Some recipes are so close to the heart, they really don’t need a special occasion to be enjoyed. This is one such recipe. It is a classic, rustic, soul-satisfying dish from Tamil Nadu, also found in parts of Kerala. My mom makes this the best and I have practiced it over the years to sort of do justice to the recipe.
Simply put, paal kozhukattai is a lightly sweetened pudding of rice flour dumplings cooked in milk or coconut milk or a combination of both, and flavored with cardamom. My mom always makes this with slices of ripe plantains added and that’s how I make it as well. In fact, it works out perfectly. I love the soft dumplings (kozhukattai) and the hubby loves the robust, ripe slices of plantain. As for the young guy, he simply wants something sweet!
Now, don’t you go on thinking that this is a complicated recipe. Far from it. You just need to master a couple of elements of the recipe, like forming the dough and cooking the rice dumplings. You can buy a packet of pre-roasted rice flour from any Indian store or do it yourself. The kozhukattai or dumplings are tiny balls of rice flour dough, but mom always made them coin-shaped so that they would be similar to the plantain slices.
Work quickly in forming the rice balls so that the dough doesn’t dry out. These are then cooked in thin coconut milk or milk or a combination of both. The plantains are then added and boiled till they soften. A little bit of sugar to bring out the natural sweetness of the coconut milk and plantains, and a bit of thick coconut milk towards the end finishes off the pudding perfectly.
You can very well make this without the plantains, if you don’t find them or simply don’t want to use them. But, I would suggest you do. Ripe plantains undergo such a huge transformation when they are cooked. They turn a bright yellow, the flavor is sweet-tart, and the texture creamy, a delight in itself. Paired with the soft kozhukattai and silky coconut milk pudding, it works out perfectly.
This is such a versatile recipe, and can be enjoyed from dawn till dusk. It can be breakfast, snack or even dessert. It can be enjoyed hot, warm or at room temperature. Most of the times, I make a huge batch in the evening and reserve some for breakfast the next day.
Rice, plantains and coconuts play such an important part in the lives of people back home. They are everyday staples, rather inexpensive and provide much-needed nutrition. A bowl of this in the morning can keep you full for quite some time. That being said, it is delicate enough to find its place as a post-meal sweet or after-school snack as well.
- Rice flour - 1 cup
- Water - 1¼ cup
- Sesame oil - 1 tsp
- Salt - ¼ tsp
- Milk - 1½ cups
- Water - 1 cup
- Thin coconut milk - 1 cup
- Cardamom powder - ¼ tsp
- Ripe plantain - 1 large, thinly sliced
- Sugar - ½ cup
- Thick coconut milk - ½ cup
- To form rice dumplings: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and roast the rice flour, stirring constantly. The rice flour must be heated through and lightly fragrant, but not browned. Remove to a mixing bowl.
- In another saucepan, bring water, sesame oil and salt to a boil. Add 1 cup of this to the rice flour and mix with a wooden spoon to form a sticky dough. Add the rest of the water too, if needed.
- Once the dough comes together, lightly grease your palms with oil and gently knead the dough to make it smooth and soft. It will be hot, so be careful.
- Take a small portion of the dough and make tiny balls from it. Flatten the balls slightly to make them coin or disc shaped. Repeat till all the dough is used up. Keep dough and shaped rice balls covered with a damp kitchen towel at all times, to keep them from drying out.
- Paal kozhukattai: In a large, deep pan, bring milk and water to a boil. Reduce heat and add the rice balls. Cook for 4-5 minutes without stirring. When they are cooked, the dumplings will float to the top.
- Now add thin coconut milk and cardamom powder and bring to a gentle boil. Add the sliced plantains and cook for 5 minutes till plantains are cooked through and soft.
- Add sugar and mix well. Cook for a couple more minutes till pudding is slightly thick.
- Stir in thick coconut milk and remove from heat. Do not let the pudding boil after adding the thick coconut milk.
- Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. This keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days. Reheat gently before serving.
2. If you wish to make this pudding completely vegan, omit the milk and cook the rice dumplings in thin coconut milk.
3. If using canned coconut milk, open the can without shaking and skim off ½ cup of thick milk collected at the top to use as thick coconut milk. If using coconut powder, prepare thin and thick milks as per package instructions. But of course, nothing beats the real deal. Freshly squeezed coconut milk is always the best!
4. Some recipes call for steaming the rice balls instead of cooking them in milk, though I prefer this version to steaming the dumplings.
5. Needless to say, this recipe can be made without the plantains as well.
This recipe is very dear to my heart and I’m so happy to be able to share it with you all. Do try this healthy coconut milk pudding. Make it entirely vegan by omitting the milk, if you want. Also, feel free to try it without the plantains too, if you do not find it or do not want to use it. It works any which way.
We absolutely love this comfort food and I hope you guys will too.
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