Sabudana Khichdi (Maharashtrian Tapioca Pilaf)
Sabudana khichdi, which loosely translates to “tapioca mixture,” is a delightfully chewy Maharashtrian pilaf studded with the crunch of toasted peanuts, creamy bits of potato, and the occasional cumin seed. A hit of sweetness is balanced with salt, lemon and the alternating flames of ginger and green chile, and then everything is showered with a generous amount of chopped cilantro. The result is seductive in both texture and flavor. The key to this simple dish is to thoroughly soak the sabudana, or medium-sized tapioca pearls, until you can easily smash one between your thumb and forefinger. Then, use a microwave to cook the sabudana, stopping to check for doneness in 15-second increments. As soon as the pearls are translucent and chewy, they’re done.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1cup medium tapioca pearls (look for sabudana at an Indian grocer)
- 3or 4 small-medium yellow potatoes (about 8 ounces), such as Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn
- Fine sea salt
- ½cup raw peanuts
- 4to 5 Thai chiles, stems removed, roughly chopped
- 1(3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch coins
- 3tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
- 1teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish
Step 1Place tapioca in a large bowl and cover with water. Swirl to release starch, then drain. Repeat a few times until water runs mostly clear, then drain well. Return tapioca to bowl, along with 3/4 cup water. Soak for 4 to 5 hours, or until water is mostly absorbed and tapioca pearls are easily squashed when pressed between your thumb and forefinger. Drain well, and place into a large microwave-safe bowl.
Step 2Place whole potatoes in a small pot and cover with water. Season generously with salt and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until completely tender, about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on size. Remove potatoes from water, allow to cool, then peel, and dice into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to tapioca.
Step 3Set a frying pan over medium heat and add peanuts. Swirling constantly, toast them until shiny, aromatic and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Pour immediately onto a plate to prevent overcooking. Wipe pan, and return to stove.
Step 4In a food processor, pulse chiles and ginger together until finely minced, stopping to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula once or twice. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can do this step by hand.) Remove 1 tablespoon chile-ginger mixture, and set aside. Add cooled peanuts to food processor, and continue to pulse just long enough to roughly chop nuts. Scrape peanut-chile mixture into tapioca-potato mixture.
Step 5Heat frying pan over a medium flame and add oil. When oil shimmers, add cumin. When cumin begins to sizzle, stir in reserved chile-ginger mixture, and allow to sizzle but not brown, then immediately pour into tapioca mixture. Add 1 teaspoon sugar, toss and season with salt to taste.
Step 6Microwave tapioca mixture on high for 2 minutes, then stir. Continue cooking for another 2 minutes, then stir again. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes in 15-second increments, until tapioca is translucent and chewy, but not quite transparent and clumpy.
Step 7Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, sugar and lemon juice. Garnish with cilantro, and serve hot.