Khotto or Hittu is a quintessential Konkani delicacy made by weaving jackfruit leaves (Khotte paan, as we call it) into baskets and steaming the idli batter in it. A Khotto is essentially an idli, the jackfruit leaves impart a distinct flavor that accounts for the unique taste. Khottos are a breakfast dish and are favorites for festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Ugadi and Sutta Punav (thread changing ceremony). They are usually eaten with chutney but during festivals they may also be eaten with Madgane (dessert made with bengal gram, coconut milk and jaggery). Khottos were a favorite when we would travel by train, the jackfruit leaves forming a natural container. As in any train journey in India, these would be shared with co-passengers, many of them eating a khotto for the first time! Jackfruit trees grow in tropical climes and we are fortunate that one of our dear family friends mails us a shipment every now and then from Florida!
Weaving the jackfruit leaves takes a little practice. I learnt this technique from my Mom, one of those traditions that have been passed down from generations. We use thin splinters called “shigir” to weave the leaves together. Toothpicks are a good alternative.
1. Wash or wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. Sort the leaves such that you have groups of 4 of uniform size. This makes the weaving easy and the baskets come out looking nice once woven.
2. Set out shigir/toothpicks(broken into half) of uniform size. My mom uses dried up curry leaf twigs in lieu of shigir.
3. Place three leaves such that their rounded edges overlap each other. Pass a toothpick/shigir through all three leaves as shown in the picture below. This is akin to how you would pass a pin through two sheets of paper. Now place the rounded edge of the fourth leaf and attach it as shown below. At this point, you have created the base of the basket.
4. Now lets complete the basket. Flip the leaves over such as the veins on the leaves are facing up. Select a pair of adjacent leaves and taking care that there isn’t any gap between the two leaves, fold them together and skewer them again with a toothpick/shigir as shown below. It is of utmost importance that there shouldn’t be any gap because if there is a gap, then there is every chance of the batter leaking out. To help you out with that, here’s a small tip: as you are making the baskets, after every step hold it towards the light. if you see light filtering through the joined edge, then it means there is a hole/gap in your basket.
5. Repeat the process with the other 3 pairs of leaves and your jackfruit leaves basket is ready!
6. If necessary, you can trim the stems on three of the leaves thereby making it easier to pour the batter. The remaining stem forms a nice handle to lift the steaming khottos once they are cooked!
7. If you have a few large leaves and you do not want a large khotto, make ‘cone khottos’. Once again making sure there aren’t any gaps, form a cone using the large leaf and skewer with a toothpick/shigir as shown below. Rajesh says these were his favorite when he was growing up and his Mom would reserve them for him. The taste was the same, I guess it was just the novelty of a conical khotto that was the attraction.
Ok now that you have made the baskets, let’s get down to the batter.
- Jackfruit leaves - about 40
- Toothpicks - broken into half
- Urad daal/Split black gram with the skins removed - 1 cup
- Idli rava/rice rava/cream of rice - 1 1/2 cups
- Salt to taste
Wash and Soak urad daal in water for 5-6 hours.
Using a wet grinder/blender, grind the soaked urad daal till smooth. Water should be added to facilitate smooth grinding, but do not make it too watery.
While the urad daal is being ground, soak the idli rava in water for a few minutes. Drain the water from the rava and set aside. This is done so that the rava gets a little fluffy.
Mix the urad daal and the rava together. Add salt to taste and mix well. Leave in a warm place to ferment overnight.
Next morning, pour the fermented idli batter in the baskets and steam in a cooker or pedavan (traditional idli steamer) for 20-25 minutes.
Serve hot with coconut oil and hing chutney.
- My daughter loves to eat this with ghee (clarified butter) and chutney. Purists would eat this with coconut oil!
- You can test if the khottos are done using a skewer or a toothpick. The end of the toothpick should come out clean when the khottos are cooked.
- If you don’t have enough baskets, you can recycle them for next batch of khottos. Let the khottos cool for a little while after removing them from the steamer. Gently press the edges of the basket and ease the khotto out taking care to see that the basket is not ripped. You can then refill the baskets and steam the next batch.
- The leaves when plucked from the tree exude a milky sap that is very sticky. We used to apply coconut oil to our palms to get rid of the sticky sap.