Remember Kurma? If you are of a certain age, and Australian, you will recall his TV shows of vegetarian Indian cooking. He really was the first to bring Indian food to Australians in a way that made it easily comprehensible and easy to cook. He was a stickler for detail, and for this I love him. So many recipes out of India these days are low in detail, low in precision, and that allows others to take liberties with Indian recipes. Soon, Indian food is no longer Indian food, but some mish mash of regional differences and non-Indian preferences.
One small example. I am constantly frustrated by recipes that say “1 cup rice”. Which rice? Basmati? Short grained? Long grained? Red or white? A South Indian variety? or a North Indian Variety? And it can make a huge difference to the end result. Do you need rice that is harder? Soft? Sticks together? Separates beautifully? Kurma would never leave one in doubt.
We don’t use rice in this recipe, even though it is a kitchari. This recipe from Kurma uses sago. But as usual, Kurma is precise in all details.
Sago and Tapioca
Subudana or Subu is sago or tapioca which are mostly used interchangeably in Indian cooking, especially for fasting recipes. There is often confusion about which is which, because sago and tapioca look remarkably the same. But tapioca comes from tubers of the cassava plant and sago comes from the sago palm. Both behave very differently.
For this recipe you want sago, as every pearl has to be separate. Purchase it from an Indian grocer if you can, as it raises the chances that it will be the same stuff. You want pearls that are medium – about the size of peppercorns.
Follow the instructions carefully for soaking the sago. Also be careful as you cook the sago – too much heat, or over cooking and you will get a gluggy mass. It is very heat sensitive, this recipe folds it through warmed, seasoned ingredients rather than added when they are very hot.
Subudana Kitchari with Potatoes | Sago Kitchari | Sago Pilaf
1.25 cups Indian sago
4 Tblspn ghee
1 cup potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
2 tspns cumin seeds
12 – 15 curry leaves
1 – 2 green chillies, seeded and chopped
0.25 tspn turmeric
2 tspns salt
0.25 tspn jaggery or sugar
0.5 cups shredded coconut (use frozen coconut and defrost before use)
1.25 cups roasted peanuts, finely chopped
small red Indian peanuts
To prepare the sago, rinse it once, then soak it in just enough hot water (not boiling) to cover the sago, for 2 hours. Be precise about this time, it gives the best results. After 2 hours the sago pearls begin to stick together. At 2 hours the sago has absorbed all of the water, doubled in size, and become separate and fluffy.
If you insist on using tapioca, do not wash it but soak it in cold water for 30 minutes only.
Gently rake the soaked sago pearls between your fingers to separate them.
Heat the ghee in a kadhai or deep frying pan. When the ghee is hot, drop in the potatoes and fry them for 3 – 5 mins or until they are golden brown and fully cooked. Remove them with a slotted spoon and put aside.
Reduce the heat to low and allow the oil to cool a little. Drop in the cumin seeds and fry them until they darken a few shades.
Add the curry leaves and green chillies, sautéing for 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a little more. When it is cooler but not cold, add the sago, salt, sugar, coconut, potatoes and chopped peanuts. Stir gently but well, until the sago is an even yellow colour from the turmeric flavoured ghee.
Sprinkle in the coriander leaves and serve topped with a couple of red Indian peanuts (optional).
recipe notes and alternatives
If you need to reheat, do so over a gentle heat, stirring constantly.