Sabudhana is one of those secret-weapon Indian ingredients that are so endlessly adaptable and convenient, it’s a wonder it’s not better known to cooks outside the country.
These little white pearls are made out of cassava starch and are considered a mainstay in many Hindu households during vrat or fasting periods. Sabudhana (as it’s known in Hindi—sabakki in Kannada) is widely used in many parts of India from Rajasthan to Gujarat, to Maharashtra and even the north of Karnataka.
If you’re familiar with khichdi, then you’ll know that it’s usually a loose, almost soupy dish. Sabudhana khichdi can be made in this way, too. However, I’m rather fond of this drier version, a quicker affair more closely resembling a stir-fry, incredibly easy to make, and requiring just a handful of ingredients.
One of the main concerns many cooks have when cooking with sabudhana is its tendency to become gluey when cooked. Though I personally rather like the texture of gluey sabudhana, this recipe has some handy tips on how to avoid it if you’re not a fan!
2 tbsp ghee
1.5 tsp jeera (cumin seed)
¼ cup chopped, roasted pistachios
1/2 –inch piece of ginger, finely grated
1 branch curry patta, stripped from the stem
3 green chillies, slit down the side but left whole
2 cup sabudhana
Salt to taste
Garnish: Dill, freshly ground black pepper, chopped toasted pistachios, fresh lime juice
Note: The spices and herbs in this version of sabudhana kichdi aren’t exactly traditional, but I love the way that the pistachio, black pepper, and dill go together. For a more traditional version, you can leave out the black pepper and use cilantro and peanuts instead of the dill and pistachios.
In a medium bowl, wash the sabudhana in two changes of cool water to remove any loose starch left on it from milling. When the water starts to run clear, drain the sabudhana and then soak it in 2 cups of cool, fresh water for at least 4 hours.
After 4 hours, the sabudhana should be tender and hydrated and should have absorbed all the water in the bowl. Discard any extra water that hasn't been absorbed. Season with a teaspoon of salt and mix to combine before proceeding with the recipe.
In a large kadhai or wok, heat the ghee till it begins to shimmer.
Add the cumin seeds and allow them to toast and turn fragrant in the hot oil.
Next, add the pistachios and cook, stirring often, for just a minute, until they are glossy and smell toasted.
Add the ginger and continue to cook, stirring often, till it has lost its raw smell and is a light golden brown.
Add the curry patta and the green chilli and keep stirring, till both are glossy and blistered in spots from the heat of the pan.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the sabudhana to the pan. Stir to combine all the ingredients well and keep cooking on a medium flame for five more minutes, or until the sabudhana starts to turn translucent.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.
Cook, covered, for a further five minutes, at which point the sabudhana should be cooked through and the grains separate and fluffy.
Check for seasoning and adjust salt as needed.
Garnish with chopped pistachios, dill, and lime juice and serve while still piping hot.