Saturday, 2 August 2014

Lean Lessons

Makai Dhokla (Rice and Corn Dhokla)

Over the last decade or so, I have flirted with very impressive and “important” sounding terms and concepts like TQM, Lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, Kaizen, JIT.

By no means do I profess a good understanding, but at least I can name drop.

The idea is, as long as you stay in the general vicinity of their meaning, you can’t go wrong.

Isn’t that what most people do?

I guess, one of the reasons we don’t really pay attention to these concepts, is because we think they only apply to manufacturing and industry and aren’t useful in or aren’t a part of or our daily lives.

Except of course for name-dropping.

When I look back and beyond - at Aai, my mother and Mai my grandmother- and all around them, I see so many women, homemakers and professionals alike, who had expertly used these quality improvement and waste management mechanisms at home and especially in their kitchens.

These women held black/yellow/green belts of an improvement mechanism that was born out of a need to make the most out of everything and to make-do with the makeshift.

Never did a morsel go waste in their kitchens, their pantries worked on a very lean inventory, their stocks control was tight.

“Kondyacha Manda”, was Mai’s favourite homegrown idiom to describe this quintessential gift of thrift and ingenuity. 

The impossibility of the proposition strikes you at the same time as the significance.

Imagine how clever and difficult it would be to make manda, a very fine sweet bread with coarse bran that was usually considered fit only for cattle!   

But the adage also highlights the compulsions of these women. They had limited resources - for their world hadn’t become so commoditized. They dealt with unpredictable supply versus growing demand –as their incomes weren’t so disposable and they had no cold storage and supply chains.

Any wonder then, that such constraints made these women use the most highly efficient and imaginative methods to eliminate waste. 

If my foremothers could metaphorically make fine dishes out of impossible things, I certainly could make a dhokla out of the last dregs of yoghurt that the husband had consigned (almost) to garbage and that last cob of sweet corn that no one was wiling to eat.

Makai Dhokla (Rice and Corn Dhokla)


1 ¼cup very very sour yoghurt
3 tbsp coarse rice rava
1 tbsp cornmeal
2 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
½ cup corn kernels (I used boiled fresh corn, but frozen will also do)
1 tsp green chili paste
½ tsp ginger paste
1 tsp coriander + cumin powder
A pinch of hing
Salt to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Eno Fruit Salt

For the tempering

1 tbsp oil
1 tsp small mustard seeds
1 pinch of hing
1-2 green chillies, chopped
A few curry leaves
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp finely grated coconut


Mix the yoghurt, rice rava and flours and keep covered in a warm place for 4-5 hours.

Just before making the dhoklas, add the ginger and green chilli paste, hing, the coriander and cumin powder, salt and sugar and mix well.

In the meantime, grease the bottom and edges of an 8-inch cake tin or deep thali or a dhokla/idli stand.

Boil two or three cups of water in a pressure cooker or a large pot with a lid, If you are not using a dhokla or idli stand, place a small steel bowl full of water in the cooker to act as a stand for the greased thali or cake tin. Let the tin heat with the steam until you prepare the batter to pour into it.

Add the boiled corn kernels to the batter and check and adjust taste and consistency. It should be slightly thicker than idli batter. Sprinkle Eno Fruit Salt on it. The mixture will foam instantly. Gently fold in the Eno Fruit Salt without breaking the bubbles but making sure that all the batter has risen and pour the mixture into the hot greased tin/pan/thali.

This ensures the instant rising of the dhoklas. Place the lid on the cooker without the pressure or weight and steam the dhoklas for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Take out the cake tin or thali and allow to cool. When completely cooled cut into squares or diamond shapes and pour tadka made with oil, mustard seeds, green chillies, hing and curry leaves on the top.

Garnish with coriander and coconut and serve with green chutney or tamarind chutney.


  1. That's a keeper recipe! I'm bookmarking it to make this weekend :)

    1. Wow! Coming from a Gujarati Girl ! I will await your feedback and tips for improvement!


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