Ukdiche Modak – Steamed sweet dumpling

Its been a long time since I’ve shared a recipe with you all!! Here is one for a  sweet dish which I have been fond of since childhood. It is also associated with some of the Indian festivals, especially those celebrated in Maharashtra. But most prominently, Modak are made during Ganesh Chaturthi – a festival for Indian deity Ganpati. These Modak are said to be the favorite food of the deity and are made to appease him. Every year my mother would patiently make them for us on this day and serve them with a platter of beautiful Indian vegetarian food.

 

This year, being miles away from home, it was but natural that I was missing these festivities and wanted to celebrate in my own small way in Chicago. So after hours of Skype instructions from my mom, reading the recipes online and in the books I had I mustered to courage to make them 😀 . Yes it is a courageous task for me because the process of making these dumplings in the most traditional way is lengthy and delicate, you mess one step and you can mess it all up 😦 . So here I am sharing with you my experience of making these delicious Modaks. This won’t be in a typical recipe form, and I will include links to the video tutorials so it would help you out.

You need just three main ingredients for this, Rice Flour, Jaggery and fresh grated coconut. If you do not have freshly grated coconut use desiccated coconut (which is what I did) and I will be sharing the ratio below too. The rice flour can be purchased online or in any Asian grocery store. I used the one made by Swad brand (this is not an advertisement, I am not posting any affiliate links too 😀 ) . I would suggest you make the filling before-hand so it gets enough time to cool down while you prep the rice flour for the cover.

Heres a fun fact about Modaks – they are made all over India, but their form varies, it is made in form of a pedha i.e. in a marzipan form with cashew nut paste, milk and cream and then formed into their shapes using a mold. The Modaks I am writing here about are made mainly in the state of Maharashtra and further down south in India. These are steamed hence called “ukdiche” i.e. steamed in Marathi and they have the soft rice flour cover filled with coconut filling in it. These are usually made and consumed on the same day partly to maintain the freshness and partly because they are too good to resist. Although made mainly during the festival of  Ganesh Chaturthi, these are also made on any other festive occasion.

So to start with the stuffing for your modaks, use 1:2 ratio when making the stuffing with fresh coconut. This would be 1 portion of fresh grated coconut and 2 portions of jaggery. In a pan, heat some Ghee and stir in the coconut till its warm, gradually add the jaggery and softly mix it all till the jaggery melts and the coconut mixes with it well. Turn of the heat and top the stuffing with a pinch of cardamon powder to enhance the flavors and let it cool down.

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If you are using dessicated coconut, reduce the amount of coconut more and keep some milk handy. Usually once you turn off the heat, the mixture will stiffen up like a granola bar which you dont want. The stuffing has to be soft, so we can soften it by adding a splash of milk and letting it rest. I used this technique when the stuffing I made turned out to be a bit too sticky.

Till the mixture cools, its time to prepare the rice flour to make the modak. Once again we use 1:1 ratio here i.e. one cup of rice flour to one cup of water. One cup of rice flour yeilded around 15 small modaks for me. In a deep pan, heat one cup of water with a teaspoon of Ghee and pinch of salt till the water boils. Reduce heat to medium and gradually stir in the rice flour till the water is absorbed. Cover and let it steam up for couple of minutes before shutting off the heat. Keep the cover on for another 5 minutes and then take the mixture on a flat plate or a bowl to knead it while its still warm. The kneading process is easy, similar to kneading dough for bread but here you have to dip your hand alternatively in water and some cooking oil while kneading. I can’t explain enough so here’s a video link where they show how perfectly it is done 😀 I referred to this video while cooking it.

Once your dough is ready, cover it with a damp cheesecloth. Keep the dough covered in a damp cheesecloth or muslin cloth all the times, this keeps it soft and pliable. To make the modak, first start with moistening your palms with water and oil – its a weird mix which works 😛 then take a small golf ball size of dough ball in your hands, and press it to make a cup. Stuff a tablespoon of the filling in it and fold the cup so as to close it. While folding the cup close, give the cup some petals by slightly pinching its sides with damp fingers and close it up. Dip the tip of your modak in water (this ensures they dont break while steaming) and once again place it on an oiled surface and cover it with a damp cheesecloth/muslin cloth.

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Check the video out for the details!

Once all the modaks are ready, prep your steamer. If you have a dumpling steamer then great! If not, fill up a deep pan with 1/4th levels of water and bring it to boil. Place some utensil which will rise above the water level in this pan and cover it to let the steam accumulate.  Layer a plate with a damp cloth and place the modaks on it with some distance between them. Place this plate over your utensil in the pan and then cover and let it steam for 12 minutes.

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Once done, carefully get the plate out (because its super hot by this time) and let the modaks cool down a bit before you can transfer them to another plate. Once they are completely cooled you can store them in an airtight container and refrigerate them for upto a week. When consuming refrigerated modaks, simply pop them in a microwave for 30 seconds and enjoy!

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This is the link for the entire process. If you need any help, I am just a comment/message away 😀

Some other links – Ukdiche Modak in a Maharashtrian way with more explanation

The Recipe

Ingredients –

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 cups water – one cup for cooking the rice flour and one cup for the other process
  •  1 cup jaggery
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut / 1/4 cup desicated coconut
  • 1/4 cup milk (only if using desiccated coconut)
  • 1/2 cup of dried fruits of choice
  • pinch of  cardamon powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ghee
  • 1/4 cup oil (to help dampen palms)

Instructions

For the filling

  1. Heat 1/2 teaspoon ghee in a pan, and add the coconut and jaggery to it. Use low heat.
  2. Mix well till everything combines and top the mixture with dried fruits and cardamon powder, turn off the heat and let it cool.

For the modak cover

  1. Boil 1 cup water in a pan, add salt and 1/2 teaspoon ghee to it.
  2. Lower the heat and add the rice flour and mix well with a wooden spoon/ spatula
  3. Cover and let it steam for 2 minutes before turning off the heat and letting it sit for another 5 minutes.
  4.  Take out the flour and knead thoroughly using water and oil to grease your palms in the process .
  5. Cover the prepared dough with damp cloth.
  6. Take a small golf ball sized piece of dough and flatten it to make a cup, stuff the filling in it and make some pleats/ petals before closing the cup.
  7. Dip the tip in water before storing under a damp cloth.
  8. Prepare the steamer and place modaks to steam them for 12 minutes on medium heat.

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