I have been going crazy with my baking and unleashing whatever little creativity I have 😀 At times though, I quietly slip back into some traditional cooking and I try my hand at snacks and other dishes that suddenly take my fancy.
One such item is the Sabudana khichdi, which I suddenly get the urge to make when I see the little white pellets staring beady eyed at me from the corner where I have dumped them along with all the other ingredients that I buy from time to time when shopping madness engulfs me.
This dish can be loosely described as a savory snack made from soaked, seasoned and spiced sago balls. Also called sago pearls, these balls are made from the starch of the cassava root, which we also refer to as tapioca in India. This is eaten at breakfast or practically any time of the day.
While this is a very common dish which is made by many communities in India and and is also popular as food that is permitted to be eaten during fasting by Hindus, it also is a rather tricky thing to get right. Beginners can very easily botch up this concoction that is made from this innocent looking pellet and have a sticky, gluey mass on their hands instead of the light, airy, fluffy and separate grains that they have undoubtedly been aiming for. And I speak with the conviction of a victim 😀
After messing it up a couple of times, I was fortunate to obtain the guidance of a friend who was proficient at making this.
So the trick lies in soaking the balls the correct way and also in being careful while cooking them. The following instructions should hopefully make the process clear and the good news is that once I got it right, I never ever regressed into failure again.
So hop onto project Sabudana Khichdi, also known as Sago upma (in English I guess) and Jawarisi upma in Tamil. If you know any other names for it, please do mention in the comments.
In India, Sago or Sabudana is made from extracting the milk from the starchy tapioca tuber and using specialized machinery to convert that milk into tiny globules. Dana means grain or pellet so sabu dana means a pellet of sago.
From what I have seen, there are mainly 3 sizes that the balls come in. Small, medium and large. The medium ones can be compared in size to a pepper corn, to give you an idea. There is also a variant called nylon sago which is said to be pre boiled partially and hence more translucent than the regular white and opaque pellet.
Sago upma –
Sago upma or sabudana khichdi as it is also referred to, is a savory dish akin to a rice pulao (for lack of a better comparison), where the grains of sago are seasoned and tossed with spices, boiled potato, crushed roasted peanuts, a dash of lime and a hint of sugar.
Sago upma recipe –
While the recipe is quite straightforward and not very laborious, getting it right is mainly a matter of practice. To add to the ‘tiny’ confusion, is also the fact that there are a variety of sago balls in the market that are not really categorized and hence there is no ‘one size fits all’ kind of comfort.
Having said that though, once you get the hang of it, it is not very hard to sustain that victory and it is just a matter of playing around with different sago pellet types to get the right texture. Also, if you are consistently buying from one store or source, then it is possible that you will be getting the same type of sago every time and that will help stabilize your recipe and final product.
Though I greatly minimize my use of non stick cookware, for this recipe I have so far preferred not to take any chances due to the gluey nature of the main protagonist and hence I have a non stick kadai (wok) reserved mainly for this dish. For most of my other cooking, I go with stainless steel, cast iron and of course my indispensable Aluminum kadai, regardless of what the general opinion is on Aluminum cookware 🙄
Anyway, let me not digress. There will be many more opportunities to talk to you all about the happenings in my kitchen. After all, Corona does not seem to be in a hurry to be leaving anytime soon and consequently me neither 😐
Sago – 200 gm (I use the mid size whitish non nylon variety)
Water to soak – as required (see Notes)
Oil to coat – 1 tablespoon
Oil to season – 2 tablespoon
Jeera seeds (cumin) – 1 teaspoon
Mustard seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
Hing (asafoetida) – a pinch
Green chillies – 5 finely chopped
Potato – 1 medium size
Salt – 1 teaspoon (or to taste)
White pepper powder – 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste)
Sugar – 1 teaspoon (or to taste)
Peanuts – 2 tablespoon – roasted, skinned and lightly broken
Lime juice – 1 tablespoon
Coriander leaves – 2 tablespoon, finely chopped
Use a flat bottomed vessel (as opposed to using a round bottomed bowl) and put the sabudana into it.
Rinse the pellets 3 – 4 times till the water clears a bit.
Soak the sabudana by sprinkling 4 – 5 tablespoon of water. Do not submerge it in excessive water. Cover the vessel to prevent the surface from drying. From time to time, check to see if it can handle more liquid and just sprinkle as required to keep the grains moist. Do not handle it by touching at all and just shake the vessel gently if you want the grains to mix around.
I usually soak for 4 hours. The grains should have absorbed all the liquid and should have softened and they should yield if pressed. There should be no excess water in the dish.
After this I add 1 tablespoon of oil and gently toss the grains so that they can get coated. You can also use the back of a fork to lightly do this. I add oil because I feel that it reduces the chances of eventual clumping.
The grains are ready to cook at this stage but if you want to delay the cooking, you can cover and refrigerate this overnight or even up to 12 hours or as long as the grains stay firm.
Skin and chop the potato into tiny dices. The small size helps in faster cooking and is also aesthetically proportionate to the sabudana. Place the potato in water to prevent darkening. Discard the water fully before cooking.
In a non stick saucepan or wok, heat the oil and add the jeera, mustard and hing. When the seeds splutter, add the green chilli and potato. Fry on high heat till the potato browns. Cover and cook for a few minutes on low heat, until the potato is fully done.
Add the salt, white pepper and sugar and mix well.
Fluff up the sabudana with the back of a fork or with lightly greased fingers.
Add the sabudana into the pan and mix briskly to coat all the grains in oil.
Quickly add the crushed groundnuts and well. Use a light hand while mixing.
Cover for just a minute or two until most of the grains turn slightly translucent. Then switch off the flame. Do not overcook and make sure they do not clump.
Add the lime juice and coriander leaves and toss lightly.
This is best eaten hot.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge but reheating in the microwave, tends to make the sabudana chewy and rubbery. I just put it back in the pan and lightly heat.
Use a flat bottomed vessel for even soaking. Use minimal water just enough to keep the pellets moist. Do not submerge them in excessive water.
I hope you will successfully try this recipe and I would really appreciate if you leave your feedback in the Blog comments.