Ganesh Chaturthi 2023: 3 South Indian Heirloom Recipes
Image Credit: Unsplash

Living in India, in a family set-up where culinary specialties is an intrinsic part of what we inherit from our elders, special festivals and occasions are always marked by the preparation of something special that stands out in its simplicity but inherent value. What it really draws from are the stories surrounding it and why the recipe for a delicacy really came about. Most interestingly, when family recipes are first created, it starts off with humble beginnings and even humbler ingredients. Take the kozhukattai maavu – for example; what is essentially two ingredients (rice flour and water), but is highly technique-driven in the way it is prepared, is in fact the foundation for many delicious things to be made in South Indian homes.

What most Maharashtrians would identify was ukad, when kozhukattais or modaks play a key role in ringing in the celebrations surrounding Ganesh Chaturthi, the maavu or dough allows for caramel-like coconut-jaggery mixtures, scented with cardamom to be encased within them. Or even savoury, spiced crushed urad dal that make kara kozhukattais that one must show no restraint in consuming! But what really can be considered the fun part of the kozhukattai eating experience on Lord Ganesha’s special day, is the alternative delicacies that spring from the need to avoid wastage; or leftovers. Wise minds that believed in repurposing the maavu into creative dishes really went the extra mile to make these preparations feel as special as the modaks itself. Slurrp caught up with three individuals who had recipes with strict mandates on no wastage, passed down over generations, to ensure that the culinary joys of this festive day come a full circle – pun not intended.

Paal Kozhukattai

By Rukmini Kannan

Image Credits: Mathi's Cookbook

Shortly before 87-year-old Rukmini Kannan or Rukku paati – as she would like to be addressed, passed away, Slurrp had the chance to listen to her narrate her favourite recipe surrounding kozhukattai maavu. Her shaky voice could barely mask her enthusiasm when she expressed how lucky she believed herself to be that she was able to make this nursery delicacy of paal kozhukattai – tiny rice dumplings dunked in sweet milk, and feed her great grandchildren for the last couple of years, every Ganesh Chaturthi in Chennai. “I wake up at 3:00 on the day of the festival to check on the soaked rice grains that have been drying on thin towels on our terrace since the night before. Then I would bring all of it downstairs to toast them gently in a dry iron kadhai, until I hear gentle popping sounds, after which I cool them down completely before grinding it into a fine powder. It’s a process that needs patience,” she smiles, while fondly reminiscing about the sheer labour of pounding grains of rice into flour for the maavu.

Rukmini instantly dismisses the idea of buying ready-ground rice flour, freely available in supermarkets around Chennai, to make the maavu, saying that “no amount of industrial progress can compensate for the love that goes into making kozhukattai maavu from scratch.” While we couldn’t agree more, her daughters-in-law are assigned with the task of keeping a close eye on stirring the dough until it starts to come off the sides and has a white glossy finish. “I closely inspect the three batches of maavu that is made and ensure there’s always some set aside to make the paal kozhukattais. I would make it for my children when they refused to eat the sweet and salty kozhukattais while younger, as a way of including them in the festivities,” she shares. Now, no Ganesh Chaturthi feast is complete without a warm bowl of marble-sized rice dumplings, each hand-rolled by Rukmini herself that are then dunked into milk flavoured with cardamom and sugar. Rukku paati has also made it a point to train her daughters-in-law in the process of rolling out these dumplings, chiming in when she spots a crack or if the sizes might vary slightly.

“It’s all about creating our own traditions and making it special for the people we love. That’s what festivals are for; we can always follow what everyone else is doing but leaving behind our own, in the process is not something I was capable of doing to my two sons. I wanted them to enjoy kozhukattai in their own simple way and I would trick them by saying that this was ‘ball payasam’,” she chuckles. Rukmini’s love for her family and the need to make each member of the household feel like the celebrations would be incomplete without them, was truly a heart-warming story of finding happiness in the small things, quite literally!

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Kozhukattai Maavu ‘Sundal’

By Prabha Sathyanarayanan

Image Credits: Madhura's Recipe

While it didn’t help that growing up, Prabha moved cities every few years – all thanks to her father’s defence service job that had him “lift off and touch down” in a new place, more often than she would’ve enjoyed. “It was daunting after a point to be moving away from friends and make new ones again, changing schools, re-adapting to a new environment and finding something I could relate to in the least,” adds Prabha. At 63 now, she looks back fondly at these very memories to understand how much of an acceptance this constant shift created in her life, towards being open to new people and cultures. Prabha remembers celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in a different manner each year – from communal festivities in Pune to an intimate celebration at their home in Chhatisgarh, where her mother fashioned a Ganesha idol out of mud in their backyard.

