Modaks and their Avatars Across India
Perhaps because Ganesh Chaturthi arrives around the time for the rice harvest, some format of rice-jaggery-coconut offering is made to the elephant god across the length and breadth of the country. Here’s a look at some of its most popular interpretations, using the Conscious Food Brown Rice Flour.
Maharashtra makes two types of modaks—the Konkan coast, Maharashtra’s rice box, makes the steamed version which has a soft rice flour casing, while the plateau region makes the deep fried modak with a wheat flour casing. To make the steamed modak, bring 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon of ghee and a pinch of salt to a boil. Add 1 heaped cup of brown rice flour (if the rice flour is aged, add 1 tablespoon of maida or plain flour to the mix to make it pliable), give it a quick stir, turn off the flame, and cover with a tight fitting lid. While it cools just slightly, make the filling—cook 1 cup of fresh grated coconut with ½ cup sugarcane jaggery and 1 tablespoon of toasted poppy seeds together in a thick bottomed vessel until the jaggery melts and the mixture comes together. Add ¼ teaspoon of green cardamom powder and mix well. Allow to cool. Next, knead the rice flour dough with greased hands until soft and smooth. Pinch off lemon sized balls of the dough and flatten to a 4-inch disc. Fill 2 teaspoons of the filling in each disc. Pinch the sides to make pleats and then, gather the pleats carefully together and pinch to seal. Place the shaped modaks onto a greased thali or banana leaf and steam for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Patolyo or Patoli are made in the Konkan and in Goa. The filling for these is the same as above but the casing is easier to make. The turmeric leaves lend a special fragrance to the dish, enhancing the starchy flavor of the rice. To make the Patoli, simply make a thick paste using 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 and ½ cups of water (more or less as required) and a pinch of salt. Make the filling as for Modak. On the light coloured side of the turmeric leaf, spread a little batter. Place the filling along the middle and fold in half. Steam these for 10-12 minutes. Serve hot with a spoonful of ghee.
These Tamil kozhukattais are also a cousin of the steamed modak, but are generally made smaller in size. Some people shape them into balls while some make them like modaks, but without the pleats. There are also minor changes in the filling such as the use of a small amount of camphor, which lends an altogether new flavor profile when steamed.
In Bengal, Patishapta or rice flour pancakes with a coconut and jaggery filling are made albeit not necessarily for the Ganesh festival. To make these, first make a filling by cooking 1 cup fresh grated coconut, ¼ cup khoya, and ½ cup palm sugar together until the mixture starts forming a ball. Add a good pinch of green cardamom powder and mix well. Keep aside. Make a batter using 1 cup brown rice flour, ¼ cup plain flour or maida, 2 teaspoons of palm sugar, and 2 and ½ cups of milk. The batter should be somewhat like a pancake batter. Grease a pan with very little oil or ghee and lade some batter onto the pan to make a disc about 4 inches in diameter. Once the batter almost sets, add two teaspoons of the filling on one side of the disc and roll. Cook the roll for a minute or so further and then remove. Serve the patishaptas warm or at room temperature.