Every Indian transplant in the US or elsewhere brings with her (or him) a plethora of specialized kitchen utensils and equipments specific to Indian cooking. We need a big pressure cooker and a small one (and a medium one, if you are very particular), moulds and steamer vessels for making idlis, a traditional roti rolling-pin and base, and a whole lot of other highly specific things.
When I first landed here, I was new to cooking and I believed in traveling light, so I brought with me the obligatory pressure cooker and a couple of vessels. Now if you ask me why I don’t buy whatever I needed right here or online, well, for one, they are quite expensive here and every Indian wife prefers certain brands when it comes to cooking equipment. There are brands back home we trust to make long-lasting and sturdy equipments. My town still has those mom and pop stores who deal in everything related to home and kitchen. Such stores are a sight to behold. They are stacked from floor to ceiling with shiny stainless steel vessels, heavy copper-bottom pans, non-stick cookware, expensive silver vessels (yes, we need those in our lives) and all those special equipments which may be used for one specific thing, yet is a must in every kitchen. And I tell you, nothing beats the thrill holding a ladle or heavy tawa in your hand and trying it out in their cramped aisles to find the right one.
One such specialized item is the idiyappam press/mould. Idiyappams (also called string hoppers) are a South Indian breakfast dish made with rice flour, formed into thin noodles with said mould and steamed. It is extremely popular in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and also Sri Lanka. We usually have it for breakfast, though it counts as an Indian “bread” and so, can be eaten any time of day. My hubby adores them and would wait patiently for our trips back home to enjoy them. So on our last visit, I got myself a spanking new idiyappam press. I found one at Amazon to show you, so go here to take a look.
Idiyappams are healthy, easy on the stomach (since they are steamed) and is excellent even for babies. You can eat them sprinkled with sugar and milk on top or you can go bold with a spicy curry to accompany the mild idiyappams.
So I made egg vindaloo, a spicy and tangy Goan curry with red chilis and vinegar. There is a story behind this recipe too. This was one of the first recipes I learned when I got married. In India, it is considered neither offensive nor in cheap taste to gift the bride with cookbooks and very practical kitchen utensils at her wedding. I received many and this is the recipe hubby and I selected randomly to try in our new home. That was a while back and it’s been a long time since I made vindaloo. So, to celebrate all things nostalgic, home-made and all that, I paired egg vindaloo with idiyappams. And they were so good, I had to share them with you!
The idiyappams (or string hoppers, what a funny name!) may seem daunting if you do not know what it is actually, but I really wanted to record it on my blog as I find that many of my native friends are not sure about the dough making process and the ratio of rice flour to water. You can search for idiyappam making on YouTube for comprehensive tutorials which show you how to properly use the idiyappam press/mould. It comes in hand-held and free-standing models, I have the traditional hand-held one.
EGG VINDALOO WITH STRING HOPPERS (IDIYAPPAM)
You will need: (Serves 4-6)
For vindaloo spice paste,
- Whole dried red chilis – 4-5 (as per heat level)
- Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
- Cinnamon stick – 1″ piece
- Cloves – 2-3
- Black pepper corns – 1 tsp
- Ginger – a thick 1″ piece
- Garlic – 5-6 cloves, peeled
- White vinegar – 2 tbsp
For egg vindaloo,
- Eggs – 6, large
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Curry leaves – a few
- Onion – 1 large, ground to a paste
- Green chilis – 2, chopped
- Tomatoes – 2, chopped
- Sugar – 1 tsp
- Water – 1 cup
- Salt – to taste
- Cilantro leaves – 1 tbsp, chopped
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and dry roast the vindaloo spice paste ingredients from dried red chilis to black pepper corns till lightly fragrant. Cool slightly and grind to a smooth paste in a blender along with ginger and garlic. Use vinegar to help make a smooth paste. Keep aside.
- Meanwhile boil, cool and peel the eggs and keep aside.
- To make the egg vindaloo: In a large pan, heat oil. Add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and curry leaves and allow them to crackle.
- Add the onion paste and saute till it turns golden. Then add the ground vindaloo spice paste and saute well for a few minutes till the raw smell of ginger and garlic goes away and the masala becomes fragrant and dark in color.
- Then add the chopped green chilis and tomatoes and cook till tomatoes are mushy and the oil starts to separate at the sides.
