Saturday, 30 June 2012

Fasting and Feasting!

Sabudana Khichdi

People of various religious inclinations and dispositions believe that fasting has a special significance in their efforts to attain communion with their higher power. Fasting is thought to alter moods and receptiveness and help people stay in the proximity in of the almighty, in thought, emotion and action. The Indian word ‘upvaas’ to denote fasting actually echoes this meaning.

Ironically, fasting is invariably followed by feasting.

Today is Ashadhi Ekadashi. For those of you who don’t know this, tYou +1'd this publicly. Undohe eleventh day of each lunar month is called ekadashi and is observed by devotees as a day of fasting. The most significant ekadashis are those in the Hindu months of Ashadh and Kartik.

Some observe a ‘nirjala ekadashi’- a very strict regimen wherein people do not even drink water! But many others spend this day as a big fat day. As a Marathi saying goes, “Ekadashi-Duppat Khashi which means one eats twice as much on the occasion of ekadashi!

As kids we used to look forward to these fasts. Lest one thinks we were very ‘goody goody’ religious kids, I must clarify that we were simply big hogs and loved eating all the ‘fast food” that used to be made!

The day started with cleaning the house and a pooja. Then we had a brunch comprising samo seed upma (bhagar) peanut curry (danyachi amti) cucumber and peanut salad (kakadichi koshimbir, potato subzi with cumin tadka and no haldi (upasachi bhaji), all downed with tasty rich buttermilk. Some variations were the pancakes made of water chestnut flour or amaranthus seeds. The meal would be finished with sweet potato caramelised with jaggery and ghee and cardamom, or sweet potato chips fried in ghee and sprinkled with castor sugar or sweet potato kheer! Then we would eat a lot of fruit or fruit salads because we were fasting throughout the day! Dinner was invariably the glorious sabudana khichdi!

These foods were meant to be rich in carbohydrates so they could be a suitable substitute for a full meal. They usually did not have the full range of spices or onions and garlic to keep the diet satvik and simple.

But one wonders how our abstemious day turned into an almost saturnalian revelry with the ostensibly sentient foods!

Does the punitive foregoing of our daily victuals give us a justification to eat with abandon as a reward? Do we endure the period of abstinence only with the anticipation of the indulgence at the end? Do we willingly enter the famine mode only to prepare our bodies to be able to gorge optimally? So much of our life revolves around eating or not eating…

Oh dear! This epistemological questioning is too heavy for my mind which becomes child like when it comes to the sabudana khichdi!

And I wax eloquent about this dish!

Sabudana aka sago pearls is made out of tapioca starch and is a eaten widely all over the world. It is another popular food eaten during fasts because it’s tasty as well as filling. Sabudana is almost pure starch and has very little protein, vitamins, or minerals. Peanuts add protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber to Sabudana Khichdi. But that’s not the only reason for the peanuts- very early on in my experience of making sabudana khichadi, I postulated a theory  that the coarsely ground roasted peanuts also separate the sticky sago pearls and give the khichadi a good texture- without peanuts the khichdi would be lumpy!

Having said that, I have enjoyed a version without the peanuts in the homes of my Telugu friends – made like an upma, with curry leaves and urad dal AND mustard seeds - a sacrilege, according to the greatest Marathi humorist and satirist, the prolific and talented writer P.L. Deshpande (pu la)!

I haven’t yet come across a person who doesn’t like sabudna khichdi! As kids we used to look forward to fasts so that we could tuck into some of the khichdi made for the fasting adults in the family, even after we had had our meal!

Another observation about sabudana khichdi - whatever the quantity cooked, there never seems to be enough to go around at a family gathering or function! Even at home, I can’t really remember leftover sabudna khichdi!


2 cups sabudana
2 potato medium sized potatoes (you can use cucumber, too!) parboiled and diced
3-4 green chillies ( or as many as you like)
1 tea spoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons oil (khichadi tastes nice with olive oil, too!)

1 table spoon ghee
¾ to 1 cup roasted and coarsely ground peanuts

½ cup grated coconut
1 tea spoon sugar/sweetener

Salt to taste

2 table spoons chopped coriander


Wash the sabudana with plenty of cool water and drain completely. Keep covered for at least 3-4 hours. Overnight is the best. The sabudana absorbs the moisture and swells. Test a pearl by rolling it between your thumb and index finger. It should be soft, non-sticky and pliable. If it isn’t, sprinkle some more water and keep covered for some more time. I usually rehydrate the sabudana by sprinkling water and stirring the caked sabudana at least once or twice to loosen the pearls. When you are satisfied that the pearls are separate, soft and pliable, add the ground peanuts, salt, sugar and salt.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds to splutter. Add the chopped green chillies and the diced potato and fry till almost done. Add the sabudana mixture and mix thoroughly. Cook covered for a few minutes. Mix again and add the lemon juice, grated coconut and the tablespoon of ghee for the aroma. The sabudana will turn translucent when cooked and let out white steam. Keep mixing it to avoid lumping.

Serve with the garnished coriander and with some yoghurt or a wedge of lemon!

Some people make it with red chilli powder, some use only ghee, no oil and yet others add ginger! Whatever the condiments or style or form, sabudana is simply great!


  1. Loved Sabudana - must try from your recipe!! Is Sabudana-sago or something else?

    1. Thank you Bakul! Yes, sabudana is sago or tapioca pearls... :)

    2. Bakul, your question got me thinking and I researched to find out that sago and tapioca are different!


Welcome weary web wanderer!
I hope you have found whatever you were looking for!
I would love to know what you thought of my recipes and posts- so why don't you drop a line?!