I have been on a bit of an all-things-rice trip in my cooking beyond my regular everyday stuff. I have been inspired by a bunch of food loving friends, some old and some new. Rice is at the heart of the food that we eat and we decided to take a real good look at it. This has meant a new learning curve for me. It also led me to Gandhakashala Rice Laddoos.
Sometime last month, this group of rice lovers and I met at Pondicherry over 3 days. It was a wonderful experience spending time together on serious, not-so-serious and fun conversations. I came back with lovely memories and a suitcase full of food gifts, including a variety of heritage rices. I also came back with a few recipes including Vijhay’s Gandhakashala Rice Laddoos.
Vijhay, runs a lovely eco-friendly vegetarian restaurant called Maiyam Past Food at Auroville, in Pondicherry. He treated us to coffee (with coconut milk), some lovely rice based munchies, and also dinner that featured Gandhakashala rice. Dessert turned out to be the most delicious laddoos made from Gandhakashala rice. Vijhay then brought us all gifts of Gandakashala rice to take back home. He also generously shared the recipe for his laddoos.
You can gauge how good we thought those laddoos were from Instagram. Sheetal went back home and looks like the first thing she made were those rice laddoos! Deepa also made them but using a combination of Gandhakashal and Burma Black rices. There’s a saying that good things come in threes, and with my post that holds good for these Gandhakashala Rice Laddoos.
If you’re unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, laddoos are an Indian sweet shaped like little balls. The name laddoo is very generic and describes a sweet, dry ball shaped festive confection that usually is rich in ghee. Laddoos can be made of wheat, flour, rice flour, chickpea flour, semolina, etc. The sweetener is sugar or jaggery. They can be flavoured with cardamom, saffron, coconut, chopped nuts, etc.
Before I go on to the recipe, let me tell you something about Gandhakashala rice. This rice is a heritage variety of GI-tagged rice that is traditionally grown in Wayanad district of Kerala in southern India. Gandhakashala is a short grained scented/ aromatic rice that is easily cooked and digested. It is used to cook Payasam (a sort of milk and rice pudding) and Nei Choru or Ghee Rice because of its aroma.
I chose to use the rice Vijhay gifted us to make the recipe he shared. I also added toasted thin coconut slivers to the laddoo mix. If you live in Kerala you would know that coconut goes very well with rice and jaggery. You could use fresh grated coconut but the laddoos wouldn’t keep very long. Adding a little bit of dried ginger powder is optional but takes these laddoos to the next level.
If you cannot find Gandhakshal rice, use any other raw (not boiled, steamed or similarly processed) white aromatic rice. This is a simple enough recipe but has a couple of steps that need care. The rice has to be milled/ ground into fine flour. The rice is soaked for a couple of hours, then drained and dried at room temperature till just damp. This is then milled or ground into a reasonably fine rice flour.
Then it is mixed with powdered jaggery. Ghee is heated and mixed with small amounts of the rice flour-jaggery powder to make a slightly crumbly mixture which will hold shape when tightly held in a fist. The amount of ghee required for these laddoos is not very exact. It depends on how much is absorbed by the rice flour. It helps to be judicious when adding the ghee as too much ghee leads to a greasy unappetizing laddoo. Too little ghee makes shaping difficult.
Gandhakashala Rice Laddoos
- 1 cup Gandhakashala rice
- 1 to 1 1/4 cups powdered jaggery
- 4 to 5 pods cardamom powdered
- 1/8 cup thin slivers of fresh coconut optional
- 1 tsp powdered dried ginger optional
- 1 cup ghee or more if required
- Start by turning the rice into flour. Wash and soak the rice in water for about 2 hours. Drain well and spread it out on a largish cotton kitchen towel to dry further at room temperature. Leave it for about an hour or so until it is barely damp.
- Powder the rice using a mixer-grinder or blender till the rice is quite fine and just mildly gritty. Too gritty creates an unpleasant texture in your mouth and too fine a powder doesn’t give you enough texture. Sieve the flour to separate larger grit sized pieces. Powder these again to desired texture.
- Toast or pan roast the fresh thin coconut slivers till golden brown. Cool.
- Lightly toast the rice flour in a wok over medium heat until it starts to give off an aroma. Do not brown.
- Measure the powdered rice and mix it together with an equal quantity of powdered jaggery. This is a rule of the thumb measurement. 1 cup of soaked and towel dried rice typically gives about 1 1/4 cup of powdered rice. The amount of jaggery should also be adjusted according to taste as some varieties/ batches of jaggery tend to be sweeter.
- Also stir in the powdered cardamom, toasted coconut pieces and dried ginger powder if using. Work with a third of the powdered mixture at a time. Put about a third of the mixture in a largish bowl.
- Heat the ghee in a small wok/ pan. Pour about 1/4 cup ghee into the powdered mixture. Quickly mix with a spoon. It should be crumbly in texture but hold its shape if a little bit of it is packed in your fist. If it doesn’t add a little more ghee. Take an amount of it that will fit in your palm. Close into a fist and press down again and again, like you would to make meatballs or something similar, shaping it into a round smooth ball the size of a smallish lime.
- The powdered mixture with the ghee mixed in should still quite warm but you should be able to handle it while shaping. Work quickly as it is difficult to shape once the mixture loses heat. Also when you work with a warm mixture, it needs less ghee and will not be greasy or heavy.
- Repeat with remaining two thirds of the powdered mixture and the hot ghee. Let the laddoos cool down for about an hour or so. Then store in an airtight container. They should keep for about 4 to 5 days. Refrigerate them if you need to store for longer.