Kadumbuttu (Coorgi Rice Balls)

Kadumbuttu, Coorg, Kodava, Rice, Rice ball
Kadumbuttu tower

A little on the late side, but finally here’s the recipe for the kadumbuttu to go with the pandi kari as promised in my last blog post.

Kadumbuttu, like pandi kari are typically Coorgi. They’re usually made with broken rice which are simply grains of rice that have fractured into smaller pieces during the milling process. They are separated from the full sized grains before packaging for sale. The small size of the broken rice means that it cooks a lot faster and can be used when a stickier texture is required.

Broken rice is generally thought to be inferior to whole grains and consequently has always been cheaper. As a result, a variety of tasty rice dishes evolved to make use of this readily available, cost-effective staple. In addition to Indian cuisine, it is also frequently used in Vietnamese cooking. In the UK however it’s rare; I’ve seen it being sold by Tilda, but only in 10kg bags! So unless you’re planning on some kind of rice ball festival, you’ll have to make your own – a pretty easy process that involves grinding basmati rice in a food processor after washing.

I’ve made my kadumbuttu plain, but I’ve also seen them flavoured with cardamom and grated coconut. As well as the pandi kari, they also go well with chicken and fish curries. A vegetable curry with a thick sauce would also work. In fact, we ate some leftover ones with a vegetable stir-fry last weekend!

Kadumbuttu (makes approximately 14, enough for 2-4 people depending on appetite)

150g basmati rice
500ml water
¼ tsp sea salt, or to taste

Wash and rinse the rice 2–3 times. Drain thoroughly. Place in a food processor and grind until coarse. You want approximately 4–5 fragments per grain. Keep aside.

Boil 400ml of water with the salt in a heavy based pan. Keep another 100ml of boiling water on the side.

Once the water is boiling, add the broken rice, reduce the heat slightly and keep stirring until you have a soft, sticky dough like consistency and the rice is cooked to al dente. Add more boiling water if necessary to get the right texture; I used the full 500ml. The rice should take 5–10 minutes to get to this stage. Take off the heat, cover and let it rest in its own steam for a further 5-10 minutes.

Once rested, uncover the pan, wet your hands with some lukewarm water and spoon some of the rice dough into your palm (wait a little longer if the rice is too hot for you to handle). I find gently squeezing the rice in one palm and then quickly juggling and squeezing it between both my hands works pretty well at getting a dense, round ball. The kadumbuttu should be about 1½ inches in diameter. Continue until all the rice dough is used up, wetting your palms for each ball to prevent them sticking to your hands.

Place in a steamer for 20-25 minutes, after which they’re ready to eat with pandi kari. Any leftover kadumbuttu can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days and re-steamed when you’re ready to eat them.

Kodava Pandi Kari (Coorg Pork Curry)

Kodagu, Coorg, hills, Western Ghats, India
Lush Kodagu

Last month a contingent of friends came to visit from London and we all travelled south to Karnataka for what turned out to be an amazing two weeks of history, unfamiliar flavours, new friends and good times. For part of the trip we stayed in a homestay on a coffee plantation in hilly Kodagu (a.k.a. Coorg when under British rule, and also the Scotland of India despite the heat!) in the Western Ghats where we were spoiled with delicious home cooked Kodava food. Kodava food tends to be pretty meat and fish heavy, which is probably due to the fact that the Kodava people were traditionally warriors and agriculturalists.

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