Ukad (rice flour and buttermilk porridge)

(jump to recipe)

This recipe is very close to my heart, almost family heirloom status. It’s one of my mom’s favorite recipes, a modified version of which she happily fed my sister and I since we were 7 or 8 months old. Something my grandmother fed my mom since she was a baby herself! It is quick, comforting and resembles a warm hug in food form. Not that I’m biased or anything.

A mixture of rice flour-buttermilk (or yogurt thinned out with water), flavored with finely chopped ginger, green chilies, asafetida (hing) and salt, is cooked in a quick tempering of mustard seeds, sliced garlic and curry leaves (sometimes with turmeric, sometimes without), until its a soft, smooth and tangy pillow. The porridge is served with a drizzle of raw oil, and is to be enjoyed in complete peace and quiet – at least the one you can control, in your head. If peace is eluding you, this Ukad will help you get there. And that’s all there is to it.

Shall we?

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Buttermilk, water, ground turmeric, black mustard seeds, green chilies, fresh ginger, garlic, rice flour, curry leaves, asafetida, vegetable oil

We start by finely chopping or mincing the ginger and green chilies. You could grate these too, or even use paste (in case of ginger), but the pieces are more flavorful and pleasant in this particular case. Thinly slice the garlic.

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Finely chopped ginger, green chilies; thinly sliced garlic

Combine the rice flour and buttermilk in a large bowl, adding the buttermilk a little at a time, whisking continuously, until it is a thick, lump-free paste. Thin out this paste by adding 3/4 to 1 cup water, whisking continuously, until the mixture resembles a thin pancake batter. Add green chilies, ginger, asafetida (hing) and salt, stir, and set aside.

In a nonstick saucepan on medium-low heat, make the tempering with vegetable oil, mustard seeds, few pinches more asafetida, curry leaves and garlic. Add turmeric (if using). Once the garlic takes on a slight color and the curry leaves start to crisp up, the tempering is ready. Add about 1/4c water to cool the tempering down, and also to make it easier to add the rice flour and buttermilk mixture.

In goes the mixture, and whisking few seconds at a time for the first 5-7 minutes, let the porridge cook and start to thicken. This whisking is essential to avoid lumps, and yield a smooth, pillowy Ukad. Once you see the mixture thickening, cover the pan and cook for 7-10 minutes, until Ukad is completely cooked and almost solid. There should be no wet spots, or raw rice flour taste. If it seems too thick, add a few spoonfuls of hot water and thin it out as needed, until you get to the desired consistency.

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Perfect Ukad consistency – thick, soft and comforting!

Serve warm garnished with chopped cilantro and a drizzle of oil (raw).

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A drizzle of oil puts it over the top. Add as much or as little as you like.
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As it cools, it sets. Then you can eat chunks of it, gleaming with the oil.
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Even solidified, cooled, reheated, and revived, it is the ultimate comfort – no matter the weather, the type of day you’ve had.

If you are my mom, you’ll make sure you lick the back of the spoon as well, to enjoy every single bite.

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Eating it the way the mom does. She first licks the front of the spoon, and then the back of the spoon, in stages. My sister and I noticed only this year, that we eat it the same way!

• Recipe •

Ukad (Rice flour and buttermilk porridge)

Makes 4 large portions

1 cup rice flour
1 cup thick buttermilk (can be made with 1/2 to 3/4 cup yogurt thinned out with water)
2 cups (or more if needed) water at room temperature
3-4 green chillies, finely chopped or minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 teaspoon, or to taste, table salt
3/4 teaspoon asafetida, divided
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds (black)
8-10 curry leaves, whole
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)

To serve
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, add the rice flour and buttermilk, and using a whisk or fork, combine until a smooth paste. Add up to a cup of water, few tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is free flowing but still thick. If the buttermilk is watery (or made by whisking together yogurt and water to begin with), you may need less than a cup of water. Err on the side of having a thinner mixture than thick.

Add green chillies, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon asafetida and 1 teaspoon table salt, and stir to combine.

In a large, nonstick saucepan (preferable a deep pan and not a shallow one) on medium heat, add vegetable oil. Once oil starts to shimmer, add mustard seeds and 1/4 teaspoon asafetida, and cook until the seeds start to sputter and dance around. Add curry leaves and garlic, and cook until garlic takes on a slight color. Do not let the garlic brown. Add turmeric, if using, and stir everything together to combine.

Add a 1/4 cup of water to cool the tempering down, and stir.

Stream in the rice flour and buttermilk mixture into the saucepan, whisking continuously. Once everything is in the pan, whisk for 3-4 seconds at a time on and off until the Ukad starts to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. It is important to keep whisking in the beginning to avoid lumps, and end up with a smooth, uniformly cooked Ukad!

Keep moving the Ukad around in the pan so as to not let it brown or stick to the bottom of the pan. Once it seems thick (like its starting to set), do a quick taste test and adjust salt levels. If the mixture seems a bit too thick (and also still too raw), whisk boiling water to the mixture, few tablespoons at a time. If the water content is not enough, the rice flour will remain raw and eventually become dry and pasty, as opposed to smooth and soft.

Cover the saucepan with a fitting lid and cook for 7-10 minutes until Ukad is completely cooked and there is no raw rice flour taste. It should still taste tangy from the buttermilk, but not at all raw. Add few tablespoons of boiling water and thin out the Ukad if needed, even toward the end.

Serve Ukad while its piping hot, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro and a drizzle of vegetable oil (raw).

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