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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ratlami Sev

It was decided by the blogging marathon group that 'Ratlami Sev' is going to be today's regional snack. Sev / Kara sev, deep fried savory snacks made with chickpea flour are ubiquitous in India. They are sold by sweet vendors, at bakeries and even made at homes. The fine variety sev happens to be a part of many chaats, a group of popular Indian street foods. Then one may start to wonder what so great about Ratlami variety when you can see sev everywhere. I began to explore about it and ended up at this Government of India' geographical indication tags journal where the information about it's origin, preparation and how the ingredients are chosen are given in detail. Besides, I had a seen a Ratlami sev maker in Ratlam on YouTube earlier which came handy.  
Ratlami is pronounced as Ru(as in run)-th(as in thermal)-laa-me. Ratlami sev comes from a town in Madhya Pradesh called Ratlam and is unique in terms of the spice blend used in the recipe. If my memory serves right, the first time I came across the town's name was in the movie, 'Jab we met' which by the way happens to be one of my favorite movies. Enough digression. 😊 According to the website mentioned above, the origin of this sev dates back to more than 136 years ago. During 19th century, the Mughal emperors seem to be passing through the Malwa region and wished to have sevaiyan aka wheat vermicelli. However they could not procure wheat locally and and ordered the Bhils, the local tribal people to prepare sevaiyan with the chickpea flour instead, which was available. The sev prepared thus was called Bhildi sev and this is considered to be the predecessor of the present day crispy and spicy Ratlami sev. The Sakhlecha family of Ratlam was one of the first commercial sev manufacturers who had begun to prepare and sell Ratlami sev in their shop about a century ago. The sev now is also prepared in other regions of the state, Gujarat, Maharasthra, and Delhi though Ratlamis seem to claim their uniqueness. The Ratlami seller in the video was attributing it to the water of the region that is used in the sev preparation

No two recipes that I had come across online had a similar spice blend used in the recipe. The person who was enjoying the Ratlami sev on the video had clearly mentioned the spices which matched with those in the journal. I blindly followed the recipe since it seemed to be the most authentic one. The Ratlami sev is made with chickpea flour alone without adding any other flours. Salt and a spice blend of black pepper, cloves, cumin, asafoetida and dried red chillies are used. It seems that the spices used in Ratlam are different than the ones used in Gujarati versions of ratlami sev. Spices can be customized  in the recipe according to one's preferences of course if they cannot handle the spices. However when Ratlami sev is tasted, it wouldn't hit immediately but one would feel the taste of asafoetida and cloves at the back of the throat once they finish eating.

Peanut oil is used for deep frying the sev, which is most common in Indian cooking though I used canola oil. The prepared sev dough needs to be used immediately and is passed through a sieved ladle aka jhara directly over the wok containing hot oil. It seems that the vendors keep the oil hot all the while, fry the sev for 2 to 3 minutes and remove them once the bubbling reduces and sev floats to the surface.  

I used a chakli press instead to make my sev, using a plate with 3 wholes. (Use an attachment with slightly smaller holes if you have one but not the tiny holes one. I had the one I used and the other one was to make fine sev). I forgot the part that mentioned to fry for only a few minutes and was aiming for a light brown color sev that I saw in Ratlam video and was also somehow confused them with the reguar chakli making which need extra time than sev making. And so I ended up frying the first two chaklis more than needed. They are done very quickly, end up being crunchy once they cool down and don't require as much frying as the other chaklis usually take. 
Online recipes mention an extra step of blending the oil, water and baking soda till it gets frothy and then add it to the dry ingredients.  I noticed that the street vendors were not following this step and besides, lemon juice and soda were not even part of the traditional recipe as per the website. I therefore followed the regular method of chakli /sev making since the addition of hot oil and soda in the dough give the sev the desired texture anyway. They are eaten along with tea or poha in Ratlam. 

Ingredients for the spice blend:
3/4 tsp. peppercorns
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
Ingredients for sev:
1 and 1/4 cup chickpea flour / besan
Salt to taste (somewhere around 1 tsp.)
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp. asafoetida powder
Chili powder to taste
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 - 4 tbsp. hot oil
Water as needed (I used about 1/4 cup.)
Oil to deep fry sev
Equipment:
A deep pan / wok
Chakli / murukku press and attachment plate with holes

Directions:
* Heat about 2 cups of oil in a small sized wok or a deep pan on medium flame. 
* Dry roast cloves and cumin seeds and let them cool. Once cool, grind them along with the peppercorns finely.

* Add this spice powder, turmeric, salt, chili powder and asafoetida to the chickpea flour in a mixing bowl. 

* Add 3 to 4 tbsp. hot oil to the besan mixture and combine. Stir with a spoon if needed. Add baking soda and lemon.
* Then pour a tbsp. of water over the soda. Add remaining water gradually and prepare a dough, the consistency of which is not too thick or runny. 

* Add a pinch of the dough into the hot oil. If it swims to the surface immediately, then the temperature is right to fry the sev. 
* Use chakli press and an attachment with bigger holes than the  one which makes fine sev. I used slightly bigger holed attachment since I didn't have smaller than that.

* Grease the inside of the chakli press and fill with the dough. 

* Press and squeeze the mold over the hot oil to make spirals.
 
* When the dough in the press is all used up, refill it with dough and keep it ready.

* Fry the sev, flipping in between until it turns light golden through out. Remove the sev using a perforated ladle and drain on a paper towel covered plate to absorb the excess oil. 

* Repeat the steps with the remaining dough and prepare sev the similar way.
* Let them cool and once they cool down, crush them gently to make them into bite sized pieces. Store them in an air tight container.
* Serve them along with tea or Indori poha.

So far my recipes in the series,

First week - Indian Traditional Sweets
Malaadu / Hurigadale Unde
Dry Gulab Jamun
Coconut Burfi / Kobbari Mithai
Almond Halwa / Badam Halwa
Elaneer Payasam
Godhuma Sojjappalu

Second week - Snacks from Gujarat, India
Damni Dhokla
Doodhi Muthia / Lauki Muthia
Dal Pandoli
Methi Khakhra
Pressure Cooker Khandvi

Jhal Muri
Comments

5 comments:

Srivalli said...

That govt document is a gem Suma, so interesting to read through it. Your sev has turned out very good indeed. As you said that frothy step felt like an extra one. anyway it surely looks like everybody enjoyed this!

Harini R said...

Very interesting info Suma. I didn't go thru the govt journal but I also felt that there were too many versions of the spice blends. Yours came out good.

Amara’s cooking said...

Interesting info about the govt document Suma, enjoyed reading it. Yours turned out really nice.

sushma said...

Thanks for the info Suma. Ratlami sev have turned out very nice.

Narmadha said...

Interesting information about the history of ratlami sev. Thanks for sharing. Your sev indeed looks absolutely scrumptious and perfectly made