It all started with a plate of Dhokla Bhel at Agarwal’s in HSR Layout. It is a great place to have North Indian-style chaats, BTW, but more on that later. Today, I am here to tell you about what that Dhokla Bhel inspired me to do.
The dish was a visual delight, with some pillow-soft khaman (known in this part of the country as ‘dhokla‘) strewn over some gorgeous-looking bhel. It tasted delicious, too. The khaman melted in the mouth, and the bhel was beautifully mixed up. All in all, a chaat lover like me couldn’t have asked for more. Before I tasted this, I never thought khaman and bhel could make such a lovely pair together! But they do!
The OH and I got over a big discussion over the Dhokla Bhel, and we talked about how it reminded me of Sev Khamni, a dish from the city of Surat in Gujarat. A host of memories flooded through me – of how Appa would get a packet of the khamni from a roadside vendor on his way back home from office every now and then, the strong garlick-y smell of it, and how I would sniff the packet out even before Appa had handed it to me. I told the OH of how some vendors would just crumble up leftover khaman, sprinkle lots of sev, coriander, and pomegranate arils over it, and try to pass it off as khamni. But that was Amiri Khaman, not authentic Surti Sev Khamni. Sev Khamni was an entirely different dish – made with soaked gram dal ground with spices, a whole lot of garlic and, of course, loads of coriander, sev, and pomegranate seeds. I told the OH of how the dish had to be made with a lot of garlic, so that the gas-inducing properties of the gram dal could be mitigated. I told the OH of how the stuff that Appa used to get home, all those years back, was the original thing, and of how I would love it so. Over the course of the high-spirited conversation, we realised that the OH has never had sev khamni, ever! Now, we can’t have that happening, can we? So, a quick shopping expedition happened immediately and ingredients were picked up to make it at home the very next day.
In spite of having loved sev khamni so much, I never attempted to make it at home all these years – it was always something that I had off of a roadside cart in Ahmedabad. A trip to Ahmedabad is nowhere on the horizon now, however, and it has been ages since we visited. I had to try and recreate the beautiful flavours of the khamni at home – I had to share the magic of it with the OH. So, that is how the khamni was made at home and, beginner’s luck or whatever, it turned out lovely, with exactly the same taste as I remember from my days in Ahmedabad. The OH loved it to bits, I am thrilled to say! I am happy I took the plunge, happy that I can now go back to this recipe whenever my heart longed too much for Gujarat.
There are a couple of different methods to make khamni, but I used the traditional method mentioned here. The quantity of oil that the recipe requires is a bit on the higher side, but I think, once in a while, it can be excused. The next time, though, I am going to try making a steamed version, relatively healthier, and see if I can still get the same taste.
For now, though, I will note down the recipe that I used. I made very minor changes to the original recipe, and will jot it down here, for the sake of reference.
Ingredients (for about 6 medium-sized servings):
2 cups gram dal/chana dal – soaked for 3-4 hours
Salt, to taste
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
6-7 big cloves of garlic, peeled
A pinch of asafoetida
4 green chillies
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander seeds-cumin powder
Red chilli powder, to taste (if needed)
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
Sugar, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
Seeds from 1 large pomegranate
Lots and lots of fine sev
1 large onion, finely chopped (optional)
Some grated fresh coconut (optional)
- Once the gram dal has been soaked, drain out excess water if any. Grind in a mixer to a coarse paste, adding a bit of water only if needed. Do not make a very fine paste, make a coarse one. Keep aside.
- Grind the ginger, green chillies, and garlic to a paste in a mixer, using a little water if needed. Keep aside.
- Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter.
- Now, add the asafoetida, the crushed chana dal, salt and sugar to taste, coriander seeds-cumin powder, and turmeric powder. Mix well. Turn the flame to low and cook for about 5 minutes. Keep adding the milk bit by bit to the pan, to ensure that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- Now, add the ginger-garlic-green chillies paste and red chilli powder (if using) to the pan. Mix well. Cook for a few more minutes on a low flame, adding the rest of the milk at regular intervals, till the smell of the garlic is not overly powerful.
- Switch off the gas and mix in the lemon juice.
- Let the mixture cool down completely before you serve the khamni.
- When you are ready to serve the khamni, make six portions of the chana dal mixture and place them in bowls/plates. Sprinkle generous amounts of chopped fresh coriander leaves, sev, finely chopped onion (if using), grated coconut (if using), and pomegranate seeds over each portion. Ensure that the coriander, sev, onion, coconut, and pomegranate are added to the dish just before serving, otherwise the sev becomes too soggy. Serve!
Have you ever had Surti Sev Khamni? Do you like it? If you haven’t tried it ever, you absolutely must give this recipe a shot!