- Add sugar, water and season with salt. Bring it to a boil and allow the curry to reduce and thicken.
- Cut the boiled eggs into halves or make deep slits all over them and add to the curry. Stir lightly to coat the eggs in the spicy gravy and remove from heat.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves, cover and allow the egg vindaloo to rest for as long as you can before serving. This helps in developing the flavors beautifully. Serve with steamed rice, rotis or idiyappams, like I did here (idiyappam recipe follows).
- You can make chicken or prawn vindaloo similarly. Just remember to increase the cooking time and add more water if required.
- You can also try this with potatoes for a pure vegetarian version.
- Some vindaloo recipes call for an insane amount of vinegar, but I have found the aforementioned amount to be optimum, along with a couple of tart tomatoes in the gravy. I use tomatoes to add body and flavor to the vindaloo curry.
STRING HOPPERS/IDIYAPPAM (SOFT STEAMED RICE FLOUR NOODLES)
You will need: (Makes 5 idli plates or 20 small idiyappams, feeds 4-6)
- Rice flour – 2 cups
- Water – 2 1/2 cups (You typically need as much water as there is rice flour, but the amount needed ultimately depends on the rice variety, so always take a little extra water.)
- Oil – 1 tsp + a little extra to grease the idiyappam press and steamer plates
- Salt – 1/2 tsp
- Coconut – 1/2 cup, grated
- Steamer vessel and idli plates (or a steamer basket lined with a damp muslin cloth)
- Idiyappam press/mould
- For the dough: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and lightly roast the rice flour for a couple of minutes, stirring all the while. The rice flour should be lightly fragrant, but must never change color. So keep a close eye on things here. Remove and set aside. You can skip this step if you buy pre-roasted rice flour, which is available in all Indian grocery stores.
- In a saucepan, bring water to a slow boil, adding oil and salt.
- Take rice flour in a large mixing bowl and add the hot water to it, little by little. Working quickly, mix with a ladle to form a sticky dough. You may need slightly less or slightly more than 2 cups of water, as this depends on the type of rice flour. So keep adding water till the dough just comes together.
- Once the dough comes together, grease your palms lightly with oil and knead the dough to make a soft ball. Yes, the dough will be hot, but you have to do it!
- To cook string hoppers/idiyappams: Heat some water in a steamer vessel. Grease the idli plates with oil or line them with a damp muslin cloth. You can also use a cloth-lined steamer basket or plate if you don’t have an idli rack.
- Sprinkle some freshly grated coconut over the prepared plates.
- Grease the insides of the idiyappam press with oil. Place a fist full of fresh idiyappam dough in it and press down with the upper portion of the press to form thin noodles on the prepared plates, using a circular motion. Take care not to make very thick idiyappams as they will not cook properly.
- Steam in the vessel for 8-10 minutes. Once done, remove and flip the idiyappams onto a serving bowl, so that the coconut side is up. Cover to keep them warm and soft.
- Repeat till all the dough is used up. Remember to keep the dough covered in between batches to prevent it from drying out.
- Serve warm string hoppers with egg vindaloo or any other spicy curry. You can also serve them with sugar and milk for a sweet meal.
- The rice flour dough has to be used up as soon as it is made. So keep the steamer vessel, plates and idiyappam press ready when you begin working on the dough.
- Also, only make as much dough as you need. If you need to make a large quantity, mix the dough in batches so that it stays fresh and does not dry out. If it dries out, it will be extremely difficult to form the noodles.
- I have used a muslin cloth lined idli plate to steam the string hoppers, as I’ve found the muslin cloth helps removing the idiyappams extremely easy and also makes clean up easy.
- The idiyappam press will come with different sized perforations at the bottom, use the smallest ones for best results.
- If I can get the hubby to photograph the idiyappam making process some day, I will update this post at a later date with more details.
If you love string hoppers and have a press on hand, go ahead and use this recipe for soft and delicious string hoppers. If you have no idea what I am talking about, do check out videos on YouTube, I am sure you will find it quite intriguing and who knows, you may even want to try it!
Do try the egg vindaloo recipe and treat your family to something spicy and utterly delicious. Like most Indian curries, the leftovers are amazing, as the flavors have had time to mature and develop. Do try it and let me know!
I am linking this up at these awesome blogs.
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- By Stephanie Lynn