7 Steamed Dishes That Offer Comfort In The Monsoon
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In the early days, In India, steaming was used as a natural cooking method. In rural settings,  people used simple techniques such as using leaves to wrap food and steaming them over open flames or in makeshift steamers made from clay. The use of banana leaves to wrap and steam food is an ancient practice. Banana leaves are abundant in many parts of India, especially in the south and east, and they provide a natural, non-stick, and aromatic vessel for steaming food. The concept of cooking with steam was particularly practical in regions where open fire cooking might not be ideal, especially during monsoons.

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Steamed dishes hold a special place in Indian cuisine for their ability to preserve flavours, retain their natural flavours and nutritional benefits, and offer light yet satisfying meals, making them ideal choices during the monsoon season when fresh ingredients are plentiful. 

These dishes not only showcase the culinary diversity of the country but also reflect cultural traditions and regional preferences. They are  enjoyed as a breakfast staple, a festive treat, or a comforting snack, these steamed delicacies continue to evoke warmth and nostalgia.

In South India, steaming became a central cooking method, particularly for breakfast dishes like idlis and puttu. The climate and availability of ingredients like rice and lentils made steaming a practical and efficient method of cooking. In Bengal and the Northeastern states, steaming is used to prepare fish and other delicate ingredients, preserving their natural flavours and nutrients. Dishes like Bhapa Ilish (steamed Hilsa fish) and Momos (steamed dumplings) are popular in these regions. In Gujarat, steaming is used to make snacks like dhokla and muthia, which are not only healthy but also suitable for the vegetarian dietary preferences of the region.

Soft Idlis 

Idli is a staple breakfast dish originating from South India but is loved all over the country. Soft and fluffy in texture, it is made from a batter of fermented rice and urad dal (black gram), idlis are steamed in specialised moulds until they are cooked through. They are typically round in shape with a slight dome on top and have a mild, slightly tangy flavour owing to the fermentation of the batter. Idlis are often served hot with accompaniments such as sambar (a spicy lentil-based soup with vegetables) and coconut chutney. This nutritious and light dish is a favourite all round the year but can be a great way to enjoy a warm breakfast on a rainy morning. 

Spongy Dhoklas

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Dhokla is a savoury snack from the western state of Gujarat, known for its light and airy texture. It is made from a fermented batter of rice and besan (chickpea flour), seasoned with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and green chilies. The batter is steamed in a special dish or plate, then cut into pieces and garnished with fresh coriander leaves and grated coconut. Dhokla is typically served with a drizzle of tempered oil and sometimes accompanied by green chutney or sweet tamarind chutney. Its tangy and mildly spicy flavours make it a popular choice for tea-time snacks during the monsoon.

Flaky Patra Ni Macchi 

Patra Ni Machhi is a classic Parsi dish which features fish fillets - often pomfret or any white fish -marinated in a mixture of green chutney made from fresh coriander leaves, mint leaves, green chilies, garlic, and coconut. The fish fillets are then wrapped in banana leaves, which impart a subtle flavour, and steamed until tender. The result is a delicious, flavourful and aromatic dish, typically served with steamed rice.

Sweet Kozhukattai

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Kozhukattai, also known as Modak is a steamed rice dumpling popular in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, especially during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri. The dumpling dough is made from rice flour, filled with a mixture of grated coconut and jaggery, and shaped into small dumplings. Kozhukattai is then steamed until the dough is cooked and becomes soft, while the filling melts into a sweet and aromatic blend. It is often served warm and may be accompanied by a drizzle of ghee or coconut milk for added richness. Kozhukattai is cherished for its simplicity and comforting flavours, making it a favourite during the rainy season.

Light Sannas

Sannas are steamed rice cakes originating from Goa, influenced by Portuguese culinary traditions. They are similar to idlis but are softer and slightly sweeter due to the addition of coconut milk in the batter. Sannas are typically served with spicy curries or coconut-based gravies, complementing their delicate texture and mild sweetness. They are enjoyed as a breakfast dish or as part of celebratory meals, adding a touch of coastal flavour to the table. Sannas are particularly comforting during the monsoon, offering a light yet fulfilling meal option.

Healthy Handvo

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Handvo is a savoury cake from Gujarat, made from a fermented batter of rice, lentils (usually urad dal), and mixed vegetables such as bottle gourd (doodhi), carrots, and peas. The batter is seasoned with spices like mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and turmeric, and sometimes enriched with yoghurt for a tangy flavour. Handvo is traditionally baked in a large pan, but it can also be steamed in smaller portions to create individual servings. Once cooked, handvo develops a crispy crust on the outside while remaining soft and moist inside. It is often served with a dollop of fresh butter or yoghurt and enjoyed as a hearty snack or light meal during rainy days.

Delicate Momos

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Momos are steamed dumplings originating from Tibet, which have become immensely popular across India, particularly in the northeastern states and in cities with Tibetan communities. These dumplings are known for their delicate wrappers and flavorful fillings, often served with spicy dipping sauces. They are typically made with a simple dough of flour, water, and a pinch of salt, rolled thin and then filled with a variety of savoury ingredients. The most common filling is a mixture of minced meat such as pork, chicken, or lamb or vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, and onions, seasoned with garlic, ginger and soy sauce. In some places the momos are served with a warm, mildly flavoured soup.