Undhiyu is a specialty of Gujarat cooked during the winter months. It is specially enjoyed during Makar Sankranti (also known as Uttarayana) which indicates the arrival of spring in India. This falls between 13th – 15th January each year.
In the state of Gujarat, 14th January is kite flying day and a meal of undhiyu, puri and matho is de rigueur ( a bit like turkey and Thanksgiving or haggis and Burns Supper).
For a vegetable-centric dish, undhiyu is pretty elaborate and requires you to start preparing either several days ahead or atleast one day before you plan to cook.
The basic components are purple yam, green garlic, sweet potato, baby aubergine, surti papadi, banana, potato, fresh coriander, fresh coconut and methi (fenugreek) muthia.
There are several interpretations of this famous Gujarati dish and each family is likely to have their own version handed down over generations.
My father is from Surat, a state well known as much for its food as for its textile and diamond trade. The following is our family recipe which I got from my mother (who, in turn, got it from my paternal grandmother who, no doubt, would have learnt it from her mother-in-law, who… you get the picture!).
In our version of undhiyu, we don’t use dry garlic (it has to be green garlic or no undhiyu!); we don’t fry the muthia; we only use the vegetables mentioned in this post; we don’t add sugar; we don’t include any souring agent like tomato or lemon juice.; we don’t use peanut or sesame seeds
The only difference between my mother’s and my grandmother’s recipe is the use of turmeric. My grandmother’s version excludes this spice whereas my mother started adding it, given turmeric’s many health benefits.
I got talking to my friend Meher last week who was regaling me with her undhiyu experience (she had bought it ready prepared) after which I happened to be speaking to one of my aunts in Surat who told me that she had made the season’s first round of undhiyu.
On an impulse, I placed an order for the otherwise elusive surti papadi and purple yam with the guy who supplies me my vegetables. Next day, I got onto Skype with my mum to get this recipe.
Some things are best done on a whim; had I known beforehand how much time and effort is required to make undhiyu, I would probably not have done so. This one is not for the fainthearted. Only make it if you are ready to put in the effort or if you have family members or friends helping you in the kitchen. But the end result is definitely worth it, specially since you get to eat home-made undhiyu only once or twice in a year.
The other good thing is that this is one of those recipes virtually impossible to make as a single portion or in small quantity. Also, it tastes just as good the day(s) after it is cooked. So any extras can be refrigerated and enjoyed more than once.
The following should be sufficient for 6 people.
Ingredients for methi muthia
2 Cups muthia flour (if you can’t get ready muthia flour, you can use a combination of wheat flour, semolina and chickpea flour in equal portion)
2 Cups chopped and washed methi leaves
1 Tablespoon minced ginger and green chillies
1 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1 Teaspoon coriander powder
1 Teaspoon cumin powder
Salt to taste
A pinch of bicarbonate of soda
- Combine all the ingredients till they are properly amalgamated.
- While you are bringing it all together, see if you can make small oval shaped rolls out of this. If not, add a couple of tablespoons of water to moisten the mixture.
- Make oval shaped balls the size of one-third of your fist. You should get 18 to 20 muthia.
- Set aside.
- You can do this a couple of days beforehand if it is easier. Refrigerate the muthia till ready to use them.
Ingredients for undhiyu
500 Grams surti papadi
500 Grams purple yam
250 Grams sweet potato
250 Grams baby aubergine
250 Grams potato
4 Raw green bananas
500 Grams green garlic
500 Grams fresh coriander
Flesh of 2 whole coconuts
2 Tablespoons coriander powder
2 Tablespoons cumin powder
2 Teaspoons turmeric powder
2 Tablespoons minced ginger and green chillies
4 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon asafoetida
Bicarbonate of soda
18-20 Methi muthia (as given above)
Salt to taste
- First, we prepare the coriander-coconut masala mix for undhiyu. For this, clean, chop and wash the coriander. Retain the stalk if tender.
- Clean, chop and wash the green garlic. Use the green stem as well. Set aside about 4 tablespoons of the chopped green garlic.
- Finely grind the coconut flesh.
- In a mixing bowl, add the fresh coriander, green garlic (not the 4 tablespoons you have set aside), coconut, minced ginger and green chillies, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt to taste and a large pinch of bicarbonate of soda.
- Mix everything together and set aside.
- Next, we prep the vegetables.
- De-string the surti papadi and open the pods. Wash and keep aside.
- Peel and cut the purple yam into big pieces.
- Wash and cut into half the potato.
- Wash and cut into big chunks the sweet potato.
- Wash and slit the baby aubergine, retaining the stem.
- Wash and slit the green banana.
- Divide the coriander-coconut mixture into two.
- Mix one part of the coriander coconut mixture and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda with the surti papadi.
- Now, take the second part of the coriander-coconut mix and divide it into two once again. Use one part to stuff the baby aubergine and green banana. Do this carefully, you don’t want to break the vegetables.
- Once you have stuffed the banana, cut them into half or three pieces, depending on their size.
- Mix the remaining coriander-coconut masala with the purple yam, sweet potato and potato.
- So now, you have three lots of vegetables. (1) Surti papdi mixed with the coriander-coconut mixture, (2) Stuffed baby aubergine and banana, and, (3) Chopped purple yam, sweet potato and potato combined with the coriander-coconut mixture.
- Next, take a large cooking pot and put it on high heat. Add the oil and once this is heated, add the asafoetida and a large pinch of bicarbonate of soda.
- Add the surti papdi along with all the masala clinging to it. Add 2 cups of water. Mix gently, lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pot and add the methi muthia in one layer.
- On top of the muthia, make a layer of the stuffed aubergines, purple yam, potato and sweet potato.
- Lastly, make a layer of the stuffed banana.
- If you have any coriander-coconut mixture remaining, you can sprinkle it on top of the banana.
- Seal the mouth of the cooking pot with double layered kitchen foil. Make sure that the foil covers the edges, you don’t want any steam to escape.
- Cover with the lid of the cooking pot, lower the heat and let the vegetables cook for 1.5 hours.
- At the end of the cooking time, take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes before opening.
- Garnish with the green garlic you have set aside and serve.
- Quantity of green garlic may seem a lot but by the time you remove the hair, its weight reduces.
- When you are dishing out the undhiyu, make sure that each serving includes one banana, one aubergine, one sweet potato, one potato, some papdi, one purple yam and one muthia.
- You can clean the papdi a couple of days beforehand. Keep it in the refrigerator.
- Clean the coriander and garlic on the day you are cooking. These have to be absolutely fresh.
- Coriander-coconut mixture forms the masala base for the vegetables. Err on the side of caution and make more of this. If you have mixture leftover after stuffing and mixing, you can add it to the papdi or sprinkle on top of the banana before sealing. If you run short, the undhiyu won’t taste as good.
- Undhiyu goes well with puris but if you are counting calories, enjoy it with roti or chapati.
Coriander Coconut Masala Mix for Undhiyu
Surti Papadi with Coriander Coconut Masala Mix for Undhiyu
Stuffed Baby Aubergine and Raw Banana for Surti Undhiyu
Layering the Surti Undhiyu
Now the hard work is done, wait patiently!
Undhiyu, The Surti Way