If you have ever visited or lived in my native Maharashtra, a state on the western coast of India during the Ganesh Chathurti holiday season, then you are no stranger to the enchanting atmosphere that the festival brings forth wherever it is celebrated. Heralded as the remover of all obstacles, the elephant headed deity, Lord Ganesh’s blessings are sought by devout Hindus, before embarking on any new project or mission.
The festival conjures up vivid memories of mouth-watering delicacies such as “churma ladoo” among others, but the star of the show has always been, and will continue to be the traditional modak (steamed dumpling), made with rice flour, and stuffed with a sweet, coconut and jaggery filling that you are bound to find irresistible! The fragrant, unmistakable, aroma of freshly grated nutmeg and cardamom is sure to draw even your fussiest family member to the kitchen to savor the flavor of these little beauties!
Number of servings: 5-6, medium-sized modaks
For the modak cover or shell:
- 1 cup rice flour, sifted
- 1 cup + 2 tsp water
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp oil
- Yellow, red and green, natural food coloring
For the coconut and jaggery filling:
1/3 cup jaggery, finely chopped or crushed
1 cup freshly shredded coconut or may use frozen, shredded coconut or packaged, dry coconut
1 tsp toasted poppy seeds
1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom powder or to taste
pinch, freshly ground nutmeg
Method for the filling:
- Mix coconut and jaggery in a saucepan on low- medium heat until well combined (jaggery melts completely), and mixture forms a homogeneous mass.
- If you use the packaged, dry grated coconut, you might need to add a small amount of water (a couple or more tablespoons as needed), to the pan as you stir the mixture as the dry coconut tends to char quickly.
- Add toasted poppy seeds, freshly grated nutmeg and freshly ground cardamom powder.
- Set aside to cool
Method for the modak shell or cover:
- In a medium, thick bottomed pan, bring the water to a vigorous boil.
- As the water comes to a rolling boil, add a pinch of salt and the oil to the pan.
- Now switch off the heat, and swiftly stir in the sifted rice flour in the boiling water.
- Keep stirring vigorously until the dough begins to form. Ideally, modak dough is soft and pliable, but neither too sticky, nor too dry.
- Cover tightly with a lid and set aside for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.
- Divide dough into approximately 5-6 rounded balls. Cover balls with a moist cheesecloth to prevent them from drying and getting cracked.
- Divide each ball into 3 parts. Add a drop of red, green and yellow food coloring respectively to each of the 3 parts. Knead the dough until the color spreads evenly throughout the dough as in the figure below.
- Blend the 3 small balls to form a large, tricolored ball, keeping each ball somewhat distinct as shown in this figure below.
- Working quickly once again, take one round, tricolored 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 2.5-3″ in diameter, figure below )
- Now pinch an edge of the bowl to form a pleat or one of the “petals” of the modak, so to speak.
- 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.
- Now add a scant tbsp or slightly less of the prepared filling to the modak “bowl”
- Gently pull all the pleats together over the filling to form a cone like shape on the top.
- Steam in a steamer bowl placed in a rice cooker for about 10-12 minutes until modaks begin to look “shiny”. (Figure below)
- Serve warm.
Registered Dietitian’s 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.
Disclaimer: This blog is strictly for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your physician or registered dietitian for recommendations tailored to your specific needs.