If you’ve never had khaman before, imagine a soft, spongy and savory chickpea flour cake steeped in a sweet and spicy infused oil and then topped with crispy fried green chilies and spices.
Sounds fancy, I know. But it’s so very simple to make, especially using the instant pot method I’m sharing with you today.
Khaman is a snack that hits all the right food flavors and is basically texturally perfect.
I mean, how often do you meet a snack that’s sweet, salty, spicy, savory and sponge-like with some crisp bits that have been fried in hot oil?
Not only is this snack food perfection, it’s also very easy to make – zero prep required.
I am really excited to (finally) be sharing this recipe with you. I’ve been working on perfecting an instant pot recipe for khaman dhokla for a while now and I’ve finally got it just right. It requires little more than mixing up a batter using common Indian pantry items and pressing the start button on an instant pot.
what is dhokla? what is khaman?
Technically dhokla and khaman are different. Dhokla is made from a fermented batter of ground rice and chana dal. Khaman, often called khaman dhokla, is made using either besan (chana dal flour) or soaked chana dal (which is then ground).
Khaman dhokla makes for a great party appetizer when hosting because it’s easy to make and also because it’s a snack most people can eat. My recipe is nut-free, vegan and gluten-free (but if you’re eating this elsewhere, just check with the person who made it as all recipes are slightly different).
When I say that dhokla is sponge-like, I really mean it. This cake is literally thirsty. It’ll drink up all the spiced oil sauce that you pour on top of it, leaving behind toasted and fried spices. You don’t want to eat this cake plain, it’ll be dry. So don’t even think about skipping the oil sauce (and yes, I know “oil sauce” sounds strange. But not everyone knows what “tempering” is… I’ll get to that in a minute… er, well let’s just get to it now).
Speaking of “oil sauce” and spices…
what’s up with frying spices in hot oil?
If you’re familiar with Indian cooking, you’ve probably heard of the word tempering or tadka or vaghar or chhonk. They’re all the same word for an Indian technique where you sizzle spices in hot fat like oil or ghee. This infuses the oil and makes spices more aromatic. It also makes green chilies and curry leaves nice and crisp!
What’s unique about making a tempering for dhokla is that you’re supposed to add water to it. This not only increases the amount of sauce, it also helps keep the khaman moist and makes the whole cake flavorful.
Once the khaman dhokla is done and you’ve cut into it, you’re supposed to pour the tempering on top of the cake and basically let it bathe in the sauce. It’ll soak it all up, promise.
what is eno fruit salt? can I use baking soda instead?
If you’re familiar with making dhokla, then chances are you already have eno fruit salt in your pantry. If you’re not familiar with eno, then this is likely going to sound a bit strange. Eno fruit salt is an antacid. Yes… like for indigestion. When it comes to making khaman, it’s what helps the batter rise. The moment you add it, you’ll see bubbles form in the batter.
Eno is made up of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), soda ash (sodium carbonate) and citric acid. You might be wondering how to replace eno when making dhokla?
I have tried quite a few times (seven, but who’s counting) to make dhokla using different combinations of more common household ingredients (baking soda, baking powder, yogurt and lemon/lime juice) but so far, nothing comes close to doing what eno does in my opinion.
So get yourself a bottle. You can find it at any Indian grocery store or on amazon – it’s around 5-6 bucks. It makes making khaman dhokla so easy. And once you make this, you will definitely want to keep making it.
I mean, just look at this.
Do you need more convincing? Here, have another slice. Or you know, five.
- 1 cup besan
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 green chili, minced, to taste
- ½ teaspoon ginger paste
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoon eno fruit salt
To make the khaman:
- Mix all of the ingredients listed under batter except for the eno fruit salt.
- Prepare the instant pot by adding 2 cups of water to the inner steel pot. Place a tall trivet in the pot.
- Add the eno fruit salt to the batter and mix well, the batter should look a bit bubbly and frothy.
- Immediately pour the batter into a greased pan (I prefer to use my 7-inch cheesecake pan with a removable bottom for easy removal).
- Place the pan on top of the trivet.
- Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 15 minutes at high pressure (use the “pressure cook” button on an ultra model or “manual” mode on a duo).
- Naturally release pressure for 10 minutes, then open the valve to release any remaining pressure.
- Cut the dhokla into diamonds (or squares) and slowly pour the tempering on top of the dhokla.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.
To prepare the tempering:
- To prepare the tempering, heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and hing.
- Once the seeds begin to splutter, add the curry leaves, green chilies and sesame seeds, stir and once the sesame seeds start to turn golden, add water, sugar, salt.
- Slowly pour this on top of the khaman – wait a minute and you’ll see it absorb.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.
- If you only have a 6-inch cheesecake pan, you can use that too with the same cook time – it’ll just result in a really tall dhokla, which isn’t a bad thing 😉