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Steamed rice cakes with black chickpea curry (Kadala curry with puttu)

I was staying at the lovely Aambalvillas Resort and every meal was a feast. one of the local Kerala/Wayanad delicacies served for breakfast was this dish. I was super excited as I purchased a puttu maker a few months ago and look at it wondering when I will pull it out and attempt to make puttus. Well, I got a masterclass on the technique, thank you Param for allowing me to invade your kitchen and learn this fabulous dish.

Puttus are a traditional dish made from ground flour. They come in several varieties, white rice being the most common, but toasted rice, ragi millet and red rice being some of the other variations. There is an art form to making puttu. Getting the mix of flour to form small particles, slightly bigger than a grain of sand, but keeping them dry and soft is something I had to feel and learn. The steaming of puttu is also a learned technique, too long and they are dry and too short and they are gummy. This surely was a masterclass and I have tried to put all the small details into this recipe for all of us.

The kadala curry is a delight on your palate. It is bold from the spices and chillies and the black chickpeas add a lovely earthy flavour and texture to the gravy. This curry explodes on your palate, but the flavours make you crave more.

The puttus were delicate. The bold curry paired with the puttu perfectly and the sweet from of the steamed bananas made the meal perfect. Of course, I overate and had to lapse into a morning siesta to recover.

For more recipes from Zafar, click here.


For the kadala curry:

1 cup black chickpeas, soaked in water overnight

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 onion, sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups water

3 tablespoons coconut oil

3 onions, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

10 curry leaves

3-4 green chillies, thinly sliced, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1 tablespoon meat masala

Salt, to taste

4 cups water, or as needed

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

Cilantro, minced, to garnish

For the puttu:

2 cups rice flour

1/2 cup grated fresh coconut

1 teaspoon salt


To make the kadala curry, rinse out the soaked black chickpeas and add to a pot with the turmeric, onions, salt, and water. bring to a boil and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes till the chickpeas are cooked through but still retain a good bite. You do not want to make the chickpeas very mushy and soft.

When the chickpeas are cooking, add the coconut oil to another large pot, one that will hold the entire curry, and add the mustard seeds and fry for 20 seconds till they begin to pop. Add the onions and green chillies and fry on low heat till the onions are soft and translucent about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions get any colour.

spices, chilli powder, and meat masala and give the mix a quick toss to coat the onions. Add the cooked chickpeas and their cooking liquid. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and add the ground coriander powder and mix in well. taste and adjust salt.

Serve hot garnished with cilantro.

To steam the puttu.

Mix the rice flour and salt with a few tablespoons of water. keep adding one tablespoon of water till you have small granules, slightly larger than a grain of sand. The mix should have fine even granularity and should not be sticky.

Load a tablespoon of grated coconut into a puttu barrel. Fill 1/3 of the barrel with the rice mix. Add another tablespoon of grated coconut. Add another 1/3 of rice and top with grated coconut. Finish with the final 1/3 of the rice mix and grated coconut on top. Seal and add to a boiling puttu steamer. Allow to steam till you see steam coming out from the top. Allow to steam for an additional 2 minutes. Remove and remove the steamed puttu into a closed box to prevent them from drying out.

The cooked puttu will have a very soft granular texture that will tend to fall apart on the touch. if it is undercooked it will be soggy and not right, and if overcooked dry and tough. getting the puttu to the right consistency is an art form, and depends on your mix, puttu maker and stove. Play around a couple of times at first so that you get a feel for how to perfect this dish.

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