The Raga of Rasam: Little Millet Dumplings (Saamai Kuzhi Paniyaram)

Try this recipe for saamai kuzhi paniyaram made with black rice, and tell us what you think of vegetarian Chettinad cuisine.

It is difficult to imagine Chettinad food without thinking of meat and eggs. The distinctive cuisine of the Chettiar community, having their roots in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, is now famous worldwide for its spicy meat delicacies. Its impact has been so strong that it is virtually recognized as a standalone cuisine, independent of a generic Tamil cuisine. But often, cuisines which are popular for their meat tend to marginalize the vegetarian components, that can turn out to be wonders themselves. Thankfully for us non-meat eaters, the delightful Kuzhi Paniyaram has achieved its own identity, and can survive without a meaty accompaniment. It has pervaded restaurant menus in the cities of Tamil Nadu, and since it is eaten best fresh and steaming, invariably earns its own counter in wedding feasts. The size and shape of the Paniyaram make it an ideal snack, one you can pop into your mouth with a dash of spicy chutney. Though the best tasting ones are often soaked in oil and a combination of crisp edges and a soft interior, a healthy paniyaram can be tasty too. Try this recipe made with black rice, and tell us what you think of vegetarian Chettinad cuisine.

Saamai Paniyaram

Ingredients (makes  10-15 nos.):

Saamai Kuzhi Paniyaram

Soak the ingredients listed below in water for 2 hours: Saamai Rice/Little Millet – 1 Cup Black Rice/or any rice of your choice – 1 Cup Fenugreek seeds/Methi seeds – 1 tsp Urad Dhal – 1/4 Cup Red chillies – 4 nos: For tempering: Mustard seeds – 1 tsp Onions (finely chopped) – 1 big Jeera/Cumin seeds – 1 tsp Asafoetida – 1 small pinch Curry leaves – 10 nos Salt – to taste Directions: Grind the ingredients that have been soaking in water for 2 hours into a smooth batter. Make sure you do not add too much water while grinding. The batter/flour consistency should be firm (not runny like the dosa batter consistency).You could substitute black rice with either brown or white rice in the same proportion. Pour oil in a small pan and add the ingredients mentioned under ‘tempering’ in the order listed and season the the batter. Let it soak for 1 hour. Do not place the batter inside the refrigerator. The batter is now ready to be poured into a ‘paniyaram chatti’ or a mould for frying.

Paniyaram Chatti

For those who do not have a mould – Heat oil in a pan, scoop the batter using a spoon and drop into hot oil and fry till well done. Those using a mould/paniyaram chatti, fill the moulds with minimal oil (we used a non-stick one)and pour batter into mould. Reverse the other side and fry till well done. Tip: Other vegetables like shredded carrots, sauteed peas etc can be added into the batter. These are awesome accompaniments to a cocktail party and can be served with sambhar or any other spicy chutney of your choice. Note: This recipe is a healthy alternative to the usual one since we used millet, black rice and very minimal amount of oil. The texture while biting into the paniyaram is a little fibrous. These are very nutritive and are healthy alternatives to the original recipe. Go ahead and snack guilt free!

Nature on my plate: Every month we will give food bloggers and enthusiasts a theme to contribute yummy and healthy recipes from their kitchens. In April, we want to remind ourselves of the goodness of raw food as nutritious and wholesome. The most popular post on The Alternative will win an exciting food voucher or basket from us! 

This recipe was originally published on the Puliyogare Travels blog

Rakesh sings for his supper. And cooks it himself. The Raga of Rasam is a meandering through traditional cuisines, gourmet cooking, organic food, and more, to brew a heady meal for the tongue and music for the soul.


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  • Shweta

    Is it really one cup methi seeds and one tsp urad dal or the other way round? 🙂

    • Rakesh Raghunathan

      Hi Shweta, I guess its to do with the formatting – Read the ingredient followed by the measurement – that way ( Saamai Rice/Little Millet – 1 Cup, Black Rice/or any rice of your choice – 1 Cup, Fenugreek seeds/Methi seeds – 1 tsp) Hope this helps!