Versatile food that's perfect for vegetarians

Versatile food that's perfect for vegetarians

Making your own dhokla is not that difficult, and it is a versatile food - you can have it as a main course or side dish, depending on how you prepare it.

Traditionally made with a fermented batter and then steamed, dhokla resembles a soft sponge when cooked.

In this recipe by housewife Maya Tekwani, 54, semolina flour is used to make the dhokla sponge. It is then flavoured with punches of spices and accompanied by a fresh homemade chutney.

This vegetarian dish is such a family favourite, it appears on the table at least once a week, said Madam Tekwani.

"This is the perfect dish as my 74-year-old mother is a vegetarian, so this dish is suitable for her," she said, adding that she also cooks dinner for her husband, 54, and three children aged between 27 and 34.

Do not be daunted by the long list of ingredients and steps - the dish should be simple enough for most home cooks to prepare.

"With detailed instructions, this recipe is easy to follow, even for a beginner," said Madam Tekwani.

One tip, however, is to quickly mix the fruit salt into the batter, and to do so thoroughly. The batter then has to be immediately poured into a tray for steaming, she said.

This recipe was recently featured in #SgEatWithUs, a food movement that encourages people to share their love for cooking.

"What I like about this dish is that it hardly calls for any oil. No deep-frying is needed," said Madam Tekwani.

The turmeric powder that is used to flavour the dhokla sponge not only adds a vibrant yellow colour to it, but it also contains antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. That is why some people would stir a teaspoon of turmeric powder into warm milk.

Madam Tekwani, who learnt how to prepare this dish from a close friend, added that semolina flour tends to be more filling than white flour, as it is made from a rougher variety of wheat. "It is a bonus if a dish has health benefits," she said.

Dhokla tarka with chutney dip




200g semolina (also known as suji in Malay)

1 cup plain yogurt, mixed with 1/2 cup of water until creamy and runny

1 tsp turmeric powder

2tsp white sugar

2tsp lemon-flavoured fruit salt

2tsp sunflower oil

1 tsp salt


Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

Freshly grated white coconut

Tarka (dry frying with spices)

1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

A small handful of curry leaves

3 dried red chillies, cut into 3/4-inch length, washed and soaked in hot water to remove seeds

2 fresh big green chillies, sliced at an angle

A handful of fresh coriander leaves, washed and set aside to dry

1/2 tsp chaat masala

1/2 tsp coarse red chilli powder

1/4 tsp asafoetida (hinge) powder

Salt, to taste

About 1 tbs sunflower oil for dry-frying the dhokla cubes


Wrap the steamer lid with a white muslin cloth (to prevent any water droplets from falling onto the dhokla tray). Heat water in the steamer.

When the water is almost boiling, prepare the semolina batter.

Place the semolina into a medium mixing bowl. Gradually add the rest of the ingredients listed under the ingredients for dhokla, except for the fruit salt. Stir thoroughly.

By this time, the water should be boiling. Quickly add the fruit salt into the semolina batter, give it a quick stir, and pour the mixture into a round 8-inch baking tray which has been greased with oil.

Shake the pan gently to even out the batter. Put the tray into the steamer and steam for 40 mins.

Check if the dhokla sponge is cooked by poking it with a satay stick. It should come out clean.

Remove the dhokla tray and leave to cool for about 5 mins.

To remove the sponge from the tray, run a small knife around the inner circumference of the tin to loosen the edges of the sponge. Tip the tray over and let the sponge fall out onto the cooling rack. Let it cool completely.

Once cooled, cut the sponge into 1½-inch cubes. Set aside.

For the tarka, heat some sunflower oil in a big, shallow wok until it is smoky. Lower the heat to medium and add in the mustard seeds. Cover the wok until you hear the seeds spluttering and an aroma comes forth.

Remove the lid and add in the asafoetida powder, sliced green chillies, curry leaves and dried red chillies. Stir-fry these spices for a minute or so, until fragrant.

Add in the dhokla cubes, followed by the chaat masala powder, coarse red chilli powder and salt to taste.

Gently mix the ingredients.

Add the roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves into the wok and give the dish a final toss.

Spoon the mixture onto a serving platter and garnish with more of the coriander leaves, mint leaves and fresh grated white coconut. Serve immediately with the chutney.



100g fresh green chillies, thickly sliced

2 green chilli padi, thickly sliced

1/2 heaped cup of fresh grated white coconut

1/2 heaped cup of fresh roughly cut coriander leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 cup whole garlic, peeled and crushed

About 1 tbs sunflower oil

Salt, to taste


Heat the oil in a medium, shallow wok and fry the sliced green chillies and chilli padi until quite crispy but not burnt. Remove and set aside.

Using the remaining oil in the wok, fry the cumin seeds until they are fragrant and splutter. Add the garlic and continue frying over medium- low heat until it turns a light golden brown.

Add the fried green chillies and chilli padi, grated coconut and freshly cut coriander into the wok and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.

Add salt to taste. Leave to cool. Pound this mixture coarsely and serve in a small bowl.



Energy: 386kcal
Protein: 9.8g
Total fat: 24.2g
Saturated fat: 14.5g
Cholesterol: 1mg
Carbohydrate: 32.2g
Dietary fibre: 8.9g
Sodium: 605mg

This article was first published on December 1, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.