Dhokla. This is one of my favorite appetizers. Mainly, because I don’t feel as guilty eating it as I would a fried appetizer. But, it also has a delicate mix of spice from fresh chili and tang from lemon and salt, making it a unique, non-fried appetizer.
My parents grew up in East Africa and had friends from all over India in their close-knit Indian community. This exposed my parent’s generation to a plethora of foods from different parts of the country, and in turn, exposed me to them as well. Something unique to my family was eating more vegetarian dishes growing up. Many of my Muslim friends were not as familiar with this Gujarati dish. “What’s that?” they’d ask curiously when I would post excitingly that we were having. I would explain to them it was a spicy, steamed cake that we had as an appetizer occasionally. The flavor profile of dhokla might not for everyone, especially because it has the look and texture of a sweet cake, but is actually savory. It obviously is not a replacement to the classic samosa, but it is a great healthier alternative for a chai time snack.
When I began developing this recipe, it became obvious its distinctive flavor relies heavily on the lemon drizzle and tadka. Tadkas can be intimidating because of the hot oil and splattering risk. Please be careful as you prepare the tadka. You should never get burned in the process of making a tadka, but some splutter is to be expected.
I don’t always have chutney ingredients on hand. Knowing that the dhokla could be tasty without chutney was definitely a perk for this recipe. I wanted to be able to make dhokla without the time-consuming process of fermenting lentils. Semolina flour is the star, giving the dhokla its soft, but spongy texture without the need for fermented lentils. Eno salt helps the batter rise and adds to that essential tang I was looking for in the final recipe. I know it’s not as easy to make if you don’t have a steamer, but you won’t regret it if you give the recipe a try yourself.Print
- 1 cup semolina flour
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 ½ tsp ginger, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 thai green chili, chopped
- Pinch ajwain seed
- ⅛ tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp Eno salt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Fresh ground black pepper or red chili flakes
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp water
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp high heat oil
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- 1 thai green chili, split lengthwise
- 7–10 curry leaves
- Pinch of asafoetida
- Grease 8 inch round cake pan with oil
- Set up steamer: fill with water and position tray over water. Add greased cake pan to steamer so it can warm. Cover, and bring water to boil over medium heat
- While the steamer is warming. Prepare batter in a large mixing bowl. Mix together: semolina flour, olive oil, salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, green chili, ajwain, turmeric, and lemon juice.
- In a separate small bowl, mix water and plain yogurt until smooth. Slowly mix yogurt into large bowl with batter ingredients.
- Batter should be the consistency of thick pancake batter, add up to ¼ cup water if necessary.
- Add Eno salt and 1 tsp lemon juice to batter and mix in one direction (clockwise or counter clockwise, not both) for 1-2 minutes. It will fizz. This is how you know your batter will rise.
- Carefully remove the lid of the steamer trying to avoid water dripping into the cake pan. Pour batter into steamer and cover the top with desired amount of fresh ground black pepper or red chili flakes. Cook covered over medium high heat for 10 minutes. Leave the steamer nozzle open slightly to allow some steam to escape during the cooking process. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 more minutes
- Check dhokla with toothpick to ensure it is done. Remove cake pan from steamer and set on rack to cool to room temperature.
- In a small bowl, mix together lemon drizzle ingredients
- Once dhokla has cooled in the cake pan, run a knife along the edges and flip it onto a dinner plate.
- Coat the bottom of a 9 inch pie dish with half of the lemon drizzle.
- Flip dhokla into prepared pie dish.
- Slice dhokla into 1 ½ – 2 inch squares
- In a small tadka pan, heat oil over medium heat. Test oil by adding one mustard seed, it should immediately sizzle on contact.
- Keep tadka ingredients in a small bowl in one hand, and in your opposite hand, hold a small plate. Quickly pour the tadka ingredients into the hot oil and hold the small plate over the pan to help control the splatter of hot oil. Be careful to not burn yourself with oil splatter
- Once the sputtering has stopped, remove from tadka pan from heat and let cool for 1 minute
- Pour quickly over sliced dhokla. Pour the remainder of lemon drizzle over the sliced dhokla.
- Let dhokla sit for 20 minutes to soak in the flavor of tadka and lemon drizzle.
- Serve at room temperature or slightly warm. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 days.
I prefer to use a tadka pan with a handle for ease of pouring tadka into the final dish