Dhokla – A Savoury Cake from Gujarat

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Dhokla or khaman dhokla, to give it’s proper title, is a spongy steamed snack that originates from the state of Gujarat in India. Traditionally it is steamed for around 15-20 minutes before a hot tadka is poured over the top. Tadka, or tempering as it is sometimes referred,  is a form of cooking in the Indian subcontinent where whole spices are roasted briefly in oil or ghee to release their flavours. They are then put on the top of dals, curries and of course dhokla. The tadka completely lifts the whole dish and is key in many recipes.

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The magic ingredient in dhokla is an ingredient called Eno. You’ll be able to pick it up at any Indian grocers. Do not be alarmed when you buy it in a bottle and it reads ‘fast refreshing relief from stomach upset’. You are buying the right ingredient. Do check the guidelines on the back and if anything applies to you then give it is a miss. If Eno is hard to source then I suggest using bicarbonate of soda in it’s place. It won’t be as spongy but the dhokla will still taste great.

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One other addition that you can decide whether to add or not is the sugar component at the end. Whilst dhokla is principally a savoury snack it does often have a little sugar added to the tarka which is then poured over the steamed dhokla. It gives the snack a delectable lightly sweet and salty taste to it, although it is principally a savoury snack.

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Dhokla

150g gram flour (chickpea flour)

25g course semolina

140g natural yoghurt

2 small fresh green chillies (keep the seeds in for added heat)

1 heaped tsp ginger paste

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp lemon juice

approximately 120ml water (add more if necessary)

1/2 tsp salt, to taste

1tsp  Eno

*****

Tadka

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp sesame seeds

1/4 tsp hing/asafoetida

Around 15 fresh curry leaves (cleaned and dried)

1 tsp sugar, optional

25ml warm water, optional

To serve

1 handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

1/2 tbsp fresh or dried coconut shavings

  1. First line your tin with baking parchment and rub a few drops of olive oil into the sides and bottom. My tin is just over 19cm in diameter and fits perfectly into my wooden bamboo steamer. If you do not have a steamer, simply use a large deep pan (which has a lid) and place an upside down bowl that you can rest the cake tin on. You need to then fill the pan up with water so that the water level remains below the bowl or first level of the bamboo steamer.
  2. Next you need to sieve the gram flour and semolina and then add the natural yogurt. Stir together and then add the finely chopped chilli, ginger paste and salt. Pour in the water gradually so that no lumps form and you have a smooth paste, slightly denser than pancake mixture.
  3. Heat the pan so that the water is boiling and ready to steam the dhokla.
  4. Add the eno (or bicarbonate of soda) and stir continuously for about 1 minute to allow air to enter the mixture. You will notice that the size of the batter will increase slightly.
  5. Immediately pour the dhokla batter into the baking tin and place in the steamer for around 20 minutes on a medium heat. At 17 minutes insert a toothpick or knife into the dhokla to see if it comes out clean. If it is then it is ready, if it has some mixture on it then leave it for a further few minutes. When it is done, remove from the steamer and leave to rest for 5 minutes, before turning it out of the tin and removing the baking parchment.
  6. Meanwhile heat a frying pan with oil and when it is hot add the sesame seeds, mustards seeds, asafoetida and fresh curry leaves. Leave to fizzle for no more than 20 seconds, moving around the pan.
  7. In a small jug mix the sugar with the warm water and add to the pan. It will spit so be careful. Move around the pan for a few seconds and then pour the tadka over the dhokla so that it soaks into it and scatter the coriander and coconut garnish as well.
  8. Eat immediately or at room temperature.

* I have friends who make it with just semolina and no gram flour and you can also make it with dhokla flour itself (a combination of gram flour and rice flour).

You can also omit water altogether and simply use yoghurt so use my recipe as a template to find the one that suits you and your taste best.

* you can find eno (fruit salt) in any Asian grocers. It is the ingredient that makes the cake spongy in appearance.  If you do not have it to hand you can use bicarbonate of soda although it will be more dense in texture. 

2 thoughts on “Dhokla – A Savoury Cake from Gujarat

  1. I’m so happy you did this recipe. I recently had this at a Gujarati wedding (though it had a green layer under the yellow) and thought it was delicious. When I asked what it was I was given various answers. That one was made from rice flour I was told. Anyway thank you for sharing!

    • There are so many ways to make with water, no water just yogurt, semolina only, gram flour and semolina, dhokla flour. Sooo many options. Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes. It is quite a hard one to give precise measurements so use my recipe as a template.

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