One forgets just how evocative the taste, smell and feel of food is.
It always brings back memories, not just of eating the food, but also of the place and person associated with it.
When I moved to Mumbai years ago, I was staying in a rented flat with friends. We had a cheerful elderly lady as our cook, who we fondly called Kaki. Her culinary skills were impeccable.
Kaki got me acquainted with Malvani cuisine, which is vastly different from dishes of the Vidarbha region, where I come from.
From her spicy chicken curries to signature stuff like Mutton Rassa and Kalya Vatanachi Usal (black lentils curry) to Olya Kajuchi Nhaji (cashew curry) and many more, Kaki had enough culinary tricks to overwhelm us with the richness of Malvani cuisine.
Out of the many wonderful dishes she whipped up in our kitchen, I was particularly very fond of her simple Amboli and ultimately learned how to make it from scratch by observing her.
I often make Amboli. It’s quick and particularly adaptable — matching a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries. It’s great for breakfast too with coconut chutney and sambar.
Amboli, though similar to the South Indian family of dosas, uttapams, appams, neer dosa, is a quintessential Malvani dish that utilises a fremented batter of ground rice and mixed dal.
Amboli is thicker than a dosa. In fact, it is thicker than an uttapam as well. It’s quite fluffy. The major difference: the lentils used, the thickness and the proportions.
As I have been away from my family home for almost half my life, missing ghar ka khana hits me from time to time. In moments of home-khana nostalgia, Amboli is my go-to fix. It is not only filling, but it makes me happy.
It brings back memories of Kaki every time.
My Maharashtrian Amboli is gluten free and vegan and coconut oil is good for you.
- 1 cup Indrayani rice or any other short-grain rice
- ½ cup white urad dal or white gram
- 2 tbsp chana dal or split Bengal gram
- ¼ cup poha or flattened rice flakes
- ¼ tsp methi or fenugreek seeds
- ½ inch ginger, optional
- 1 tsp jeera or cumin seeds, optional
- Oil for frying, coconut oil preferably
- Salt to taste, about 2 tsp
- Soak the washed rice, dals, poha, and methi for at least 6 hours or overnight in a large container/bowl/steel saucepan, loosely covered.
- Transfer the soaked ingredients to a mixer/grinder jar and add the jeera, ginger.
Adding water only if necessary, grind to a smooth paste.
Leave the batter to ferment, preferably overnight.
- Add salt to the fermented batter and give it a gentle stir.
Adjust the batter to a pouring consistency by adding a little water.
- Heat up a tawa or griddle and smear with oil.
Gently spread about ½ cup of the batter on the tawa.
Amboli is made thick, so spread to consistency of a fat pancake.
Cover and cook each side for 2 minutes over low to medium heat.
Drizzle more oil, if required.
Take off the tawa when it’s crisp and fluffy and serve hot with your choice of accompaniments.
Mayur’s Note: The leftover batter can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Traditionally, jeera and ginger are not used in the recipe, but they do add to the flavour.
Amboli should ideally be cooked on a cast-iron tawa, but a non-stick tawa works just fine.
To give it a nutritious spin, sprinkle on top, as it cooks, chopped vegetables of your choice and serve it like an uttapam.
If you don’t have a curry or sambar or chutney to use as an accompaniment, Amboli also tastes good with a dry peanut chutney or jaggery and ghee.
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