Uppuma Kozhakattai or steamed rice dumplings is typical breakfast fare in Palakkad Iyer homes. These dumplings are made from soaked and coarsely powdered rice. The powdered rice is cooked to a dough like consistency with some spices, then rolled into dumplings. These egg sized dumplings make for a healthy and filling meal.
Kozhakattai (also spelled Kozhukattai) is a generic name for any steamed dumpling in my native cuisine. Usually Kozhakattai brings to mind the more popular festive sweet dumpling filled with a jaggery-cardamom-coconut mixture. This Kozhakkattai is made during the festival of Vinayaka Chathurthi. Uppuma Kozhakattai though also a steamed dumpling, is savoury. It is shaped after making an “Uppuma“, which is some what like a polenta made from coarsely powdered rice.
It is a slightly time consuming process to make these steamed dumplings but not difficult. You can make them in 2 or 3 stages which makes the whole process much easier. I make them for breakfast of course, but often serve them for dinner as well. The dumplings can be partially cooked and shaped half a day or a day head and then refrigerated. Then steam cook them just before you’re ready to serve them.
We usually make Uppuma Kozhakottai with raw (unprocessed) white rice. You can also make it with unpolished red rice for a more nutritious steamed dumpling. The brown coloured Uppuma Kozhakottai in the picture above have been made with Rajamudi rice which is a heritage Indian rice. These steamed dumplings can also be made with boiled/ parboiled rice. the process is lightly different and the taste subtly different, but is material for another post.
Uppuma Kozakkottai is usually served with a coconut chutney and/ or sambhar. I’m including the recipe for one of the coconut chutneys I make for breakfast. The chutney I make often depends on what I have on hand. This particular recipe is a bit different from the traditional coconut chutney we make. The addition of the onion and carrot gives it a mild sweetness and also means using less of coconut in it. You can further cut down on the amount of coconut, by almost half, by substituting some toasted/ browned split gram (“pottukadalai” in Tamil).
Uppuma Kozhakkottai - Steamed Rice Dumplings With Carrot-Onion-Coconut Chutney
For the Uppuma Kozhakkattai:
- 1 cup raw rice (unprocessed rice - not boiled, par boiled or steamed)
- 1 1/2 tsps oil
- 1 1/2 tsps mustard seeds
- 1 1/2 tsps black gram lentil (urad dal)
- 1 1/2 tsps Bengal gram lentils (chana dal)
- 2 3 dried red chillies each broken into pieces
- pinch asafetida powder
- sprig curry leaves
- 1/3 glass fresh grated coconut
- to taste salt
- 1 tbsp sesame seed oil
For the Carrot-Onion-Coconut Chutney
- 1 medium sized onion
- 1 medium sized carrot
- 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
- 1 to 2 green chillies
- small handful fresh coriander
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp tamarind paste (or small piece tamarind)
- to taste salt
- 1 1/2 tsp oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
For the Uppuma Kozhakottai :
- Wash and soak the rice in water for about 3 hours. Drain the water and put the rice on a large kitchen towel. Using your fingers, spread the rice out on a towel in a thin layer. This ensures that the extra moisture is pulled up by the towel. Leave the rice on the towel for about half an hour.
- Then run the rice in a mixer/ grinder so that the rice is coarsely powdered in to a "rava". Do not grind into a fine powder. Please see the picture above. Sieve the powdered rice, to remove the very fine particles. Keep the coarse rice powder aside. The fine rice powder can be lightly roasted (it can get spoiled if it is damp) and stored for some other use in the kitchen.
- You may do this part of the recipe a day or two in advance. Store the coarsely powdered rice, in an airtight container, in the fridge.
- Heat the 1 1/2 tsp oil in a big pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the lentils and stir fry till they turn golden brown. Now add the red chillies, curry leaves and asafetida powder.
- Stir once and then add about 1 1/2 glasses of water for every 1 glass of coarse powdered rice. In this recipe, you should have about 2 glasses of coarsely powdered rice, so that means 3 glasses of water. This is the proportion that works for the rice that I use. This proportion of powdered rice to water can differ a little, depending on the rice you use.
- If you are not sure how much water your particular variety of rice will require, you can start out with a ratio of 1: 1 1/2 of powdered rice: water. Keep a pan of water boiling on the other burner. If your rice has absorbed all the water you added and is still looking undercooked (put some in your mouth and if it still tastes raw), then add 1/2 a glass of boiling water at a time till the rice mixture seems cooked. I don't think any rice would need more than a 1: 3 ratio of water and about 1: 2 should work in most cases.
- Add the salt and coconut, and allow this water to come to a boil. Once the water has started boiling, turn down the heat to medium. At this point add the coarsely powdered rice and keep stirring using your spoon to break up any lumps which may form.
- Keep stirring until the mixture thickens and starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. This should take about 10 minutes or so. Now add the 1 tbsp of sesame seed oil, and keep stirring till the mixture becomes a cohesive lump/ ball. Take it off the heat and, using the spoon, break up the mixture a bit to allow it to cool faster. This is the "uppuma" part of this kozhakkattai.
- Once the dough is cool enough to handle, knead the mixture well so it is smooth and not lumpy. Using your hands, gather up as much of the mixture as you can in your hand and shape it into an egg-shaped and sized dumpling. Shape all the mixture into dumplings.
- If you are planning to break up this recipe into stages, you can make this the second stage of the recipe. Place the dumplings in a covered container and refrigerate. I usually do this at night if I'm serving the kozhakkattai for breakfast, on in the morning if they're to be served for dinner.
- Make sure the water in your steamer (whatever you use to steam food) is boiling. Steam cook the dumplings till they're done, which is about 10 to 15 minutes. You know they are done when you touch them, and they're no longer sticky.
- Let the dumplings cool a bit (or they will be too soft and may break while removing) and then remove. Serve warm or at room temperature with sambhar or a coconut chutney of your choice. My personal favourite is kozhakkattais with milagaipodi (dry chutney powder with sesame oil).
For the Onion-Carrot-Coconut Chutney :
- Grind all the ingredients (except those for the tempering) together, adding a little bit of water, into a fine paste which is not too thick or too watery. Remove from the mixer/ grinder/ blender bowl into a small serving bowl. Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, pour this into the chutney, mix well and serve. This chutney serves 3 to 4.