Sweet, steamed rice dumplings: The Classic Modak recipe

This is a recipe that is very close to my heart as Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated with great pomp and splendor at my parents’ home while growing up as a kid in Mumbai, as well as at my in-laws’ place, also in Mumbai later after I got married. As part of this traditional holiday, modaks (steamed rice dumplings stuffed with jaggery and coconut), are offered to Lord Ganesha, who is considered, “the remover of all obstacles”. Many Hindus seek the elephant headed God’s blessings before embarking on any auspicious project or significant task or journey as a result.

There is a tangible excitement in the air in various parts of India, and in particular in the state of Maharashtra, as families and friends gather to celebrate the holiday, and bring the beautiful, mesmerizing idol of Lord Ganesha home. Devotees may dance and sing in the streets to the passionate chanting of “Ganapati  Bappa Moryaa”. The pooja or worship ceremony often concludes with 21 modaks offered to the deity.

Steamed modaks, this recipe yields about 33-35. © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

Steamed modaks: this recipe yields about 33-35 medium-sized modaks.
© Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

For the modak cover or shell:

Ingredients:

Modak dough should be soft and pliable. © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

Modak dough should be soft and pliable. © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

3 cups fine rice flour, sifted

3 cups boiling, hot water

pinch of salt

1 tsp oil:

For the coconut and jaggery filling:

Freshly grated coconut. Copyright Sept 2015

Freshly grated coconut. Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

Ingredients:

1 cup + 2 tbsp jaggery, finely chopped or crushed

3 cups freshly shredded coconut or may use packaged, dry coconut, or frozen, shredded coconut

1 tbsp toasted poppy seeds

1 tsp freshly ground cardamom powder

1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Method for the filling: 

Clockwise,toasted poppy seeds, crushed jaggery, whole cardamom, nutmeg and fresh coconut. ©

Clockwise,toasted poppy seeds, crushed jaggery, whole cardamom, nutmeg and fresh coconut. ©

  1. Mix coconut and jaggery in a saucepan on low- medium heat until well combined and homogeneous.
  2. Add toasted poppy seeds, freshly grated nutmeg and freshly ground cardamom powder.
  3. Set aside to cool.

Method for the modak shell or cover: 

  1. Boil slightly more than 3 cups of water in a thick bottomed saucepan.
  2. As the water comes to a rolling boil, add a pinch of salt and the oil to the pan.
  3. Now switch off the heat, and swiftly stir in the sifted rice flour in the boiling water.
  4. Keep stirring vigorously until the dough begins to form. Ideally, modak dough is soft and pliable, but neither too sticky, nor too dry.
  5. Cover tightly with a lid and set aside for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.

    Divide dough into approximately 30-33 rounded balls. © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

    Figure 1: Divide dough into approximately 30-33 rounded balls. © Copyright, Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

  6. Divide dough into approximately 30-33 rounded balls. (Figure 1). Cover balls with a moist cheesecloth to prevent them from drying and getting cracked.

    Shape the ball of dough into a thin "bowl". © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

    Figure 2: Shape the ball of dough into a thin “bowl”. © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

  7. Working quickly once again, take one round ball and shape into a thin bowl-like form. (This is the “bowl” or shell of the modak, which will eventually hold the filling and should be approximately 3″ in diameter, figure 2 )
  8. Now pinch an edge of the bowl to form a pleat or one of the “petals” of the modak, so to speak.
  9. Pinch pleat another edge, as close to the previous one as possible until you have at least 6 petals per modak. The more pleats you can create in a modak, the prettier it will look, once all is said and done.
  10. Now add a scant tbsp or slightly less of the prepared filling to the modak “bowl”. (Figure 3).

    modak

    Figure 3: Modak with filling. © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

  11. Gently pull all the pleats together over the filling to form a cone like shape on the top.
  12. Steam in a steamer bowl (figure 4), placed in a rice cooker for about 10-12 minutes until modaks begin to look “shiny”.

    Modaks are placed in a "steamer" bowl before steaming. © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

    Figure 4: Modaks are placed in a “steamer” bowl before steaming. © Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

  13. Serve warm.
  14. Prepared modaks should be placed in an airtight container to keep them moist and soft.
© Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

© Copyright Sept 2015, Sangeeta Pradhan RD, LDN, CDE

RD tip: As discussed in previous posts, coconut is high in saturated fat, hence only a scant amount of the filling is used in this recipe.  I have also reduced the amount of jaggery used in traditional recipes by more than half. That said, I like to encourage my patients to use the 90/10 rule. If 90% of the time, you are eating whole, unprocessed foods and making desirable food choices, the 10% of the time that you might deviate from your healthy meal plan will not count against you. However, (and I say this tongue in cheek, of course),  the 10/90 rule might be problematic!!!

