Friday, August 17, 2012

Vegan Gokulashtami: Uppu Seedais and Vella Seedais


While I was growing up, Gokulashtami was a small festival, with a couple of very simple dishes for naivedhyam. It was only after I married my Iyer boy that I discoverd these crunchy, delicious, deep friend snacks called Seedais.

vegan uppu seedais

Hubs and I are not very religious and our poojas are always very quick, but we do enjoy the cultural aspects of our traditional Hindu festivals. And of course the food! :)

On our first Gokulashtami back home in Bangalore, hubby insisted that we make Uppu Seedais and Vella Seedais together and make baby Krishna footsteps kolam too. It was so much fun that it became a yearly tradition for us. Now, as long as we're here in Bangalore during Gokulashtami, we don't miss out on celebrating it in our small way.

vegan vella seedais

Now after so many years, I've become fairly good at making the Seedais and a pro at shaping the footsteps out of rice flour paste.

cute baby krishna footstep kolam bangle handstiny baby krishna footstep gokulashtami

People often take the easy way out with the kolam by just drawing an 8 with a flattened top and quickly putting dots for the toes, but we always insist on using the more traditional, side-fist method. Takes a bit more patience but it's worth the effort. Clench palms into tight fists, dip them in rice flour paste and press them onto the floor, right fist for the right foot and left fist for the left foot, then finally dot the toes on top with the index finger. If there are real little babies at home, then their wee feet are used as the tools for making the footsteps. :oP

running baby krishna janmashtami footsteps on floor

For those who have no clue about what I'm talking about, Gokulashtami aka Krishna Janmashtami is a festival in celebration of Krishna's birthday. The little footsteps on are drawn from the main door of the house, all the way up to the pooja chamber/altar. They represent baby Krishna running into our home happily and jumping up onto his place in the altar in front of the yummy food offerings. The idol on the altar is of an adorable baby Krishna in a little cradle.

gokulashtami baby krishna footsteps on pooja altar

All Hindu festivals basically involve these steps: prepare the favorite foods of the God or Goddess who is being celebrated and place said food on the pooja altar, in front of the idols/symbols/pictures which represent the deity. Light Lamps of sesame oil and incense sticks with a pleasant, calming fragrance. Chant ancient prayers (this part of the ritual could be long or short and would involve ringing a brass or silver bell and lighting a few pieces of camphor on fire to purify and cleanse the house). Next, express gratitude for our many blessings. Offer the naivedhyam food to the God or Goddess in question. And finally proceed to gleefully stuff our faces with the delicious festival goodies.

Little Krishna is known for his love of butter and curds, but we believe that if he lived on Earth today, he would definitely be vegan because he loved cows with all his heart and would never put up with the cruelties inflicted upon these gentle creatures by humans to satisfy our greedy desires. So of course all the goodies we prepare are completely vegan.

This year I made Tapioca Payasam, Vella Appam, Uppu Seedai and Vella Seedai.

gokulashtami vella appams

For the Vella Appams, I followed the recipe from Subbu's Kitchen. Instead of deep frying them however, I shallow fried them in my Paddu/Paniyaram Pan. This helped them hold their shape well.

For the Uppu Seedais and Vella Seedais, I followed the recipes from Chefinyou, with a few modifications.

Uppu Seedais

Uppu Seedais are known to be tricky little buggers. I've heard that they often turn into little bombs while being fried and splatter oil all over the kitchen. But thankfully, my little Uppu Seedais have always been very well behaved. It's possibly because I use coconut oil instead of butter and dry coconut instead of fresh coconut, which reduces the moisture content in the balls, hence drastically reducing the risk of air pockets being formed inside. Or perhaps it's simply vegan karma at play here. :oP

vegan uppu seedais

1 C rice flour
2 T urad dal flour - I followed this recipe to make it and sieved through a cheesecloth to get a very fine powder
1/4 C white sesame seeds
1/4 C dry/desiccated coconut powder
2 T coconut oil
1 tsp asafoetida powder
Salt to taste
Additional coconut oil for deep frying

