Sabudana khichdi is popular and native to the Indian states of Maharashtra and northern Karnataka, especially those parts of Karnataka bordering Maharashtra. Also consumed in Gujarat and other parts of India, Sabudana khichdi is a popular breakfast and snack item and a regular part of the menu during fasting days for the Hindus of the region.
I have always loved Sabudana khichdi since childhood. What I relish the most about this khichdi is that the sago pearls almost melt in the mouth. When mixed with plain yogurt or curd, the cooling attributes of the yogurt act as a perfect balance to the heat of the chillies. My grandmother or ajji as we grandchildren lovingly call our maternal grandmother makes this with a special touch. Nobody would dispute the fact that grandmothers have a magical hand. Whatever is cooked by both my grandmothers holds a special place in my heart, both of them being cooks par excellence.
Many a time, sago and tapioca are confused for one another because of their identical looks although both are derived from different sources. Sago is processed from the sago palm and tapioca is derived from the tubers of the cassava plant. It is important to use sago for this khichdi, as tapioca tends to get stickier.
Obtaining sago pearls, which are soft, separate and fluffy is quite a challenge to many. Having faced this challenge myself, I know exactly what it means when someone says making sabudana khichdi is a messy affair! The trick to getting it right is in the method of soaking. Everyone seems to have a different method for soaking sabudana, so there is no one correct, foolproof method as such. After a lot of trial and error I follow Method 1 given below and this is the one that I’m most comfortable with. My mother and mother-in-law both follow different methods and their khichdi turns out well too.
The colour and the flavour of the khichdi are dependent to a large extent on the degree to which the peanuts have been roasted. I like to roast the peanuts to a nice brown colour, which I find lends a nutty, delicate aroma and flavour to the khichdi.
Sabudana Khichdi/Sago Pilaf Recipe
Sabudana Khichdi can be served as a breakfast or snack dish. Most recipes use grated fresh coconut and coriander as garnishes, but my recipe doesn’t include both. To make potato khichdi, add 2 boiled potatoes in the seasoning. We relish this khichdi with plain curd/yogurt and a green chilli on the side.
2 cups (500 ml) tapioca pearls (sabudana or sago)
2 tsp cumin seed powder
1 cup roasted and powdered peanuts*
Juice of half a lime or approximately 1 1/2 tsp limejuice
1 tsp sugar (optional)
2 tsp salt or to taste
1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
3 to 4 slit green chillies (use according to your heat tolerance)
1 sprig curry leaves
To soak the sago:
Bring 1.5 litres or 6 cups water to a boil. Switch off the flame and soak the sago in the hot water for exactly 5 minutes. Drain the water in a colander and wash in a stream of cold water. Drain thoroughly. Add ½ cup water, cover and leave overnight or at least for 5 to 6 hrs. The sago soaks up the water. In the morning wash once again, drain and leave to dry in a colander for any time between 1/2 hr to 2 hrs.
If you find the above method too tedious, you could try doing what the ladies in my family do. Place the sago in a colander and wash briskly in running cold water. Drain and leave covered overnight or for at least 4 to 5 hours with ½ a cup of water. If the sago is not soft, wash once again, drain and allow to dry a bit.
Another easy method is to soak the sago with water and leave it aside for about 30 minutes. The sago soaks up the water. Drain completely after 30 minutes and keep it aside overnight or for 6 to 8 hrs.
Heat the ghee or oil in a wok over a medium flame. Lower the flame and add in the cumin seeds, green chillies and curry leaves. Stir in the potatoes at this stage if using them.
Mix in the sago and stir carefully until the seasoning is properly mixed with the sago. Put in the cumin seed powder, the roasted and powdered peanuts and mix carefully, since sago is quite fragile and can get crushed easily. Cover and cook on a low flame, stirring occasionally until the pearls turn translucent. Make sure that the sago pearls don’t get lumpy or stick to the bottom of the pan. This should take about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the salt and lemon juice and mix properly. Garnish with the optional grated coconut and chopped coriander. Serve hot.
* Grind 1 cup whole roasted unsalted peanuts without skin in a food processor. Work in short pulses and give the peanuts a few seconds to cool between each pulse or else you’ll end up with a sticky mass.
Update: Due to time constraints and hectic schedules, I'm now following the second method of soaking sago with great results!
1. Add 2 medium sized potatoes boiled and cubed (optional) into the seasoning for a variation.
2. The cumin seed powder adds a lot of flavour to this dish so do not skip it.
3. You can reduce the peanut powder by half the quantity if you wish. After a few trials, you can figure out how much peanut powder suits your taste.
Serves approximately 4