I had already posted Tamarind Sevai or Puli Sevai in my previous post using rice sticks. But having actually made the fresh Sevai, I decided to go all the way and flavour it with tamarind just like I normally do. There are days, when you really go through the pantry, wondering what to cook, and to get it done with. On those days I simply flavour rice sticks with some home made “pulikachal” or even the store bought 777 variety. It does taste great with the baked vegetable chips from Trader Joes my favourite store!!! Today was one of those days when I really enjoyed my cooking and dedicated myself to it. I do really love to cook and put my heart in to making it for my loved ones…Those days there are no shortcuts and mishaps – It`s traditional cooking and the taste is pretty delectable.
Just the name conjures up so many memories of my childhood and of my grandmother and mother toiling in the kitchen, on saturday afternoons to make delicous sevai for all of us for the evening as well as for the night. Sevai was always thought as “labourious” as we were in a lovely joint family of 8 and cooking anything for all of us would mean laborious. But on the other side, it would be a joyous moment for me to sit and help my grandmother in the preparation and more particularly, in the partaking, which we would do all together.
My daughter had never seen me making fresh sevai as I would never attempt it when she was smaller. On one such vacation in Madras, amma had asked me what I wanted for dinner and I promptly told her “Sevai” and we thought , “well why not? ” As we were extruding the steamed balls in the “Sevai Nazhi” or “Sevai Press”, my daughter S, who was sitting near me, doodling on a piece of paper stopped short in complete awe. She couldnt believe that some thing so beautiful could come out of the Sevai Press. She immediatly wanted to taste the freshly pressed Sevai. My mom gave her a bit, and from then on she was hooked!!!
I had tried making Sevai at home last week, sans the Sevai Press. I used the traditional ones that we normally use for making Ribbon Pakoda etc and it looks like this:
2 cups of Boiled Rice.
Pinch of Hing
A spoon of Coconut Oil.
Sevai Press or Regular Nazhi or Press.
Soak the boiled rice for 3 hours ahead. You could soak it even at 8 Am in the morning if you plan to make it for lunch. With the help of a grinder, grind it to a smooth paste adding enough salt . Use only as much water as is necessary.
Since this involves extrusion etc, it is important that the rice is ground to a smooth paste.
From here there are actually two methods – one which my mom in law uses and one that we have been traditionally using in my grandmother`s home. One option is to simply transfer this ground batter in to greased idli plates and steam then for 15 mins just as you would do for idlis.
Transfer the contents of the grinder in to a kadai, add a pinch of hing and a spoon of coconut oil and switch on the stove on medium low flame. Keep stirring it until the water is used to cook the batter and it comes together as one. It should look like this:
Immediately shape this dough in to rough balls and place them on greased idli plates. Steam these balls for about ten minutes just like you would steam the idlis. This double cooking where we cook it once over the stove and once in the cooker,makes it much more easily digestible for old people and for kids alike. If you are out of time simply follow the earlier method of directly steaming the raw batter in the idli plates.
Once you have steamed the batter/prepared dough balls you have to start the process of sevai extrusion.
Briskly add the balls in to the sevai maker and press to get steaming hot noodles of rice sevai. Keep the unused balls tightly closed inside the pressure cooker as the heat is what helps in the easy pressing. Once they get cold, it would become very difficult to press.
As the prepared sevai is pressed on to a plate, allow to cool before adding it to a wide mouthed bowl.
Delicious home made Sevai is ready to be eaten plain or after seasoning as Pulikachal Sevai. Lemon Sevai or Coconut Sevai.
When using the regular press, to extrude the sevai, the body of the press would be very hot and so I use a kitchen mitt to hold it with my left hand and then rotate the lever with my right.
Rice sticks are definitely a quick and easy substitution for its fresher variant we do back home – “Sevai”….Sevai is when grind rice that has been soaked, cook it over a stove top to make it thicker, shape it in to dumplings and steam them in the cooker and then extrude the cooked rice dumplings in the form of noodles with the help of a press. This is then flavoured with lemon, tomato, pulikachal (tamarind paste), coconut or some times eaten as they are!!! Many of us, when we were kids, liked the unprocessed sevai, smelling of a trace of hing, and coconut oil….YUM!!!
When I was a school kid, sevai was an elaborate event planned for every alternate saturday afternoons. Madurai amma would supervise the grinding of the rice batter by my mami and amma would chip in, after half day`s work at the bank, by cooking the 4 cups of rice batter on the stove top. We lived in a lovely large joint family of 8, so there would definitely be no holds barred. Then all the children of the family would be called for shaping the cooked balls in to rough round dumplings to steam in the cooker in multiple rounds. THEN, all of us would take turns in extruding the sevai from the iron press – This was one with a huge tripod stand, and a big receptacle for the dumpling to sit in and a large handle to push in the press, to extrude out the steaming hot sevai. This pressing would have to be finished when the dumplings are still hot, so Madurai amma would be watchfully overseeing us, to make sure that there is no small talk in the middle of the proceedings! Then she would divide them in to 4 portions – The bigger portion would be for the spicy tamarind sevai, one portion for the lemon sevai, one for the coconut sevai and the plain tiny portion for my little baby cousin!!! The fruit of the 3 hours labour would vanish when we all sit down and partake of our favourite sevai for tiffin as well as for dinner!!!
When my daughter S, visited Madras last year, and we were all helping out with the usual Sevai routine, she was thrilled to see white steaming noodle ribbons getting pressed out and she exclaimed in glee!!! Madurai amma happily doled out a huge portion to her which she ate in minutes with hundreds of tiny pieces strewn on the dining table, expectantly asking for more…S loved it so much, she offered to press the sevai to help us with it…Madurai amma was proud of her great grand-daughter…She had dutifully wanted to chip in to the family tradition!!!
Knowing that my daughter loves Sevai, I can only give in to her request, which are pretty much last minute, by using 777 Dhideer Sevai or Rice Sticks that are available in the Asian Grocers. Both have to be cooked in boiling water for 5 mins, but I indulge by adding a few drops of coconut oil, so that the rice sticks are fragrant and dont stick to one another. Once they are cooked, drain them on to a collander, and allow to stay for ten minutes. Take the precaution to keep the collander closed so that the rice sticks are not robbed of their moisture.
Today, I wanted to try lemon sevai, but decided to add Mango also to it….My friend Rekha, had once made Mango Rice and so I adapted it to suit my daughter`s palate!!! This is an excellent dish to take when you have long drives ahead of you. Easy to eat, as its non-fussy, very tasty and requires minimal time in the kitchen!! Also great for potlucks and parties and kids always love them!!!
1 pack of rice sticks.
1 Mango freshly grated.
Juice from 1/2 lemon.
1 Onion chopped.
Salt to taste.
2 Green Chillis chopped.
Cilantro to garnish.
Oil. Mustard, Channa Dal, Curry Leaves, peanuts.
Take a wide mouthed kadai and add 3 spoons of oil. When warm, add mustard, bengal gram, peanuts, green chillis and curry leaves in that order.
When the mustard splutters and the dals are a little brown, add the chopped onions and saute well till they are pinkish brown.
Add turmeric and salt and grated mango and simmer the stove to very low.
Mix in all the ingredients carefully so as not to break the soft grated mango pieces.
Swirl in the cooked rice sticks and mix well with the cooked ingredients after adding adequate salt.
Finally squeeze juice from half a lemon and garnish with chopped corriander leaves.
You can also serve HOT with coconut flakes garnish.