I have my sister-in-law to thank for teaching me how to make this dish – without her, I might never have heard of it at all! My sis-in-law is a woman I admire in many, many ways, one of them being her enthusiasm to cook up healthy, nutritious meals for her kids in spite of having a whole lot on her plate, all the time. She has had a hard, hard life (more on that some other time), but I love how she hasn’t let that weigh her down at all. Moving on to the main point of the post, the nuchinunde – well, it was she who brought some over to our place one day, and we loved it, and then she went on to teach me how to make them.
For the uninitiated, nuchinunde is an authentic Karnataka snack that is loaded with health benefits, thanks to the chana dal and toor dal used in it. Not commonly available in hotels across the state, this is a snack very commonly made in Kannadiga households. ‘Nuchinunde’ literally means ‘balls made of dal‘ (‘Nuch‘ means’broken toor dal‘ in Kannada, while ‘unde‘ means ‘balls’). The unde commonly make use of sabbaki or sabsige soppu aka dill, a green widely used in the state of Karnataka. The dals need a couple of hours of soaking time, but once that is done, the actual preparation of the dumplings takes hardly any time at all. What’s more, the unde are entirely steamed, making them a super-healthy zero-oil snack.
Toor dal is an essential component of these dumplings, while the other ingredients in the recipe keep changing, depending upon the family who is making them. There are so many, many variations of this snack – with moong dal, chana dal, chopped vegetables, with and without coconut, and so on and so forth. Here, I will tell you about the recipe that I am familiar with – the one I learnt from my sister-in-law.
Here is how I make them.
Ingredients (yields about 10 dumplings):
1 cup toor dal, soaked for 2-3 hours
1/2 cup chana dal, soaked for 2-3 hours
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
A small bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
A few stalks of sabbaki/ sabsige soppu/ dill leaves, finely chopped
5-6 green chillies
2 pinches of asafoetida
A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup fresh, grated coconut
- After 2-3 hours, the chana dal and toor dal will be completely soaked and very soft. At this stage, drain out all the water from them by placing them together in a colander.
- Grind the chana dal, toor dal, ginger and green chillies in a mixer, coarsely. Do not add any water during the grinding – the water in the soaked dals is enough. Ensure that you do not grind to a fine paste – the taste of the dumplings will not be good in that case. You need to grind coarsely.
- Remove the ground mixture to a large bowl. Add the salt to taste, turmeric powder, asafoetida, chopped dill and coriander, grated coconut, and onions. Mix well, until everything is combined well together. You will get a mixture that you can shape into balls using your hands.
- Make small balls of the mixture. Keep aside.
- Grease an idli stand with a little oil and place the balls in the compartments, roughly two in each compartment.
- Place the idli stand in a pressure cooker bottom with a little water in it, ensuring that the water does not touch the dumplings. Close the cooker and let the dumplings steam for 10-15 minutes, without putting the weight on. Do not steam for more than this time – it will cause the dumplings to get hard.
- Serve hot. The dumplings taste good on their own, but go well with coconut chutney or more kozhambu too.
- Dill has a strong fragrance that some might not like – my parents, for one, don’t. In that case, you could skip the dill altogether.
- Like I said earlier, there are a whole lot of variations to this dish – you could use 1 cup of toor dal and 1/2 cup of moong dal as well, or just 1-1/2 cups of toor dal. You could add grated/ chopped veggies of your choice too – cabbage goes particularly well with these dumplings, I hear. You could make the dumplings with just the dals, coriander, dill, coconut, green chillies and ginger, too, omitting the onions altogether.
Do you like nuchinunde? How do you make them?