I consider myself lucky to have experienced authentic Gujarati cuisine when I was in the hostel studying for my post graduate degree in Mumbai. People not familiar with Gujarati cuisine use the term khaman dhokla without realizing that there is no such dish. There is dhokla which is made using rice flour and khaman is made using chick pea flour or besan.
My mother used to make khaman by using a few tablespoons of idli batter as leavening agent. I used the same technique. Also I used a sponge cake tin (20 centimeter diameter) as a vessel for the batter and steamed in my Dutch oven.
1 and a ½ cups of chick pea flour or besan
4 tablespoons idli batter
5 centimetre piece of ginger
3-4 green chillies
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 pinches of turmeric powder
2 pinches of asafoetida
1 cup warm water
½ teaspoon oil to grease the cake tin
Salt to taste
Seasoning to finish off:
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
A sprig of curry leaves
1 green chilli, chopped
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
2 tablespoons grated fresh coconut
Sift the chick pea flour, asafoetida, turmeric and salt into a large non-reactive bowl. Pound the ginger and green chilli in a mortar and pestle and add this to the chick pea flour mix in the bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and idli batter. Add the water a little at a time whisking to avoid any lumps forming. You want a cake batter consistency so you may not need all the water. Cover and let rest for three hours.
Add 3 cups of water to a large Dutch oven and get it to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Grease your cake tin. Add the baking soda to the batter and mix well. Pour over the mix into prepared tin. Tap on bench top to make sure the khaman is levelled. Steam with lid on for about 15 minutes. If you hear vigorous bubbling, reduce heat to low.
Turn off the heat and check for doneness by piercing a skewer through the centre. When done, the skewer comes clean. Allow to rest for five minutes before turning over onto a flat plate. The way to do this is to run a butter knife round the edge. Cover with the plate and turn it upside down. If you are feeling confident, you can turn it back right side up on your serving platter. Cut at an angle in to squares or diamond shapes.
To make the seasoning – heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the mustard seeds. When they start crackling, add the cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds have popped, you can add the curry leaves and green chilli. Then add the sesame seeds. Watch carefully as sesame seeds don’t take long to fry. Pour a third of a cup of water and the sugar. Remove from heat. Spoon the seasoning over the khaman. Sprinkle the coriander leaves and grated coconut as garnish.