Today is Ganesh Chathurthi or Chauthi (in Konkani). In Hindu mythology the God Ganesh is often portrayed with a large belly indicative of his appetite and it is customary to cook several dishes during this festival. Of those myriad dishes, one of my favorite is Panchkadaayi or Panchkadai. Growing up, this dish would be prepared only twice a year in my house, Krishna Janmashtami and Chauthi. To this day, Chauthi is celebrated with a lot of pomp and splendor in my parents’ house.
As a kid, I remember going to Udupi, our native place, to celebrate Chauthi. The festival would be celebrated at my great grandparents’ house. My siblings and I have fond memories of some wonderful times with extended family, having loads of fun and feasting on the scrumptious Chauthi food. In the evenings, all of us cousins would go from home-to-home, looking at different Ganeshas, keeping track of how many Ganpathis we saw and receiving Prasad from every house that we visited. Most of the houses would serve Panchkadaayi or Goad Phovu (Sweetened Beaten Rice) as Prasad but we would always feel that the one at our house was the best!
Once I was old enough to use the coconut grater, I used to help my Mom grate coconuts for all the dishes that she would prepare. Given that this was a feast and several dishes relied on the use of coconuts, there would be a mound of grated coconut when I was done! Of the plethora of dishes that my Mom would make for Chauthi, I used to look forward to eating Panchkadaayi more than any other dish.
Mom and Dad have celebrated a few Chauthis at our home here in the US and although it was not on the same scale as at home in India, Mom seemed happy with the things that were available here during that time. Whenever she would make Panchkadaayi during Chauthi here, she would make some extra powder for me and store it in the freezer so it would be easy for me to make panchkadaayi in the future. All I had to do was mix the coconut and sugar to the powder. I ran out of my powdered daal stock last year, so this year, I decided to take the recipe from her and try it out myself. Turns out, its pretty simple, just takes a little bit of elbow grease!
I do not know how the word Panchkadaayi came about, but I do know that it takes only Panch or five ingredients to make this dish. Rajesh tells me that his Mom used to make this dish using jaggery instead of sugar and I am sure that would be equally tasty as well! That recipe is a little more elaborate since it involves making a syrup with the jaggery and water. There may be different variations to the way this dish is prepared, this is the way my Mom’s been making it.
- Bengal gram (chana daal) - 1/2 cup
- Grated coconut - 1/2 cup, packed
- Sugar - 1/2 cup
- Sesame seeds (til), white or black - 1 tsp
- Cardamom (elaichi) powder - 1/2 tsp
Dry roast chana daal on low to medium heat till fragrant. Let it cool. When cool, powder it using a blender or a coffee grinder.
Using a sieve, sift the powdered daal onto a plate and if you still find some coarseness left in the powdered daal, put it back in the blender and blend some more. Sieve again.
Dry roast the sesame seeds till light brown and set aside.
In a wide bowl, put in the grated coconut and sugar and mix well. It has to be mixed so well that the grated coconut starts to ooze out liquid as you mix and it is into this liquid mixture that you mix the dry daal powder.
To this soft mixture, add the cardamom powder and mix well.
Now add the sifted powdered daal to this mixture, little at a time and start to mix.
Once you have used up all the powdered daal and its mixed well, add the sesame seeds and mix well. Serve immediately or savor it leisurely, it tastes just as good later!
- My Mom normally sifts the chana daal powder twice, she likes the powder to be very smooth. The texture is really up to you whether you want it to be soft or coarse.
- You can use white or black sesame seeds, I used the white ones as I didn’t have the black ones at home.
- This dish depends on how well you can mix/mash the coconut and sugar mixture. It can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. My Mom insists on using the tips of her fingers to mix. I thought using the back of a fork would work for me but it didn’t help me and I ended up using my hands as well!
- I added the powdered daal little at a time as I wanted to avoid the dish becoming too dry.
- I prefer to use freshly pounded cardamom powder as that imparts a different taste when compared to using store bought powder and it takes the dish to an altogether new level!