14 March 2012

Let's Make Pesarattu

This is what it looks like when it's cooked:
This is what it looks like when you first put it on the skillet. Notice how there are peaks that are still uncooked, like there were in the adai. When almost all of the peaks are turned to the cooked colour, you're ready to flip.

So you've mastered the dosa. You've knocked out a few adai. Now it's time to go outside of Tamil Nadu, and head over to Andhra Pradesh, where you will find Pesarattu. The recipe I used was loosely based on the #Vachef one, as well as a couple of others I saw.

Andhra is a beautiful state with a long and colourful history, replete with opposites. It's the nest of orthodox Muslims. It's quite a common sight to see a man walking along with a couple of women in full black burqa. It's also the home to very devout Hindus, one of whom built a temple completely out of white marble. Meanwhile, you've got the Charminar less than 10 km away from the Birla Mandir.

The Andhra taste for hot spicy food is legendary. They adore hot chilies in everything, and will generously share their blisteringly hot food with all who visit. There's also a bit of a sweet tooth, with dishes like bobbatulu (a sort of sweet roti), and kajjikayalu (a sweet stuffed with coconut and cardamom; there is nothing about this that sounds bad).

I guess I've always had a soft spot for Hyderebad, because my aunts who live there have an extensive book collection, which they had no problems sharing with me while I was there. You see, I was never a huge fanatic for TV the way some folks are. I'll watch it if there's a cooking show on, or if there's a particularly nice documentary, but TV overall doesn't interest me. Books, on the other hand, are a different story.

Unfortunately, books in India are prohibitively expensive. People with large book collections are rare in the extreme. Comics, on the other hand, are prevalent and plentiful. I remember an aunt of mine in Chennai who had stacks upon stacks of Amar Chitra Katha comics, ranging from the Bhagavad Gita (it was a large multi issue hard bound version) to a bunch of other ones that I can't recall.

It was pleasurable, but nothing quite scratched that reading itch for me like reading actual books. In Hyderebad, I found my oasis. I had read and re-read the books I'd brought with me (something like half my suitcase was crammed with books), and I was going a little out of my mind. My aunt's book collection at that time in my life when I was so hungry for more was exactly what I needed to make that trip pleasant.

But I digress. Onwards to the food!

This recipe makes 4 1/2 10-inch crepes. You may increase or decrease as needed. I made this batch in this manner, because I ran out of rice. Again. Ugh. I made these plain, without onion, because I ran out of onions too. I really need to go shopping.

3/4 cup mung beans, with the skin and everything still on
1/4 cup brown rice
3 TB rice flour
3 green chilies
3 stalks curry leaf
3 inches ginger, chopped roughly
Salt, to taste
2 cups Water, for soaking

In a high-sided container, combine the brown rice and mung beans, and cover with 2 cups of water for soaking. Leave it that way overnight. The next morning, your beans and rice should have absorbed all but about 1 inch of water. This is fine, because you'll be adding some rice flour to thicken anyway.

Using a stick blender (or regular blender), grind the beans, chilies, curry leaf, and ginger together to make a thick batter. Stir through the salt and rice flour. If the batter becomes too thick, add a bit more water, and stir through. Because of the high content of beans, the crepes cohere quite nicely, so don't worry if your batter is thick or thin. It'll be fine.

Just as you do for adai or dosa, spread the batter onto a hot griddle, and sprinkle a few drops of oil on the perimeter of the crepe. Cook on both sides until browned and crispy. Delicious!

Steve took one bite (even though he'd already eaten oatmeal this morning) and moaned in delight. The best part of this for me is that it was all things I had around the house. If you don't have curry leaves or green chiles, just leave it out. The ginger is essential, as the masses of beans in the dish will leave you a bit gassy. The ginger tends to combat that rather well.