Rice Singal

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a pleasant and restful holiday season and is off to a great start in 2008. I thought I would start off 2008 by presenting a recipe for one of my favorite comfort foods. Everyone has those special items that bring back childhood memories or serve as a reminder of a special event. Some of my favorite comfort foods include rice flour pudding (phirni), rice pudding (kheer), sweet potato halwa, sooji halwa and sesame-wheat halwa. Today I wanted to present the recipe for one of my special comfort foods – my nani’s rice singal.

The last time I had rice singal was in 1996, when my sister made it for me while I was visiting my mom in India before she passed away. Rice singal is a type of sweet fritter prepared by combining sooji (cream of wheat) and rice flour, somewhat resembling the texture of corn meal. To me, it’s the Indian version of a doughnut. The following recipe should give you a good walkthrough of preparing this special comfort food of mine. As always, if you have any questions feel free to send a comment.

1/2 cup coarse rice flour
1/2 cup sooji
1/4 teaspoon roughly crushed cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup granulated sugar or to taste
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup plain yogurt or as needed
1 tablespoon grated coconut, lightly toasted
Oil for deep-frying

1) In a mixing bowl, place first six ingredients and add 1/4 cup yogurt, a little at a time, until the mixture has turned into a thick paste, adding additional yogurt as needed to make a thick batter (resembling almost soft cookie dough). Cover and let it rest at least an hour at room temperature and set aside.
2) Or prepare the batter by combining the first eight ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cover and leave it at room temperature for about an hour. Set aside. Traditionally the batter was prepared by grinding the overnight soaked rice.
3) When ready to deep-fry the rice singals adjust the consistency of the batter by adding grated coconut and additional sooji if needed. Add a generous pinch of baking powder and stir to mix thoroughly.
4) Fill a pastry bag with the batter and test the batter to see if it flows easily through the pastry bag. Set aside. Again nani simply used her hands (the best tools) to shape these singals.
5) Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet or preferably a wok. To form the rice singals start at the center of each singal and, holding the pastry bag at a very slight angle, carefully work your way around the circle in a tight coil shape resembling a gigantic jalebi or pretzel. Being extremely careful, keep the pastry bag tip close to the oil and try not to leave too much space while squeezing the batter to form the singals. Or simply shape into 3-inch diameter circle resembling a doughnut.
6) Fry two or three rice singals at a time without crowding the skillet. Fry them until golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on top of paper towel lined baking tray. Repeat the process until all the batter is used. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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