Gluten free, fatless, eggless, vegan, sweet rice crepes
Indian history is a highly engaging and dramatic subject replete with invasions from different empires at various points of time. Every invasion left behind a mark of its own culture and with time these became an inseparable part of Indian tradition.
Foreign flavours and methods of cooking blended with traditional Indian spices, producing delicacies that far surpassed the taste of the original dish and found their individual Indian identities. For instance the Greeks introduced us to the magic of fenugreek and fennel, the Mughals gave us the scent of saffron amongst other spices and opened up a world of dried fruits hitherto unknown to India, the Portuguese left behind the much loved vindaloo, and the British Raj introduced Indians into the charming world of 'high teas'. Unwittingly Indians cultivated a taste for the big evil of a largely Western diet - refining natural products viz., rice, sugar and flour. Before the advent of the British rice was unpolished (red/brown), sugar was raw (cane or jaggery) and flour was only wholewheat (mota atta). Thankfully three generations later we are trying to find our way back to our roots.
Post independence it is the enterprising migrant/immigrant population (largely responsible for the 80's 'brain drain' syndrome) that brought back cuisines and flavours from other parts of the world (Thai curries and Italian pastas). China not only invaded the local markets with cheap imitations of well known brands during the last decade - shoes, bags, torches and phones - but also successfully established itself as the Nation's most loved cuisine (amusingly it took an Indian Chinese, Nelson Wang to cook up the 'Manchurian' - as pointed out by Mr.Vir Sanghvi). Thanks to an open economy, aggressive trading and emergence of international food chains we are now ready to explore world cuisines right on our kitchen counters.
In such a scenario it is sad to see that most gourmet bread shops (Daily Breads, Hangout, Gaylords) still fool us by offering the same spineless, soft, spongy white breads in different shapes and equating them with focaccia, french loaves and ciabatta!! After much writing by numerous nutritionists it is only now that the "brown sugar bread" has made way for wholewheat bread/multigrain breads.
This being an interesting topic I really wish I could go on, examining and commenting on various aspects of "gastronomic influence" but the fact that this is supposed to be a platform where I must also share a recipe in relation to the theme I decided to stop myself! A deep breath and here goes.......
I told you I love the white flour a while ago but I am also aware of its abysmally low nutritional value and so try to switch it with wholewheat or gluten free flours in most recipes. Today I give you a very popular South Indian crepe that provides not only taste but also nutrition. I have never understood why it is not available in most Udipi restaurants (restaurants owned by people belonging to Udipi - a city in the State of Karnataka in India - which is famous for Manglorean cuisine and a place to which the average Indian hotelier belongs) considering that it is a staple Manglorean breakfast. Why did they have to contort the staple Tamilian sambar and come up with a 'Gujju sambar' instead of focusing on the tasty repertoire of dishes Mangalore is home to?
Thanks to Mahesh Lunch Home (Restaurant in Mumbai famous for its seafood esp. South Indian) having introduced these crepes in its menu, most Mumbaites are now aware of the rustic healthy charms of a 'neer dosa' (a savoury crepe made with rice). While the rest of my team will be 'Indianising' recipes from all over the world, I requested that may be permitted to 'Westernize' a rustic Indian dish and this is how a traditional 'neerdosa' transforms into a stuffed/plain gluten free sweet crepe in my kitchen. I hope you will try this and love it as much as we do.
This dish in its original form is known in Mangalore by different names according to the regional variations. In proper Mangalore it is known as 'neer dosa' and as you travel towards the Konkan coast it changes to 'pan polo' or 'soyi polo' with minor alterations. A traditional neerdosa does not contain coconut milk which is added to a traditional pan polo. Mine is a take on all these versions. While the above are all savoury with a hint of sweetness in the Konkan version, mine is an 'only sweet' version. I have added organic jaggery and sometimes use raw sugar to make it sweet and a tinge of salt to balance. Coconut milk, I find helps in the texture.
