One of the luxuries growing up with a mom who stayed at home was her welcoming smile when we got home from school. And a piping hot snack that me and my sister would hungrily wolf down before running outside to play with neighborhood kids. Dinner time at our house was just after 8 PM, which still continues to be my habit. So a substantial snack was needed after school and to tide us by till dinner. Plus we needed all that energy for boisterous play anyway!
Amma (mom) used to be very creative with snacks. Sometimes it would be corn on the cob, grilled on burning embers and dabbed with a smidgen or salt and lemon juice or lovely fruit chaat (medley of whatever fruits are in season with a sprinkle of chaat masala). Sometimes it was more elaborate stuff like Palak Pakodas or Pesarattu. If you are familiar with Dosa, the Indian crepe, Pesarattu is its cousin made with Mung daal/beans/lentils. Unlike dosa, Pesarattu does not require any fermentation and is pretty much single ingredient if you don’t count the optional toppings/garnishes.
Pesarattu is uniquely popular in my Amma’s home state, Andhra Pradesh, and I inherited her fond love for this. During my visits to my Ammamma’s (maternal grandmother), my favorite activity was to eat Pesarattu at the ubiquitous street stalls around the bus station.
A bit of planning is needed because lentils need soaking. If split mung daal is used, 3-4 ours soak time is enough, but if you are using whole mung lentils, it is best to soak them overnight.
Toppings!..or garnishes! This is where the fun begins!! Amma always adds finely chopped shallots, diced green or red chilies, cumin seeds, chopped ginger and copious amounts of cilantro. I believe this is one recipe I follow her exact footsteps. Of course, I customize the garnishes for my kids because one doesn’t like onions, the other one doesn’t like cumin seeds ‘if they are visible’.
While making Pesarattu is not hard, the first couple of them could get sacrificed, until you get the knack of thinly spreading the batter on a hot griddle, especially if you are new at this. Trust me, even after making hundreds of these (easily) my first one is always a sacrificial lamb. I accept it, and so should you if it happens to you. It is the only path towards Pesarattu Nirvana!
What do you need (makes 8)
1 cup split or whole mung daal (soaked overnight)
1 shallot chopped (or 1/2 small onion)
1 tbsp (approximately) cumin seeds
1 tbsp (approximately) finely chopped ginger
1-2 chopped red or green chilies (or to taste, optional)
Big handful roughly torn cilantro
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Oil as needed (melted Ghee can be used if feeling extra special)
How to make it:
- Grind soaked Mung daal with salt into a pourable batter consistency. The batter should be thinner than pancake batter (it will not be gluey).
- Heat a non-stick griddle on medium-low. Pour about a quarter cup of batter in the center and spread it around with the back of the spoon. It is best if you take a spoon with a scooping end so that you can spread it with the same spoon’s rounded bottom (see picture).
- Dot the circumference of the crepe with oil (or ghee) and also oil any ‘holes’ and ‘tears’. These become crispy and oh so good.
- Sprinkle the toppings as generously as you want. Slightly press them down so as to wedge them into the batter.
- After 1 minute or so when the edges are turning golden color, loosen the edges with a spatula and gently flip the crepe.
- Let it cook for another 30 seconds and flip back to fold in half to serve piping hot.
- Pesarattu is typically served with hot (I mean really hot!!) Allam (Ginger) pickle. But I find nothing additional is really required. My favorite condiment is Maggi Sweet & Sour Ketchup, which as the name indicates, is a spicier and zestier version of tomato ketchup available in any Indian grocery store.
Make sure you have the griddle on medium-low. If it is too hot it will be difficult to thinly spread the crepe. Also it will start cooking too fast before you can oil it and add the garnishes.
If the pan gets too hot, sprinkle some water to cool it off before starting the next one.
Again, the first (or even two) could be sacrificial lambs. Plan the quantities accordingly.