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Blast from the Past: Uppurundai – from Grandma’s kitchen…

February 3, 2016


After many, many years I am discovering my grandmother in my sister’s efficient and well-organized and well-utilized kitchen. I won’t say this about my mom because she never cooked. It was my granny who ruled the department.

One of my granny’s evening tiffin was this steamed rice ball ‘Uppurundai.’ Many of our traditional evening snacks have long since disappeared from our dining table. It is a delight and pride to watch my sister prepare all the delicacies from our younger days that her boys are astoundingly familiar with.  They get to savour some real great and mouthwatering dishes that very few from this generation have known/tasted frankly.

From making laddoos to kai-murukkus, my sis keeps busy round the year, not alone in the festive season. Her kitchen is a bustling quarters of activity any time of the day. The family is blessed to have a near 5-star platter served at home, course after course.

Last one month, I have been feasting regularly at my sister’s kitchen. She has been bringing back many recipes that I thought were either lost or forgotten over time. Today she recreated the ‘uppurundai’ – exactly or even better than how I remember my granny made it.

From Kali and Kootu to Andhra Pesarattu to Aloo Parathas and Poha Kichdi to Adai-Avial and Idli-vadakari (yes vadakari) (apart from making mango to other pickles and a variety of papads and dried fritters (what we call ‘vathal’ in tamil) – my girl spreads a lavish fare for her folks and even friends. The range is varied and her Bombay exposure makes it possible for her to include and serve both North Indian and South Indian together without much of a fuss. The result is an interesting and yummy pan-India menu – with a mandatory roti of some kind going with rice south Indian style accompanied by stews like sambar or whatever and 2-3 vegetable ‘poriyals’.

It is wonderful that the family does not snack on samosas and veggie puffs that have become our evening tiffins in last decade. No wonder really, with a stay-at-home chef slogging 24 hour a day – but it’s labour of love ofcourse!





Raw Rice – 1.5 cups (makes about 20 rice balls of the size shown in the picture)

Coconut gratings – 1/2 cup

Chillies – either fresh green (2-3) or dry red (4-5)

A slash of ginger (optional)


Salt to taste

For Tempering/Tadka: 2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tbsp channa dal, a handful of washed torn curry leaves, a fistful of broken cashew nuts, Asafoetida (hing) powder

1 tbsp of coconut oil.




  • Wash and soak raw rice for 1.5 to 2 hours. Drain and keep aside.
  • Keep the grated coconut handy.
  • Chop the green/red chili and ginger fine.
  • Grind all these ingredients coarsely and NOT INTO SMOOTH PASTE adding a dash of water if necessary. Salt it.
  • In grandma’s kitchen there was initially no mixer grinder. She used to do it with her hands in stone chakki.
  • Also my granny would never grind the flour/wet batter with coconut. She would add finely grated coconut directly into the thickening  batter on the wok or during tempering. You could feel the little individual pieces of coconut in her style which is not possible when you grind along the coconut gratings with rice and chillies.
  • Take a thick bottomed kadai/wok.
  • Preheat it and add the 1 tbsp coconut oil to it.
  • For tempering, add the mustard seeds, channa dal and all other tempering ingredients and saute them to golden brown.
  • Add the wet ground rice batter quickly turning nonstop for next 5-7 minutes.
  • Mix well and evenly
  • The ground wet rice flour will thicken in consistency over low flame.
  • The right consistency level is like that you have with atta for making rotis/parathas.
  • Switch off flame before the batter sticks to the sides or hardens too much.
  • With your hands, divide the rice batter-flour into equal portions and make it into small balls the size of lemon (Indian not American. American lemon is big!)
  • Steam cook the rice balls again for about 10 minutes or so.
  • For steaming I use regular rice cooker with Idli plates or Idli cooker direct with its plates.
  • Recommended time is about 7-10 minutes but can vary depending on the flame of your stove.
  • Since the rice is slightly cooked in the kadai, you don’t need to steam it for very long on making it into balls.
  • Or you can microwave but I haven’t done it.
  • It is important to make the dough into rice balls even when it is hot in the wok/kadai. Otherwise it will be difficult to make the balls once the rice dough cools down.
  • Uppu Urundai (salty ball) aka Uppurundai is ready to serve.
  • With 1.5 cups of rice we can easily turn out over a dozen or more Uppurundais.
  • Serve hot with coconut chutney or spicy tomato chutney.
  • Grandma’s recipe.
  • Children will love this and it’s utmost nourishing and filling evening snack. Coconut oil emits a wonderful aroma. Very simple dish – doesn’t take more than 30 min to prepare in all. Easy to digest just like our Idlis.

From → Vegetarian

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