Steamed vegetable manchurian in gravy

I have written about Indo-Chinese food earlier on, in this space. One episode of Vir Sanghvi's A Matter of Taste was dedicated to this cuisine [he calls it Sino-Ludhianavi cuisine], its origins in India and its evolution. While the taste is absolutely lip smacking and addictive, it can be very high in fat content. The ingredients are fried on a high heat and to keep them from burning, large quantities of oil are used, which is why you see the rich gloss on the noodles and rice served.

One of my early favourites during my introduction to Indo-Chinese food was the vegetable manchurian. The manchurian balls are made using finely minced vegetables, coated with corn flour mixed with spices and deep fried till golden brown. These crispy balls can then either be coated with a mix of sauted ginger - garlic bits to make a dry cocktail snack. These balls can be floated in a spicy tangy sauce to serve as a main course dish with rice or noodles. Bits of minced meat, fish or chicken can be used as a base to make the balls to suit the meat-lover's palate.

I'm alright with eating the fried manchurian in places like Dynasty (my favourite Indo-Chinese eating joint near my place), but since I hate deep frying at home, plus because I think deep frying is the most non-creative way of cooking - i decided to try the steaming method.

In the deep fried method, the main veggies used are cabbage and carrots, which are relatively dry compared to gourds, which is why I used a portion of watery gourd to give the volume and lightness while steaming, going by the logic that using very dry vegetables in the balls would lead to tough bouncy balls after steaming.

My logic did work this time and post steaming the manchurian turned out light and well cooked inside, and they increased in size by 50% - without any addition of baking soda or powder whatsoever.

After soaking them in the sauce, they became even more succulent and flavourful on absorbing all the flavours from the sauce.

So when in mood for healthy Indo-Chinese, I would surely go for this dish with a plate of plain noodles or lightly spiced rice and greens.

You can even wilt a bunch of your favourite greens to make a heartier sauce. This can be thinned out to a soup like consistency too - a dumpling soup kinda.

Steamed vegetable manchurian

For the manchurian balls

1 loosely packed cup grated bottle gourd or zucchini
2 medium carrots, finely grated
2 cups finely grated or minced cabbage

Upto 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp finely minced / grated ginger
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper powder

1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, except flour.
Add flour gradually, while kneading, without using any water. The salt will drain out the water in the gourd. Add upto one cup flour until you get a soft pliable, non sticky dough.

2. Place 4-5 cups of water in the steamer, bring to a boil.

3. Make small balls - about over an inch diameter and arrange them on the oiled perforated vessel to be kept in the steamer. You could also use a bamboo steamer or idli maker.

4. Steam for 10-12 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the balls comes out clean.

While the balls are steaming, you can get the sauce ready.

For sauce:

2 fresh green / red chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
4-5 flakes of garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp oil
1 green bell pepper or carrot, cut into strips
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
1 cup chopped spring onion greens
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp wheat flour dissolved in one cup water
1 cup water or vegetable stock

Directions to make sauce

1. In a large wok, heat a tbsp of vegetable oil. On high heat, saute the chillies, ginger and garlic for a few seconds.

2. Add the bell pepper, onions and half the spring onion greens, rapidly stir on high heat for 1-2 minutes, till somewhat cooked yet crunchy.

3. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper, stir well.

4. Pour into the wok the wheat flour-water mixture. Let this come to a boil and thicken.

5. Adjust the thickness of the sauce to your liking, using the remaining one cup water or stock.

6. Garnish with remaining spring onion greens, put in the steamed balls. Let this come to a simmer. Let the balls soak in the sauce for around 15 minutes before serving hot with rice or noodles.

We loved this dish. Steaming really did not take away anything from the dish, in fact we had more pleasure in eating knowing that our dinner was a whole bunch of healthy steamed and sauteed veggies.

Try it out and it is sure to surprise you, that something so healthy can be so yum :)

What you can serve this with-

Chinese style Cucumber Salad

Fried rice
Ginger Sesame Hakka Noodles
Mango Pudding

Diwali Delicacy : Eggless Mava Cake

[This post is a part of a joint project with my blog friend Raaga. Check that post here]

This is another ' Another Subcontinent' food forum inspired recipe. Food enthusiasts on the forum have been discussing the mava / mawa cake to shreds [or pieces] rather. Being in Bombay, close to many Parsi bakery shops, mava cake is really no big deal. It is considered a most Plain Jane cake, and I have seen kids who wont even consider this a cake, for there is nothing fancy-schmancy about it. Generally sold as cup cakes, packed in batches of six, these make a lovely tea time treat.

