustrating. I tried making two different versions of Sri Lankan sesame seed balls, hoping to include one in Vegan Serendib, and I’m afraid I didn’t like either one. They’re both Jaffna recipes, Ella Urundai (sesame fudge) and Sesame Seed Pori Ma, and both made with roasted sesame seeds, rice floor, and jaggery.

They came out looking fine (though I did need to add a little sesame oil to help them bind together). But I just don’t like the taste — it has an edge of bitterness, and the roasted rice flour is kind of grainy even after binding with the flour and jaggery.

It might’ve worked better if I’d done a jaggery syrup, and combined in that? I’m not sure. But I think I’m going to try a different approach if I do this again — there are Sinhalese recipes for sesame balls made with jaggery and coconut — no rice flour, and that sounds better. I’ve also seen variations adding in Medjool dates, which sounds yum. (I’m not positive I actually like sesame candy, though, which might be the real problem.)

Alas. Sometimes, experiments don’t work out. We still learn things. Science!