Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Modak ( Steamed, Coconut Dhal Dumplings)

Divali is nearly upon us and my mind is already on the food, especially sweets. This one is a sweet, steamed, rice dumpling from the South of India. Modaks are usually made for the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in honour of Lord Ganesh. While not a Divali sweet per say, it was just too tempting to pass up.

Traditionally modaks are filled with with coconut, jaggery (unrefined brown sugar) and spices. However modern versions use a staggering variety of fillings. I have come across everything from mango modaks, to ones filled with raspberry coulis. There are even chocolate modaks. I love that it is a dessert which can be customized to just about everyone's taste.

For my first go at it, I decided to start with a more traditional version. Most people use modak molds to obtain a pretty fluted shape. It is possible to form the pleats by hand. if you are so skilled. Clearly I am not. I gave it the old college try but people I have a day job that I won't be quitting anytime soon. 

The lady in this video gives a good explanation of the pleating process at about 3.33 mins into the video.

The little red dots on top of my modaks are not traditional but if I were making these with different fillings, then different coloured dots would be an easy way to remember the stuffing of each dumpling. Plus it makes my sad looking, little, dumpling balls look just that more festive - or so I tell myself. A small amount of self delusion is quite healthy, isn't it? 

The reality is that working with any kind of dough takes practice as you need to develop a feel for it. Clearly, I need more practice to get a smoother dough. Luckily, these little dumplings are such a treat that making them over, and over, and over again, in order to perfect my technique will not be a hardship.

Modak (Coconut Dhal Dumplings )
Makes 24 modaks

For the dumpling
2 cups rice flour *
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp white sugar
1/8 tsp salt

For the Filling
1 cup dried yellow split peas
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup grated coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger


1. Cook split peas in pressure cooker with 3 cups of water. Bring pressure to high then cook for 10 mins

2. Mash peas with a wooden spoon. Mix in the grated coconut  and set aside.

3. In a saucepan dissolve one cup of sugar with half cup of sugar and cook for a few minutes until you have a thin syrup.

Add the syrup to the peas and coconut mixture. To this add salt, cardamon, and ginger.

4. Return to the stove over a medium high heat. Cook for a few minutes tirring constantly until mixture has thickened, is no longer watery and can be shaped into small balls.


Place rice in a mixing bowl. In a saucepan, bring to a boil  2 1/2 cups water, sugar  salt, and oil.  Slowing pour over rice flour while mixing with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough.

Grease your hands and have a small bowl of water nearby to wet your hands if needed to help maintain a good dough consistency. Make lemon sized balls and flatten to make a small cup place the coconut/dhal filling in the cup. Wrap and seal dough around the filling. Set aside and cover with a damp cloth while you shape the other modaks. Steam in a steamer for 10 - 12 minutes

Cooks Notes
*I could not find rice flour so I used a plain white gluten free flour blend that had rice flour listed as one of its ingredients.


  1. They look beautiful....and remind me of shu mai....and nikuman! I like '.....i have a day job I wont be quitting soon! Ha ha

  2. How gorgeous these are! I don't believe I've ever had one and now my taste buds are going crazy!! =)

  3. I've never tasted these. Wish you lived next door! :)

  4. These look like such tasty little morsels! I don't think I've ever tried them before :)

  5. I love the red dots! Definitely festive. Yum.

  6. Wow, what a cool idea. they look so elegant!

  7. the dot idea is really excellent. i love a dessert that's open to a lot of variations, but it's no good if you can't tell one apart from the other! :)

  8. These look insanely delicious! I have not been lucky enough to ever eat one of these but I would give anything for a few right now!

  9. I already commented on your other blog but reading this post I realized that you live in Trinidad....(or at least I think you live in Trinidad)...which is awesome because I spend the majority of my time in Trinidad...studying and all....I'm really looking forward to Divali, I've never experienced it!!Check out my blog and follow if you like what you see...please and thank you!
    Much Love
    Chari T