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Uppu Seedai & Vella Seedai – Janmashtami Special

Tomorrow is Janmashtami or Gokulashtami. It is Lord Krishna’s birthday and it is celebrated with much pomp and grandeur in the homes and temples of India.

And I believe Lord Krishna was a total foodie!!! That’s why the number of ‘Neivedyams’ or offerings that are made on this day beats any other festival. The types of neivedyam differ largely from one region to another, but the intentions behind all of these remain the same, to please the infant Lord Krishna and welcome him into our homes and hearts and seek his blessings.


As I’m from the southern part of India, this post will mostly be about the traditions followed in my home state, Tamilnadu. Amongst all the offerings, Uppu Seedai (salty rice flour fritters), Vella Seedai (Sweet rice flour fritters) and butter are the most important or I should say popular ones. Other offerings include Neyyappam, Murukku (tenguzhal), various sweets/barfis, curd (yogurt), milk, vella aval (beaten rice and jaggery), vadai and so many other things!!!! The puja is performed in the evening. A special thing about this day is that, we make small imprints of Lord Krishna’s feet (using rice paste), starting at our door step and ending at the puja room or the place where the puja is being performed. This is to welcome the lord into our house. The entrance to the house is decorated with elaborate rangoli/kolam. It truly is a day of celebration! We feel so bad for not being able to be with our family on this day :(

(Imprints of Lord Krishna’s feet made with rice paste)

This post is the recipe for Uppu Seedai and Vella Seedai. The recipes and pictures are from two people I love so much, my Mom (Amma) and my Mother in Law (my second Amma!).

Actually these recipes call for rice flour that has been soaked, dried and pounded freshly, as that way, the flour has a good amount of moisture which helps to improve the taste and texture of the final product. But, I do not have time always to do that at home now, so I make do with store bought rice flour and the result is pretty good.

How to grind Rice flour at home:

  • Soak rice in some water for 15-20 mins. Drain the rice and spread it on a dry kitchen towel and let air dry overnight. Grind into a very fine powder and store in an air tight container.

How to grind Urad Dal powder at home:

  • Dry roast some urad dal on medium heat until reddish brown. Take care to not burn it. Cool and grind into a very fine powder. This may be used for the preparation of many savory snacks.

Uppu Seedai (Salty)

Ingredients:

Rice flour – 1 cup
Urad Dal powder – 1 Tbsp
Softened butter (unsalted) – 1 Tbsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp (adjust accordingly if using salted butter)
Asafoetida powder – 1/8 tsp
Sesame seeds – 1/2 tsp
Coconut – 1 Tbsp (preferable freshly grated, remove excess moisture if using frozen)
Water – as required (about 1/4 cup)
Oil – for deep frying

Method:

  • Mix all ingredients except water together.
  • Now add water gradually and just enough water to bring the dough together. The dough will not be pliable, but brittle, as rice flour has no gluten.
  • Make small balls of this dough (don’t press too tight). Drop these balls on a dry kitchen towel and let them air dry for 20-30 mins.
  • Heat oil for deep frying. Drop one ball and test if the oil is hot. Drop 20-25 balls at a time and deep fry until golden brown. Drain on tissues and cool before storing in an air tight container.

Vella Seedai (Sweet)

Ingredients:

Rice flour – 1 cup
Urad Dal powder – 1 Tbsp
Grated jaggery – 3/4 cup
Water – 1 cup
Softened butter (unsalted) – 1 Tbsp
Sesame seeds – 1 tsp
Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
Coconut (freshly grated) – 1 Tbsp (optional)

Method:

  • Dry roast the rice flour until aromatic and light brown in color.
  • Combine the grated jaggery and 3/4 cup of water in a sauce pan and turn the heat on. Just let the jaggery dissolve and remove and keep aside.
  • Meanwhile, combine rice flour, urad dal powder and sesame seeds in a bowl and mix. Ladle in the jaggery water gradually to form a soft but stiff dough. You may or may not use up all of the jaggery water, its okay, it depends largely on the quality of the rice flour.
  • Mix in the softened butter and cardamom powder.
  • Heat oil for deep frying. Remember to deep fry vella seedai on medium heat or they will cook too quickly on the outside and remain raw inside.
  • Make small balls, about 1 inch in diameter and deep fry 5-6 balls at a time in the oil until deep brown in color. It may crack on the surface, but its okay.

Tip: First test with one ball. Sometimes, the vella seedai can break apart as soon as they are put into the hot oil. If this happens, add a little more rice flour to the dough, mix and test again. Proceed only after you are sure that they are turning out fine. Also, you can add 1 Tbsp of ghee into the oil while deep frying. This will give a nice flavor to the Vella seedai.

I do not mean to scare you, but I’ve been told by my elders that this whole process can turn into a bad experience, so I like to keep all these things in mind.

Precautions: Seedai (especially uppu) are very notorious for bursting up like crackers in the hot oil. This can be very very dangerous and cause a serious accident, so please take all the necessary precautions mentioned below:

  1. Make sure no dirt particle gets into your seedai dough.
  2. Do not use too much water, the dough is supposed to be hard. Add just enough water to bring the flour together.
  3. After rolling out the seedai into small balls, spread them on a dry paper/kitchen towel and let them air dry for 20-30 mins. Deep fry only after this time.
  4. If you are using freshly grated coconut, remember to adjust the moisture in the dough accordingly.

 

Now here’s a picture from my previous year’s celebrations.


You might also like:

Thandai – A Traditional Spiced Milk Beverage for Holi

Thiruvadirai Kali & Kootu

Chakkara Pongal/Sakkarai Pongal (Rice-Jaggery Pudding)

Neyyappam – A delicacy from Kerela

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