These are soft and taste great but the pictures will always be limp as rice crepes do not hold their shape.
I have added a 'crepe 101' at the end of this post that I hope will help out beginners who haven't got the texture of a crepe right (here I speak as one who has learnt through mistakes and experience rather than an expert on the topic - as you know experience is a better teacher!). If your doubts have not been addressed please leave a comment and I will try to answer to the best of my abilities.
Recipe: Sweet crepes - Gluten free, eggless, vegan / Neerdosa variety / pan polo / soyi polo
Cooking: 2 minutes per crepe (actually!)
Yields: never enough but 12-15 approx.
Recipe Level: Intermediary
Recipe by: Sunshinemom
Rice (polished/white rice) - 1 level cup
Coconut milk (Thick extract or canned) - 1 cup
Sugar or jaggery (I used jaggery) - As per taste, about 4 tbsps. of jaggery
Salt - 1/8tsp
Gluten free, fatless, eggless, vegan, sweet rice crepes
- Wash and soak rice in clean water overnight or for 4-5hours
- Drain and rinse once more. Grind with about a cup of water to a very smooth paste. I use an electric stone grinder which takes about 15-20 minutes. It can be easily done in a mixer as well.
- Mix the other ingredients into the batter.
- The consistency should be soup-ish. Thinner than pancake batter but thicker than coconut water. I guess that would be closest to the consistency of thick whole milk.
- Heat a skillet or pan (with slightly raised rims) to moderate hot. If you sprinkle a little water they should split into droplets that dance off the pan - that indicates the right temperature.
- Pour a few drops of oil (2 or 3 in case of a non-stick pan or 1/4 tsp. on a cast iron skillet) and brush it all over with a half cut potato, onion or tissue paper to remove excess oil.
- With a ladle pour about 1/4 cup of batter in the pan and tilt it quickly so that a thin layer spreads all over. You will find that the rims will form a lacy pattern and the insides will be just a millimeter thicker than the rims.
- Close with a lid and let cook on moderate heat for about a minute.
- Take off the lid. Try lifting the corner of the crepe with a spoon and gently fold into half. Do the same again to form a quarter and invert the pan to collect the crepe in a plate.
- If you would like a stuffed crepe, you could chop pears, apples or bananas and lay them in the center of the crepe lengthwise and fold the crepe over the stuffing while in the pan itself.
- Crepes are delicate to handle but if you try it twice you will get comfortable handling it. (Please go through crepe 101 below)
- I used organic ingredients and this is a really healthy replacement for regular crepes consisting of eggs, refined flour, butter and milk.
- I kept the filling basic as I like it healthy and my family loves it as it is. Do feel free to caramalize the fruits before filling or adding cream.
- I served with date syrup on the side as I am vegan but any other syrup or melted marmalade should work as well.
- You could have this for a filling breakfast or with some imagination convert it into a dessert.
- Serve a minute after cooling as the steam trapped inside will retain stickiness for a while.
Special Notes/Tips if your crepe did not turn out well:
- My crepes are sticky and so thin that I cannot lift them with a spoon - Check consistency of batter - is it runny? If so let the batter rest for five minutes and drain some of the clear water that rises to the top. Mix well and try again.
- Crepes are clumping on the pan though batter is fine - The batter is too thick and if it is fine and still clumping occurs it means the pan is too hot. Reduce heat and try again.
- There are no holes in my crepe though batter is fine - Pan is too cold. Increase heat.
- The edges are not lacy - You have not tilted the pan in a circular motion. OR The batter is too thick and does not flow easily.
- They are caramalised - You added too much sugar.
- Crepes are hard - Did you use 'off the shelf' rice flour? That will not work.
- An ideal crepe should have lacy corners, thin even surface dotted with little holes and not stick to the roof of your mouth or get into your teeth!
- You may grind the coconut milk with the rice optionally.