An all-purpose Indian snack that’s appropriate for breakfast or birthdays, dhokla is a steamed cake from the Gujarat region. It reveals savory, sweet and spicy flavors, with a soft and spongy texture. The key to dhokla is Eno, an Indian antacid, which also happens to be a raising agent. It can easily be found online or at an Indian grocery store. Without it, the cake may not rise as high, but you can make do by substituting baking soda and citric acid for it.
- Whisk together the besan, yogurt, salt, hot water and sugar. You want the batter to be thick but pourable, like a pancake batter, so add more water if needed.
- Optional: cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel and let sit in a warm place anywhere from 4 to 10 hours to ferment.
- Whisk in the minced ginger and oil.
- Grease an 8-inch cake pan with oil. Find a pot it can fit comfortably inside of. Place a smaller cake pan upside down inside of the pot to use as a trivet for the greased pan, and then add water to the pot until it comes halfway up to the trivet pan. Put the lid on and bring it to a boil.
- When the steamer is boiling, whisk in the Eno or baking soda and citric acid mixture into the batter until it bubbles, typically around 5 seconds.
- Immediately pour the batter into the greased cake pan, then set it inside of the steamer with the lid on (waiting to cook after the Eno is added could interfere with rising). Steam for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is dry and puffy and a knife inserted comes out clean. Remove pan from pot and let cool for ten minutes.
- Slice the cake into diamonds or squares, and then place into a large bowl.
- To prepare the tadka, heat the oil in a small pot over medium heat, then add the black mustard seeds. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until they start to pop and puff up a bit in the oil.
- Add in the sesame seeds and jalapeño, then cook for ten seconds.
- Pour the tadka over the sliced cake and toss to coat.
- Lay the cakes out on a serving platter, then sprinkle with cilantro and coconut. Serve warm or at room temperature with your favorite chutney.
Leena Trivedi-Grenier is a food and culture writer who occasionally has to brush frosting out of her hair.