Chef’s tip: To keep the modak dough soft and pliable, dip your fingers in water every so often as you shape the dough, to form a thin shell and while creating the petals of the dumpling.

modak

Nutrient analysis source: Myfitnesspal.com. Please note that myfitnesspal.com is an independent website that is not in any way affiliated with this blog.

Disclaimer: This blog is strictly for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or dietitian for recommendations tailored to your unique needs.

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About Sangeeta Pradhan RD, CDE

Hi there! Welcome to my blog! If you are confused with all the conflicting messages you get bombarded with every day on carbs, fats, proteins, gluten and anything you can think of related to nutrition, look no further! The purpose of my blog is to cut through all this clutter, utilizing scientific, evidence based guidelines to help you, the consumer, navigate the complex, dietary landscape, and thus empower you to make informed decisions.
This entry was posted in Desserts, Get cooking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Sweet, steamed rice dumplings: The Classic Modak recipe

  1. Kamila Pala says:

    It looks pretty good! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much, Kamila😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. smilecalm says:

    i look forward
    to trying this
    as it’s clearly
    good for me 🙂

    Like

  4. Thanks. The original recipe for this dessert is calorie dense as it is loaded with jaggery, coconut and ghee. I cut the jaggery ( sugar) by more than half and omitted the ghee completely. I also used a scant tbsp to fill the dumpling to reduce the total calories. I was told that the outcome was just as sweet by my official tasters- my family ☺️.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A beautiful presentation!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. RMW says:

    I had to Google “jaggery.” Always good to learn something new. I am trying to imagine the taste with the sugar and nutmeg and cardomon… I think I would like it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My apologies for not clarifying what jaggery is. The best way I can describe jaggery is that it is akin to molasses and is a cruder, less refined version of table sugar, which as we know is the highly refined extract of sugar cane juice, even though both jaggery and crystalline sugar are derived from the same sources. Unfortunately, there is very little info on jaggery in the scientific literature in Western journals, but jaggery has been used extensively for it’s health benefits in the Far East such as India, and Ayurveda has delineated it’s numerous health benefits. Calorically, it is comparable to sugar, but its “purported” beneficial characteristics include a higher mineral content and micro-nutrient content. I would like to see more evidence based studies on jaggery, because hypothetically if the purported benefits are true, it may be a much better alternative to it’s highly refined cousin- table sugar. Hope this helps.

    Like

  8. RMW says:

    Thanks for the explanation… I know blackstrap molasses is supposed to be good for you as it has more of the minerals and vitamins that are refined away in white sugar… my father used to eat it everyday… so I imagine jaggery has similar properties!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You got it! The refining process strips much needed nutrients in a manner similar to that seen when whole grains are refined as I have explained in this post. . Thank you so much for your excellent feedback!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So tempting and beautifully presented…
    With Ganesh Chaturthi, it has to be Modak.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you, Nihar! Appreciate your kind words. Yes indeed, modaks are synonymous with Ganesh Chaturthi, aren’t they?!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yes, very tempting and the way you have presented, I just could resist myself and have been looking for one…
    Love the way you create your dishes and the spread…very creative.
    😀

    Like

  13. Yummy but healthful. Thank you, Micheline

    Like

  14. Thanks, Micheline. It’s still ” dessert”, but slightly less indulgent than the original version. I do believe that if you follow a healthful lifestyle for the most part, an occasional indulgence does not hurt☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you, Nihar. Appreciate your kind feedback! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Always my pleasure…
    Have a lovely weekend.
    😀

    Like

  17. May Lord Ganesha pave the way for you. Happy holiday.

    Like

  18. Thank you, J.B. What a lovely thing to say😊!

    Like

  19. sheenmeem says:

    This looks so pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you! Hope you like them😊

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Hello there Sangeeta

    You have a great blog with some great recipes and awesome photography. I am reaching out to you from http://www.itspotluck.com a social platform for Indian/Desi food lovers. It is a community of hundreds of food bloggers with thousands of recipes and counting. You might find some fellow bloggers from India and abroad as well on our platform.

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    Liked by 2 people

  22. Thank you very much for reaching out. Will read over the info and let you know very soon. Best Regards:)

    Like

  23. Asia meals are very delicious. I’ve tasted many times in England, but what I don’t understand is the meals are hot (Pepper) like African meals. What significant role do pepper play in your meals?

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I would say that more than “pepper” ( I am referring to black pepper from peppercorns, we add heat to our dishes from chili powder made from grinding dry, red hot peppers. Heat (spicy hot) may also be added from small, fresh green chilies. ( hot peppers). Most all Indian (South Asian) meals will include at least a small amount of either the red hot chili powder from dry red chilies or hot green chilies. In addition to using other spices such as coriander-cumin and “garam masala”, this kind of heat from chili peppers is often an integral part of Indian cuisine. Thank you so much for your interest in our cuisine and for stopping by. Hope that answered your question. Best regards:)

    Like

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