Kurma, What should I do so that my sabudana khichari does
not become like a sticky paste?
Mohita, Bangalore, India
Here is my recipe for sabudana khichari, with extensive notes.
Read it carefully and give it a try.
Sago Pilaf (Sabudana Khichari)
Known as sabu or sabudana, sago and tapioca are both used similarly
and interchangeably in Indian cooking, especially as a light-meal
choice for Ekadasi grain-fasting days. There is sometimes confusion
about which is which because the white beads of sago and tapioca
can look identical. But they are from quite different sources.
Tapioca is processed from the tubers of the cassava plant, while
sago is obtained from the sago palm.
To make things more confusing, packaging and distribution companies
sometimes refer to sago as tapioca, and vice versa. It probably
makes no difference if you're making a sticky tapioca pudding, but
for this recipe I recommend sago. The main reason is that sago has
to be soaked for a longer period of time than tapioca, and is less
temperamental to deal with.
And in this dish, where every pearl has to be separate, it's essential
that you don't over-soak it, or it will turn out like a sticky paste.
Another potential problem is that sometimes sago or tapioca is partially
pre-cooked, although there is no indication on the packaging. That
variety is unacceptable for this recipe.
My advice is to purchase your sago from an Indian grocery supplier.
Chances are it'll be the right stuff, and quite suitable for preparing
Sabudana Khichari. Sago, like tapioca, comes in different grades
- small, medium and large pearls. The grade required for this recipe
is medium - the pearls should be the size of black peppercorns.
If you want to take your chances with tapioca, then note carefully
the following differences: Indian sago has to be washed once in
cold water, then drained. Hot water (not boiling) is then poured
over the sago until the water just reaches the surface of the sago,
and is left, covered, for 2 hours. It will completely soak up all
the water, double in size, and become separate and fluffy.
If using tapioca, follow the same procedure, but it should not
be washed, and just soaked in cold water for half an hour only.
There is one other very important thing you should know about
preparing this dish. Sago, like tapioca, is very heat-sensitive.
If you try to fry the soaked pearls of sago in the hot spiced oil
or ghee, it will turn into a sticky, gluggy mass, which is impossible
to separate. Instead, fold the sago carefully into the warm seasoned
oil after the pan has cooled a little. If you need to re-heat the
dish, do so on the lowest possible setting, stirring constantly.
Having said all that I invite you to try the recipe.
Sago soaking time: 2 hours
Preparation and cooking: 15-20 minutes
Makes enough for 4-6 persons
1¼ cups Indian sago
4-6 tablespoons oil or ghee
1 cup potatoes, cut 1.25cm (½-inch) cubes
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
12-15 curry leaves
1-2 hot green chilies seeded and minced
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ cup freshly-shredded coconut
1½ cups roasted peanuts, very finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh
Wash and soak the sago as described above. It is very important
to pour only sufficient hot water to just reach the surface of the
sago, otherwise it will become sticky. Leave for 2 hours.
Gently rake the fully soaked pearls of sago between your
fingers to separate them. Heat the oil in a wok or deep-frying pan
over high heat. When the oil is hot, drop in the potatoes and fry
them for 3-5 minutes or until they are golden brown and fully cooked.
Remove them with a slotted spoon, and set them aside.
Reduce the heat to low, and allow the oil to cool a little.
Drop in the cumin seeds and fry them until they darken a few shades.
Add the curry leaves and green chilies, sauté them for half
a minute, then remove the pan from the heat. Allow the oil to cool
a little more, then sprinkle in the turmeric. When the pan is fairly
cool, but not cold, drop in the sago, salt, sugar, coconut, peanuts
and potato. Stir well until the sago is an even yellow colour from
the turmeric-flavoured oil. Sprinkle on the coriander leaves, and
serve immediately. If you want to re-heat, follow the directions
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