Mix all the ingredients together.
Add a little water at a time and form a stiff dough.
Shape the dough into small, about 10mm thick, balls.
Heat the coconut oil for a couple of minutes and drop the balls into it in batches.
Fry them on a medium flame and stir once in a while to ensure even cooking.
After a couple of minutes, the balls will turn to a light, golden colour.
Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on tissue paper to absorb excess oil.
Enjoy! :)

Vella Seedais

vegan vella seedais

1 C rice flour
2 tsp urad dal flour - I followed this recipe to make it and sieved through a cheesecloth to get a very fine powder
1 T dry/desiccated coconut powder
1/4 C white sesame seeds
1 cup jaggery - dissolved in 1/2 C of hot water and strained
1 cardamom pod's worth of crushed seeds
Small pinch of salt
Coconut oil for deep frying

In a dry, heavy bottomed pan, roast the rice flour on a low flame for a minute or so, being careful not to burn it and set aside.
Lightly toast the sesame seeds and coconut powder.
Mix everything, except the jaggery syrup, in a large bowl.
Slowly knead in the jaggery syrup and form a stiff dough, using only as much jaggery syrup as required.
Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside for half an hour.
Shape the dough into 1 inch balls and keep aside.
Heat the coconut oil for a couple of minutes and drop the balls into it in batches.
Fry them for a few minutes on a medium flame and stir once in a while to ensure even cooking. If the balls brown too quickly, reduce the heat a little more.
They are done when they turn to a dark golden brown colour.
Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on tissue paper to drain away any excess oil.
Enjoy! :)

11 comments:

  1. those tiny feet are super cute! i miss all the celebration. the chutti, rangoli, lotsa food:)
    I am totally with you. we probably would have stories about Lord Krishna making cashew curd and coconut butter. I say we change the stories to make him into fruit thief. Seasonal and regional fruit;) makhan chor -> mango chor

    I think i had some seedais when i was in bangalore in 2000. since then i havent tasted any, but have been seeing them regularly in the blog world and hearing stories of explosions. i am with u on your vegan karma:) all of them look gorgeous! i should probably try my hand at them some time. Happy belated janmashtami!

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    1. And hey, you should totally try your hand at the Seedais! I bet they will turn out great. Especially the sweet ones. ;)

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  2. This is such a cute post!!! Loved the little feet!!! And those seedais are to die for :)

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  3. Super cute! I am always wary of frying things but yrs look like they came out great! Rituals can be hard to keep up with but they are fun to return to occasionally. I don't really know much about Hindu festivals so this was interesting to read!
    Thanks for the kind words on my blogpost.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by and reading about the festival, foodfeud. :) It took me many years to stop being hesitant about deep frying. I used to be so afraid of oil splash backs. But there are so many yummy traditional Indian deep fried snack recipes that I knew I'd miss out on plenty if I didn't start practising.

      Initially when I learnt how to fry properly, I was hooked for a long time! You can imagine the amount of oil I ended up consuming! LOL Then I learnt to control myself and now I deep fry once in a while as an indulgence. :)

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  4. Have to agree - those footprings are insanely cute and the seedais look gorgeous - would you eat them with anything or just on their own?

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    1. Thanks Joey. :) You just eat them plain. They're snacks, like chips and cookies.

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  5. Hi
    I am new convert to vegan was at loss that i will have to give up so many things ... But going thru your blog cleared my misconception and will try to stick to vegan for life... Thanks for such lovely post Krishna foot print is very authentic...

    Lovely seedai... which I have eaten but never tried will try some day

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    1. Hi Vishku, it makes me so happy to hear that my recipes have encouraged you to continue exploring veganism. That is the main purpose of my blog, to encourage everyone to try out vegan food and follow a vegan lifestyle.

      Thank you so much for letting me know. It made my day. :)

      Do check out the SHARAN India website for a lot of simple vegan recipes and dairy alternatives: http://sharan-india.org

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