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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

'A - Z' Tamil Nadu Recipe Series ~ C for Chettinad Masala Cheeyam / Masala Seeyam

Southern India is predominantly a rice growing region and the various local cuisines reflect the fact. I did not realize until now that the recipes I planned for this week were all rice based. Akkaravadisal is a sweet rice pudding usually served as an offering to god while brinji is a rice and vegetable based spicy one pot meal. Today's post cheeyam or seeyam is also rice based and is a popular snack from Chettinad cuisine.
Chettinad cuisine is perhaps the most well known one among the various regional cuisines of Tamil Nadu, though surprisingly Chettinad / Chettinadu region relatively forms a smaller portion of the state in a geographical sense. It is located mainly in the Sivaganga district and some portion of Pudukottai district. Chettinad is the home of a prosperous banking and business community called Natukottai Chettiars / Nagarathars and in fact, Chettinadu literally means 'Land of Chettiars'.

The Chettiars are known to be traders of salt and spices which is reflected in their cuisine where dishes are made with freshly ground spices. They also use a lot of dried meats and salted vegetables owing to the dry environment of the region. Most of the dishes are either eaten with rice or rice based. The cuisine boasts of both vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes.
Some of the dishes I have previously tried from Chettinad region are

Today's masala cheeyam / masala seeyam also come from Chettinad region as I mentioned above. They are a popular snack from the region, made with a ground batter of rice and skinned black gram. This is a spicy version while there is also a sweet version of seeyam. These delicious fritters make a great evening snack and I read somewhere that people who are fasting also prepare this as an evening meal. 

This spicy version needs advance planning as the rice and black gram needs to be soaked for 2 - 3 hours. Grind the batter fluffy and fine like one does idli batter. Remember not to make it runny. Onions and green chilis are sautéed and added to the batter which add flavor to these fritters though I think the step of sautéing onions can be skipped. Adding raw onions to the batter is not  going to make that of a big difference as they are going to be deep fried anyway.
1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup skinned black gram / urad dal
Salt to taste
Oil to deep fry 
Ingredients for sautéing:
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1 small sprig of curry leaves, finely minced
1 or 2 green chilies, finely minced
1 medium sized onion, finely minced
2 tbsp. fresh, shredded coconut

1. Rinse and soak rice and skinned black gram in water for at least two hours. Drain the water completely after the soaking period.
2. Grind them together into a thick, fluffy batter adding water in small increments. Do not make the batter runny. (Using a grinder would help to use small quantity of water to while grinding. If the batter turns runny, adding a small quantity of rice flour would help but adding too much would turn the cheeyam harder.)
3. Meanwhile, heat a tbsp. oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they start to sputter add, green chili and curry leaves. Stir them for few seconds and add onions and salt enough for the onions.
4. Sauté until onion turns translucent and add the coconut. Stir once and turn off the stove.
5 & 6. Add the sautéed onions and salt to the batter. (Keep in mind that onions contain salt too). Mix the batter well with a spoon and keep aside.
7. Heat oil for deep frying in a frying pan on medium heat. Drop a pinch of batter to the oil. If it swims to the surface, the oil is ready for frying. If not, heat the oil a little more. Dip your fingers / hand into the batter and shape a small ball. Gently drop into the oil. Repeat the step and drop as many balls as the pan can hold, without overcrowding. (There is no need to fret over the shapes. They don't to be exactly round.)
8. First they sink and soon float to the surface. Keep gently flipping them with a perforated spoon. Lower the heat to low - medium setting and fry until they turn golden brown throughout.
9. Remove them when done and transfer them onto a plate laden with paper towels to absorb the extra grease.
10. Reheat the oil if needed and repeat the steps with the remaining batter.
11. Serve them warm and enjoy with a spicy chutney or some ketchup.

This is going to be my contribution to this week's Blogging marathon, with the theme 'A -Z Series'. Check the page link to see what other marathoners are cooking.


Srivalli said...

Such an addictive snack Suma, would love to make it anytime!

Radha said...

Yummy and delicious snack! I would love to have this on a rainy day with a cup od chai!

Srividhya said...

I am all up for savory snacks and love this one. Yet to explore snack of Chettinad cuisine and this definitely goes into my bookmark. Great share Suma.

Narmadha said...

Such an addictive and delicious snack recipe. Tempted to try this immediately and enjoy