Monday, 25 June 2012

Afterschool snack!

Savoury Besan Squares/ Pithlyachaya vadya

With due respect to the utility of instant noodles as perhaps the quickest hot meal one can make, IMHO the shiny and fancy TV commercials advertising two-minute noodles and their bright packaging should carry a statutory warning about transfats, refined flour, excess salt and MSG (added or natural) in bold letters. These ads feature beautiful mothers clad in gorgeous georgettes smiling fondly when their rosy and healthy looking children return from school and ask for a snack. The mothers produce a bowl of noodles with a flourish. Mind you, the redemptive feature is that the noodles have some healthy veggies, read as peas and carrots in them. When the kids lick the bowl empty, the mothers smile even more fondly. This time they shake their heads as well!

This is not a diatribe against two minute noodles, certainly not against any particular brand of them! They are a food of convenience and the masala is quite tasty - I use the sachets in other dishes at times. My piece only talks about the message that is sent through the ads that two minute noodles are an acceptable form of routine after school or anytime snack! 

What does it take to fix a healthy snack for ravenous kids? As kids we used to have the stock standard roti and homemade mango and sugar or mango or jaggery jam, or the mineral rich kakvi, or a shikran made of mashed banana, milk and sugar.  On many occasions we would be surprised and boy! did we value the surprise! One such memory I have is of returning home very hungry and asking sullenly what I should eat with the roti and mother had smiled and produced, quite like the mother in the two minute noodle ad, these delicious golden yellow savoury squares! They were pithla or zunka vadis! I absolutely loved them!

These vadis are made by moulding a thick pithla or zunka into cakes. Full of protein and taste and low in fat, I make them rich in fibre and vegetables by adding methi (fenugreek) leaves or any other greens such as palak, spring onions, coriander. This time I added roughly chopped cauliflower leaves!  

And they take no longer than two minutes to polish!


2 cups besan (chickpea flour) sieved

1 small onion, chopped

½ cup finely chopped cauliflower leaves or any other greens (optional)

2 tbsp oil

½ tsp mustard seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp finely chopped green chili (or more)

½ tsp turmeric

A pinch of hing

1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Salt to taste

About 2 cups water

1 tbsp grated fresh or dry coconut to garnish

1 tbsp chopped coriander


Grease an appropriate sized tray or a thali with a little oil and keep it ready.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the seeds splutter add the onions and chopped green chillies. Sauté the onion a bit and then add the turmeric and hing. Add the chopped leafy greens if using. Then add 1 ½ cups water and allow to boil. Mix the besan with a little water into a not very smooth paste. If some lumps remain, it’s alright. It only adds to the texture of the vadis. Add the besan paste to the boiling water and start mixing vigorously. Beware of burns as the pithla starts spitting up like lava. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook the mixture till it becomes translucent and gathers in a ball. At this point, you will see white steam emanating from the pithla. Remove the pithla from the heat and  pop the ball onto the greased plate or tray and spread it evenly to form a slab about 1 ½ cms thick. Sprinkle grated coconut and chopped coriander and press them lightly into the cake. Allow to cool completely and cut into squares or diamonds.

This versatile dish can sit jauntily on the side of a traditional and ceremonial full thali, or make a quick and filling low fat and high protein snack. It stays well for a few days in the fridge.

It serves well as a canapé base, too!

Leftovers, if any, can be dunked into a tomato gravy to make a gattey ki subzi, into a yoghurt based gravy or even a green - coriander stem curry!

This is my entry to Jagruti's Know Your Flour Round Up


  1. Healthy Yummy snack! Thank you for linking. You will have to however include the link to the event in your post which you can do after editing and updating your post.


  2. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I made it, it is yummy. I learnt something new. Thanks!!!


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