Steamed lentil cakes in sweet, spicy, sour rasam

Steamed lentil cakes in sweet, spicy, sour rasam

Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast
Emma Lee

Fluffy, spongy, savoury cakes from the region of Gujarat. These are made with yellow lentils (mung dal), which are really light and mild in flavour, so perfect once steeped in this spicy rasam broth. You need a 20 cm round cake tin with a fixed base and a large, deep saucepan or wok with a lid, into which such a cake tin will fit. Then you need to find something on which to place the tin so that it does not touch the water. Any heatproof bowl (I use pudding bowls) or colander will work.


Quantity Ingredient

For the lentil cakes

Quantity Ingredient
200g yellow lentils, washed well and soaked overnight
10g root ginger, (peeled weight)
2 thin green chillies, stalks removed and deseeded
1 rounded teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 teaspoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for the tin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2/3 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the rasam

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
8 fresh curry leaves
1 large tomato, chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2-3/4 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
salt, to taste
1-1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar, to taste
1 1/2-1 3/4 teaspoons tamarind paste, dissolved in 3 tablespoons boiling water, or to taste
coriander leaves, to serve (optional)
fresh coconut, grated, to serve (optional)
or frozen grated coconut, defrosted, to serve (optional)


  1. Drain the soaked lentils and put them in a blender (or put them in a bowl and use a stick blender). Add the ginger, chillies, salt, sugar, oil, lemon juice and 100–110 ml of water and blend to a paste. Mix in the bicarbonate of soda and leave for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, find a wide, large double boiler or deep and large saucepan, big enough to take your cake tin. Find something to place the tin on, so its base is above the level of the water (pudding bowls, steel baking rings and upturned colanders are all good). Pour in enough water to come 5 cm up the pan. Cover the pan tightly and bring to the boil.
  3. Pour the batter into an oiled 20 cm cake tin, place it carefully on its stand in the pan, cover and steam until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 10–12 minutes. Take off the lid, allow the steam to escape and carefully take out the pan (I use oven gloves and tongs).
  4. For the rasam, heat the oil in a small non-stick saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and, once the popping is dying down, add the curry leaves. Follow a few seconds later with the tomato, spices and salt. Cook over a high to moderate heat for three to four minutes, stirring often, then add 360 ml of water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and tamarind and simmer for another minute; it should be a little sweet, sour and spicy. Adjust the salt, sugar, chilli powder and tamarind as you like. Turn off the heat.
  5. Cut the lentil cake into 5 cm squares or half moons, place in deep warmed bowls and spoon over a little of the rasam. Leave to soak for four to five minutes, then sprinkle with coriander and coconut, if you have some, and serve.
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