Wake up if you want to have a hot surnoli,” Ambika pacchi (aunty) would announce skipping into our 12x10 bedroom brandishing a scorching spatula like Tipu Sultan’s sword.
“I’m making surnolis now and if you want them hot, then come right away.” our favourite aunt would command at 7am on a bright summer vacation day. Ambika pacchi’s declaration would send the aroma of the piping mini-uttapams down our olfactory system.
Who wants to miss the sweet surnolis served hot with a dollop of salty Amul butter even if it means forsaking some sleep? Surnoli being one of my all-time favourite breakfast foods, I used to beg Ambika pacchi to churn them out by the dozen almost every other day during our annual vacation to Bangalore.
The yellow surnolis, which would land on our steel plates from the ebony coloured tava sporting a million tiny holes were a league apart from the regular breakfast fare like idlis, dosas, uttapams, vadas. Today, almost a decade later, as an adult on the verge of getting married, I try and experiment with some traditional breakfast fare whenever I manage to squeeze out some time.
“You have to know how to prepare our Saraswat Brahmin cuisine along with your pastas and pizzas, otherwise your mom-in-law will start pointing fingers at us for failing to train you,” Ambika pacchi had remarked while arranging my wedding trousseau and jewelry.
After heeding her much-needed advice and starting my experiments with idlis and dosas, I finally decided to make some surnolis one morning in late March.
And who better to give the recipe than the grand old dame of cooking,Ambika Pacchi.
“Soak the rice properly. Grind the grated coconut and rice together, and soaked kurmura and poha separately. If you grind everything together, the batter wouldn’t be smooth,” Ambika pacchi instructed over the phone.
To keep doling out surnolis you have to keep every ingredient ready beforehand to avoid scurrying helter-skelter at the last moment.
“Priya, if you don’t want the surnolis sweet, then instead of jaggery add few green chillies. But remember to ferment the batter overnight if you want spongy surnolis that willcome off the tava easily,” Ambika pacchi recommended.
Just as I kept the receiver down, the phone rung again. Ambika pacchi had forgotten to tell me something. “Don’t add too much water while grinding the ingredients.Also make them on a low flame or else they will come out charred black,” the grand dame warned.
With the ingredients and instructions clearly noted in my cooking book, I set out to complete the endeavour. After working on them since early afternoon (courtesy soaking rice and methi for hours together) and fermenting the batter overnight, the surnolis were finally baked one Wednesday morning. After taking the first bite, I realised they needed little more jaggery to get the sweetness right. “They are tasty. Good for diabetics and weight-conscious people like me,” is what my cooking teacher had to say.
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