Merwans, a Parsi Bakery in Grant Road (Bombay) - is famous for it's Mava cake and the foodies on the forum were in the quest to reproduce the same magic in their kitchens. Ravum provided a recipe for an eggless version using condensed milk, khoya (solidified milk), milk, flour and butter. Khoya is also called mava, and that's how this cake gets it's name. Check a photo essay of the almost century old, Merwan's bakery here.

Since I was on a cooking low, I asked Raaga if she'll give me company and support in making this as a joint blog project. Even though she would be making it in Gurgaon and me in Bombay, it seemed like a great support to me and a fun thing to do. Being the great sport that she is, she managed to make it today and we decided to blog about it together.

[Recipe in Ravum's words]

Ravum's Eggless Mava Cake

Mava Cake

Wet Ingredients
1 tin Milkmaid (400 gms)
50-75 gm butter (1/2 to 3/4 slab of a 100 gm of Amul butter)
200 g mava (khoya)
1/2 cup milk (You can use water, but you the cake browns better with milk)
1/4 cup milk (this is to be used if while mixing the wet and dry ingredients, if your batter is too thick).

These must be heated together till butter melts and the mix is homogeneous. Cool it to room temperature.

Dry Ingredients
1.5 cups (US cup) maida (all-purpose flour)
1 tsp baking powder
2 cardamom (peel and powder the seeds)
Pinch of saffron - pound with a pestle with a bit of sugar
Cashew nuts

Sift the maida and baking powder three times (for volume). Add the cardamom, saffron, and cashew nuts.

Whisk the dry and wet ingredients together. Use the 1/4 cup of milk if the batter is too thick. The final consistency should be that of idli batter, or the besan batter used for making pakoda. Bake in a greased pan till light brown on top. [I baked at 175 C for 20 minutes in a 6 cup tube pan]

Raaga made cupcakes out of these and you'll get more details from her on her space.

Many thanks to Ravum of the AS food forum for sharing this recipe and Veena for her generous tips.

This is my submission to Vee's Diwali special Jihva event.

Here's wishing all of you a very Happy Diwali and a wonderful year ahead. May the festival of lights, bring lots of light and happiness into your lives.

Diwali Delicacy: 5 minute Besan Laddoos

Ta da....presenting a couple of Diwali delicacies for you after the long silence.

Talking about Laddoos, i have never been too fond of them, except for Moti Choor Laddoo, which I would never dream of making at home. Any part of India and you'll find several varieties of them made with a variety of flours, and methods. As far as I can understand, for any laddoo made from using flour, the flour needs to be roasted till aromatic and during the roasting process, a certain amount of fat like ghee is used to cook the flour while roasting. Some more fat is used to bind the sweetened roasted flour into round shapes and a laddoo is born.

Not being the Laddoo liking girl, and my husband also not being a guy who is especially fond of them, I have never tried making them. When this particular discussion on Diwali treats went on and on about the quick and easy, microwave besan laddoos, I had to make this to take to my parents and aunts for Diwali, because this is something they all love.

Each batch makes 10. The first batch I followed the recipe to the T, just increasing the microwave time as the flour did not seem roasted to my satisfaction as per the given time in the recipe. In the final stage of binding it into laddoos, I realised that the ghee quantity can be considerably reduced from the original 1/3rd cup as I have seen the laddoos made in my family to be much drier.

Microwave Besan Laddoos
Active time: 5-7 minutes
Makes: 10 pieces
Category: Festival sweet
Source: Adapted from Samsung Microwave recipes

1 cup besan [gram flour]
1/4 cup ghee
1/2 cup powdered sugar (sold in Bombay during festival times as 'Pithi Saakhar')
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
10 halves of cashew nuts fried in a little ghee for decoration

1. In a large microwave safe bowl, mix the besan and ghee. Microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes stirring well every one minute. [increase 2 more min if your machine power is low]

2. Once the flour seems slightly darker in colour and richly aromatic, remove from oven and allow to cool completely. This will take upto half an hour.

3. Once cooled, add 1/2 cup powdered sugar [NOT icing sugar], with cardamom powder into the roasted flour. Knead well to mix and shape into 10 balls pressing a slice of fried cashew on top.

4. These will harden as they cool. Store in airtight container.

This is my entry to Meeta's Monthly Mingle - Traditional Feasts and well as Anna's [Morsel and Musings] Festive Fair 2007.

Tee at Bhatukli has blogged about Microwave Besan Laddoos too.

The next Diwali Delicacy is a joint project between me and Raaga. I shared the recipe with her and we decided to do it together in our respective kitchens. It was fun, though we did not do it on the same day together. I made it on Saturday and she's just done making it so that's coming up in the next post. Keep guessing!
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