Posted by: gdevi | June 2, 2011

Sabudana Khichdi recipe

Veena’s mother Mrs. Joshi makes the best sabudana khitchdi that I have eaten. It is a Maharashtrian dish. In Kerala we cook tapioca very differently.  Some fridays after school I used to visit the Joshis and Mrs. Joshi used to make this wonderful dinner for us; Orange Roughy my favorite fish cooked with coconut milk and carrots, rice, dal, aloo gobi, or some sort of palak dish; Veena and Kris and the kids would be there, sometimes Coretta would be there,  sometimes the Langs would be there, sometimes the Beards. Great food, great conversation, sometimes we would all sing, Veena’s mother and father both have formidable knowledge of Indian classical music. A wonderful way to start your weekend.   I tried to remember how Aayi used to make the sabudana khitchdi yesterday and made some by myself. Now that the Amish store seems to stock these unusual things I am relying on a steady supply of sabudana forever and ever. As with all my experimental dishes, both D and K ate it with some trepidation, but we are all alive and here, so it was good I think. Actually it was pretty good.

This is how I made it:

The trick to making good sabudana khitchdi is the soaking of the sabudana, or the raw tapioca pearls. Soak the sabudana for no more than 30 minutes in cold water from the tap. After 30 minutes (really no more) drain the water, and leave the sabudana to soak for anywhere between 6-8 hours. This will make sure that the sabudana does not get soggy but soft for the cooking.


Sabudana – 1 cup

Potatoes – medium, boiled, cubed into small pieces that go with the sabudana

Peanuts – roasted, shelled, and broken into small pieces, not ground (you should be able to bite into the peanuts a bit)

Coconut – shredded, unsweetened, 2 Tbl spns

For the tarka, or spices for frying

Mustard seeds – 2  tsps

Cumin powder or whole cumin – 2 tsps

Green chillies – 2-3 chopped into small pieces

Dry red chillies – 2

Hing – a small pinch

Curry leaves – a nice small picking

Salt – to taste

Oil for the tarka – 2 Tblsps (vegetable oil or ghee would work)


1. Soak the sabudana as above. Boil, peel and cube potatoes and set aside. Dry roast, shell, and break peanuts into small pieces. Set aside.

2. In a shallow saucepan, heat the oil for the tarka to medium heat. Do not burn the oil. Drop the  mustard seeds into the hot oil. Wait for the seeds to pop. (You can cover the pan if you don’t want the seeds popping all over the range because they will.)

3. When the seeds are popped, add the hing, stir, then add the cumin, green chillies, red chillies, salt, and stir. When you can smell the spices frying, add the cubed potatoes. Mix well for 2-3 minutes in low flame.

4. Add the soaked and drained (and now nice soft and sort of bigger after the soaking) sabudana into the potato-spice mix and stir well. Cook over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes. You will see the white sabudana pearls turning kind of opaque. That is how they should be.

5. When the sabudana turns opaque, add the crushed peanuts, mix well.

6. Add the shredded coconut. Mix well.

7. Add the salt and taste and fix it if it needs more salt.

Do everything in low heat.

Here are the things you should not do when cooking sabudana, period.

1. Keep water away. You should not even cover the cooking vessel because that will bring water via condensation. Water will make sabudana soggy.

2. Cook over medium heat. And you must keep the dish stirred and mixed.

Tasted very good, actually! Not as good as Aayi’s but pretty close!

In Kerala, Tapioca root is as much a staple food as rice. It is a root tuber like potatoes, or like chena, chembu, or kaachil. Sometimes for really poor people tapioca is the staple food, and not rice. But everyone eats tapioca in Kerala in one form or the other. There are recent medical studies that have identified certain carcinogenic properties to tapioca, so as with anything, you might want to use tapioca in moderation. There are many different kinds of tapioca (locally known as “kappa” or “marachini” in Malayalam) cultivated in Kerala. It is customary for almost all households to have at least a few roots of tapioca growing in their yard. We grew a lot of tapioca in our land, and we used to get different kinds. There is the kind that cooks so well that it melts in your mouth. Then there is the kind that in our family we call “mezhukuthiri” or candle-like, because it wouldn’t melt like butter in your mouth but has a harder texture. I like both.

We cook tapioca several ways in Kerala. The simplest way to cook it is to just peel the hard skin off and then cut into big chunky pieces, boil in water, drain, and then eat with any kind of spicy curry you have. I sometimes used to eat it with just oil, shallots and green chillies ground into a paste with salt. It is wonderful. Then you can cook it properly into what is called “kappa puzhukku” where you chop the tapioca into really small pieces, boil it until it is soft, then mix it with  ground coconut, cumin, green chillies, turmeric and salt, topped with a bit of coconut oil, mixed well. It is delicious. We usually eat it with some sort of fish curry.  Sometimes you can cook tapioca with meat — particularly beef — this is a specialty in North Kerala; it was interesting to see Anthony Bourdain eating the beef with tapioca in his edition of No Reservations where he visits Kerala.


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