It is difficult to imagine Chettinad food without thinking of meat and eggs. The distinctive cuisine of the Chettiar community, having their roots in the Chettinad region of Tamilnadu, is now famous worldwide for its spicy meat delicacies. Its impact has been so strong that it is virtually recognized as a standalone cuisine, independent of a generic Tamil cuisine. But often, cuisines which are popular for their meat tend to marginalize the vegetarian components, that can turn out to be wonders themselves.
Thankfully for us non-meat eaters, the delightful Kuzhi Paniyaaram has achieved its own identity, and can survive without a meaty accompaniment. It has pervaded restaurant menus in the cities of Tamilnadu, and since it is eaten best fresh and steaming, invariably earns its own counter in wedding feasts. The size and shape of the Paniyaaram make it an ideal snack, one you can pop into your mouth with a dash of spicy Chutney. Though the best tasting ones are often soaked in oil and a combination of crisp edges and a soft interior, a healthy Paniyaaram can be tasty too. Try this recipe made with black rice, and tell us what you think of vegetarian Chettinad cuisine.
Saamai Paniyaaram – A chettinad speciality
Makes – 10-15 nos:
Soak the ingredients listed below in water for 2 hours:
- Saamai Rice / Little Millet – 1 Cup
- Black Rice/ or any rice of your choice – 1 Cup
- Fenugreek seeds / Methi seeds – 1 tsp
- Urad Dhal – 1/4 Cup
- Red chillies – 4 nos:
- Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
- Onions (finely chopped) – 1 big
- Jeera / Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
- Asafoetida – 1 small pinch
- Curry leaves – 10 nos
- Salt – to taste
Grind the ingredients that have been soaking in water for 2 hours into a smooth batter. Make sure you do not add too much water while grinding. The batter/ flour consistency should be firm (not runny like the dosa batter consistency).You could substitute black rice with either brown or white rice in the same proportion.
Pour oil in a small pan and add the ingredients mentioned under ‘tempering’ in the order listed and season the the batter. Let it soak for 1 hour. Do not place the batter inside the refrigerator.The batter is now ready to be poured into a ‘paniyaaram chatti’ or a mould for frying. Image given below:
For those who do not have a mould – Heat oil in a pan, scoop the batter using a spoon and drop into hot oil and fry till well done. Those using a mould/ paniyaaram chatti, fill the moulds with minimal oil (we used a non-stick one)and pour batter into mould. Reverse the other side and fry till well done.
Tip: Other vegetables like shredded carrots, sauteed peas etc can be added into the batter. These are awesome accompaniments to a cocktail party and can be served with sambhar or any other spicy chutney of your choice.
Note: This recipe is a healthy alternative to the usual one since we used millet, black rice and very minimal amount of oil. The texture while biting into the paniyaaram is a little fibrous. These are very nutritive and are healthy alternatives to the original recipe. Go ahead and snack guilt free!