Recently Aunty invited me to a pesarattu party: the making was as delightful as the eating. Aunty with her accumulated knowledge, attention to details and warm personality is a force to reckon with- I felt privileged just to be alongside her. Her pairing of the pesarattu with equally delectable upama and an array of chutneys build up to a crescendo in every bite! You may be familiar with the iconic dosa, a fermented rice crepe. Pesarattu is similar, but with moong lentils (sans fermentation).
The languages, the scripts, the schools of music & dance: each is a testimony to the depth and diversity of Indian history. So say even the scientists studying the collective DNA of its denizens. And, the spectacular array of food– ingredients, combinations, techniques– is yet another axis, in my mind.
I present the pesarattu here with a twist. As outrageous as it may seem to you, serving this dish taco-style brings out its resplendence as it was meant to be– every morsel bursting with a bit of pesarattu, a dollop of upama, a dash of chutneys– enabled by just your tactile fingers! And, tilt your head, not the taco, as my Mexican friends advise. Enjoy!
Taco stands for serving; non-stick pan & spatula for making the crepe; processor for making the batter and chutney.
- Pesarattu batter: In processor: 1 cup green moong (with skin) + 1/2 cup yellow moong soaked in plenty of water for 6-8 hrs & drained + salt to taste + 1 tsp whole cumin seeds + 1 tsp grated ginger + 1 red chilli + little water (enough to get the processor going)
- oil to make the pesarattu
- Upama (recipe below)
- Ginger-tamarind Chutney (recipe below)
Make the chutney and upama as below. Make about a dozen pesarattu/crepes following the instructions therein.
To serve: place the pesarattu on the taco stand. Brush lightly with the chutney. Add a generous dollop of upama as filling. Serve hot.
Notes, hints, tips:
- Actually, the pesarattu, all by itself, is quite delicious and complete. I have been carrying this on long roadtrips to avoid highway food.
- Using split moong lentils (both with skin on and without) drastically reduces the soaking time to just 1-2 hrs. You could use the bite-test, to gauge its readiness for the grinder.
- Crepe making: It is easier to use a non-stick pan. However you could use the cast iron griddle (remember the dosa-stations at some restaurants or food trucks?). Also, feel free to use a timer, once you get the timings of your griddle & stove so that you are not left nursing a hot griddle by an even hotter stove. Follow these steps closely.
(a) Thoroughly heat the bare iron-griddle –2 to 3 mins– till splashes of water on the grid surface immediately sizzle away.
(b) Brush oil on the surface and remove excess by wiping lightly with kitchen paper towel; continue to heat for another 30 secs.
(c) Use a heat-proof ladle. Make the crepe by placing a ladle of batter and spreading it with circular movements of the ladle till a thin layer is formed. The diameter of the circle will depend on the amount of the batter. For a taco-size-serving, use about 1/4 cup of batter.
(d) Cook on low-medium heat till the edge releases (few minutes). Gently ease a sturdy spatula under the crepe and lift off the griddle.
Avoid the temptation to add excess oil to the crepe: it is not required and also less oily on the hands when using your fingers. I can make about a dozen without adding any extra oil; just drawing upon the hot griddle and the very first step ((b) above) of oiling the surface.
[I use this technique also for the Punjabi Waffles– when I don’t use the waffle maker.]
- Upama: I give a slight tweak to Aunty’s recipe- just to make up for my lack of talent:
(a) In a wok, dry roast 1/2 tbsp of urad dal + 1/2 tbsp chana dal for about 2 minutes. Add 1 tbsp oil and 1/4 tsp whole mustard seeds and few curry leaves. When the seed sputter, add 1 crushed red chilli + 1/2 tsp grated ginger. Saute for 2 mins. Add about 1/8 cup of water and cover. Cook till the water evaporates and the lentils are soft.
(b) Add 1 cup coarse semolina + salt to taste. Mix thoroughly. Meanwhile heat 4 cups of water (I usually do this in a microwave for 4 minutes).
(c) Add the hot water to the wok, mix, cover. When thoroughly heated (and it may begin to bubble like lava) turn off the heat.
(d) Add 1 tbsp of ghee on top. Leave it covered. Mix just before serving. Indeed, this is the magical touch. Believe me, 1 tbsp goes a long way.
- This chutney is a fascinating recipe using fenugreek (methi) seeds and ginger. A perfect balance comes from tamarind and a dash of sweetner. I use the Thai tamarind paste.
Chutney making: Again, I give a slight tweak to Aunty’s recipe:
Toast 1 tbsp methi seeds. Add 1 tbsp oil, 1/4 tsp mustard seeds + 1/2 red chilli and let the mustard sputter. Remove from heat and add 2 inch long ginger root very thinly sliced + 1/2 tbsp tamarind paste + a pinch sugar + salt to taste.
The processor really struggles to make the chutney, unless you have the Indian/Southeast Asian special-purpose ones. I would suggest using a pestle and mortar lightly on the seeds only and then a processor with the rest of the softer ingredients. Yes, it seems like a bit of trouble; but worth the results!
- Aunty also served a heavenly coconut chutney. Since this requires fresh coconut, which is rather hard to come by, I omit it here. Feel free to use store-bought one and use it alongside the other chutney.
- Below, a non-taco-style served pesarattu with upama and chutney on the side.