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Nerding over a plate of Khandvi

Khandvi is, without a doubt, one of the trickiest dishes to make in Gujarati cuisine. The neighboring state of Maharashtra has its own version of the Khandvi that they call the Patuli or Dahivadi or Surlichi Vadi. It is a very popular snack. It is often seen in shops selling Khaman and Khamni (And if you ever say Khaman-Dhokla as one word, I will find you and I will kill you like Liam Neeson would. Khaman and Dhokla are two very different things, they are not the same, and they are never to be said in the same breath).

What is Khandvi?

Khandvi is a yellow, tightly-rolled bite-sized gram flour food. It is eaten as an appetizer or a snack, or people like me can do their whole lunch and dinner off it. It is often served with garlic chutney, toppings of coriander leaves and shredded coconut, maybe a mint chutney, and some fried, tempered chilies.

How to make Khandvi?

There’s enough recipes online giving out recipes to make Khandvi, so don’t intend to provide one here. It is usually prepared from a batter of gram flour and yogurt, seasoned with ginger paste, salt, turmeric, and if you like, some chopped green chilies. The batter is cooked to a thick paste and spread out on a flat surface, generally the back of a plate. They are then cut into about 1 inch wide stripes and rolled. A tempering of mustard seeds and green chilies is poured on top of the rolled Khandvi, and topped off with roughly chopped coriander leaves and shredded coconut.

What is the trickiest part of making Khandvi?

Hands down, getting the consistency of the cooked batter right is the trickiest part of making Khandvi. If the batter is too thin, it will just flow off the plate you are spreading it on, nothing to roll then. If the batter is too thick, it won’t spread properly or would spread unevenly, again, no proper rolling then. So, that consistency has to be just right and spreadable enough to get the perfect thin rolls. Being able to make thin, delicate Khandvi is a prized skill. Definitely a skill countless daughter-in-laws get judged on by potential mother-in-laws, I promise.

What is the science behind the Khandvi then?

Roasted gram flour is a protein-rich ingredient, and so is buttermilk . Proteins absorb the water added to the batter and swell. This increases the volume and the viscosity of the mixture – that’s when the batter thickens.

When this batter is being prepared, one major process happens – Protein Denaturation. Denaturation means a change in the structure of the proteins from their original structure, brought about changes in the protein’s environment like a change in pH, temperature, etc. The proteins which are tightly-bound chains of amino acids, open up and be more exposed.This makes the batter thicker. Controlling how thick you let be depends on how much heat and acidity you provide to the proteins, in terms of the yogurt and the cooking.

When the batter is spread out, the mixture begins to cool, coming down almost to a room temperature. This leads to a reduction in the thermal kinetic energy, and the water molecules evaporate, making the mixture thicker and drier. Stable non-covalent bonds form between the exposed groups (hydrophilic and hydrophobic) of the denatured proteins. This leads to the batter become like a gel. This ‘gel’ state has to be perfectly achieved – no perfect gel, no Khandvi rolls.

Curd or yogurt is used as a leavening agent in Khandvi, in the form of the buttermilk. Curd makes an excellent leavening agent. They can make the batter rise and make the dough soft, and voluminous. It works very well to denature the proteins and change their state into softer gel states which would give you a final product that would literally melt in your mouth. The addition of the buttermilk would also make the khandvi moist as well as ensure that the Khandvi doesn’t dry up or harden. The tricky part here is to add just the right amount of buttermilk. Too much buttermilk would lead to too thin a batter, too less buttermilk, not enough soft gel proteins and not a very spreadable batter. Either way, the batter would be a waste.

How to enjoy a plate of Khandvi?

Straight off the plate, with your bare hands, dipped into a chutney, if served, with a bite of the fried chili after biting into the khandvi. Khandvi is usually bite-sized, but it is absolutely ok to finish one roll in 2-3 bites. Just don’t unroll the whole thing and then eat it, be careful not to let it slip off your hands. I would consider it a blasphemy if you eat Khandvi with a fork and knife, but if the setting calls for it, go for it.

And while you are enjoying those Khandvi, thank the person who put in the time and effort to make them. They sure have some serious skills, and good things must always be appreciated.

Do you like Khandvi? Have you ever eaten Khandvi? Would you like to try the Khandvi someday? What do you think about it being one of the trickiest foods to make in Gujarati cuisine? Ever had a failed batch of Khandvi batter? Or made Khandvi yourself and mastered the art of getting it perfect? Tell me what you think in the comments or find me on Instagram – @banjaranfoodie.

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