Dhokla is a delicious & healthy appetizer or snack from the lovely state of Gujarat, located in Western India. It is basically a lightly fermented yogurt/lentil batter that is steamed to perfection; cut into little squares (or diamond shapes) & topped with a tempered oil mixture. My mother’s dhokla is the best, hands down – and not because of the obvious bias but it actually is rather famous in her circles. It is quite possibly her most requested dish. Naturally, my mom’s dhokla is homemade from scratch nonetheless (no “packets” involved). The process can be lengthy but the results are well worth it. Well, I have a fairly decent shortcut with absolutely delicious results – my Polenta Dhokla is wonderful substitute and can be made in a pinch.
Polenta is an Italian cornmeal with a very fine, velvety-smooth texture. Polenta can easily be found in any large grocery store or supermarket. If polenta is not available, you can use very fine cornmeal as a good substitute.
POLENTA DHOKLA (Lightly Spiced Tempered Cornmeal Squares)
½ cup instant or quick cooking polenta
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2” piece of ginger, peeled & finely grated
pinch of turmeric (haldi)
2 tbsp yogurt
salt & pepper, to taste
For the tempering:
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
8-10 fresh curry leaves
6-8 dried red chilies, to taste
pinch of asafetida (hing)
½ cup freshly grated coconut for garnish
½ cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
9” x 9” baking pan or casserole dish (lightly buttered)
In a medium saucepan on high heat, combine the water & butter. Bring the water to a good boil. Next, slowly & gradually whisk in the polenta. Now add the grated ginger, turmeric, yogurt, salt & pepper. Then reduce the heat to medium low & keep stirring. The polenta will start to thicken after about 5 minutes or so. When the polenta has reached a thick batter like consistency, pour the polenta into the baking dish. Make sure to spread the polenta evenly so it is about ½” inch thick. Let set at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Then cut the polenta into square (or diamond) shapes and arrange on a serving platter.
Just before serving, heat the oil in a small saucepan. When hot, quickly add the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds. After about 30 seconds, add the curry leaves along with dried red chilies and asafetida. Now carefully pour this entire hot oil mixture over the polenta dhokla pieces. Lastly, garnish with the grated coconut & cilantro leaves. Serve as either an appetizer or snack along with your favorite chutneys.
Feel free to add some petite corn kernels to the water (frozen is fine). You can also add about a cup of tomato puree for lovely color & flavor.
You can also add some finely chopped & lightly sautéed bell peppers as a topping or garnish.