“I’ve never been a huge fan of sweets and I would always insist that I only wanted to eat the salty kozhukattais stuffed with an urad dal filling, which my mother made exceptionally well,” Prabha adds. This was until her family celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi one year in Delhi, where their neighbours – a Konkani family also prepared delicious food to welcome the elephant god. Prabha’s mother and the lady from the Konkani household became the best of friends and often exchanged special dishes that were made in their respective homes. It was then that Prabha got a taste of the Konkani-style sundal, which tossed rice flour dumplings in a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves, whole cashews and red chillies – a dish she couldn’t get enough of. “My brother and I would always fight with each other to get a larger portion of whatever was shared with us. This was until our mother finally gave up and insisted upon getting the recipe so she could make it at home, without us siblings being at loggerheads, like children who had been starved.”

Similar to the paal kozhukattai, the rice flour dough was rolled into tiny little balls which were steamed first before being tossed in a deliciously crunchy medley of mustard, crispy curry leaves, red chillies, golden fried cashews and finished off with a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped coriander. “Once I grew up, got married and set up my own kitchen, I learned the recipe from my mother. I made kozhukattais every Ganesh Chaturthi because my husband and younger son still enjoy eating traditional food, but I always make this sundal to offer in the shrine we have at home. No Vinayaka Chaturthi is complete without it,” she quips.

Coconut Sevai

By Shreyas S.

Image Credits: Tasty Little Dumpling

For Shreyas, a 32-year-old logistics consultant based in Matunga, Mumbai, pressing fresh kozhukattai dough into thin noodles is the equivalent of eating fresh pasta. “Idiyappams and sevai are perfectly fine when made with rice noodles from a packet, that need to be rehydrated and cooked but modak dough that ends up as leftover, after a whole day of binging on kozhukattai, always gets processed into fresh rice noodles for dinner,” Shreyas says. The idea first came to his mom when she over-analysed the quantity of filling she made one year during Ganesh Chaturthi and ended up making twice the amount of maavu. A couple of frantic calls to her mother (Shreyas’ maternal grandmother), allowed her to use a metal presser and make steamed noodles, which she then tossed with grated coconut, curry leaves, asafoetida and mustard seeds to make thenga sevai for dinner.

Although skeptical at first, Shreyas soon became a fan of the upcycled recipe, that he looks forward to each year, if he happens to be spending time in Mumbai around Ganesh Chaturthi. “I look forward to it as much as I look forward to eating the ukadiche modaks made at home. I even tried making my own batch of rice noodles and failed miserably. No one does it quite like my mom,” he smiles. In the midst of the conversation, his mother, Ambika chimes in saying that these fresh-pressed rice noodles are great even sprinkled with a bit of sugar or jaggery powder, and sprinkled with fresh coconut – a cook’s treat that she enjoys in solitude, after all the Ganesh Chaturthi kitchen rush has tided over.

Kozhukattai Maavu Recipe


  • ½ cup rice flour
  • 1 + ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 pinch salt


  • Bring a cup of water to a boil in the pan and keep the remaining half warm, on stand-by.
  • Add the salt and rice flour to the boiling water and stir continuously until it forms a sticky-ish dough.
  • If you find it to be too dry, add the additional warm water bit by bit, until your dough is moist but not sticky.
  • Add the coconut oil and mix thoroughly to combine before turning off the heat and placing a lid over the pan to let the dough steam and turn fluffy.
  1. To make the paal kozhukattai, make marble-sized balls and simmer in warm milk until the dough is cooked and chewy in texture and the milk has thickened slightly.
  2. To make the sundal, steam the tiny balls of dough for 7-10 minutes and toss in a tempering made with coconut oil, mustard seeds, red chillies, curry leaves, asafoetida, crushed black pepper and salt.
  3. Use a murukku presser with the perforated sheet at the bottom to press the maavu into noodles, on to a cloth-lined plate inside a steamer. Once cooked for 4-5 minutes, cool slightly before making a coconut sevai tempering and tossing to combine.