Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recipe of the month: Rice Shavige/Semige

The vibrant hues that greet your eyes on the streets, the accustomed sights and smells that bombard your every sense, loud blaring music that seems to come from nowhere, the incessant honking of bikes, cars and vividly decorated trucks, the happy-go-lucky stray dogs, cats and farm animals loitering the streets, simmering pots of curries and stews, the affectionate greetings and hugs from familiar faces, joyous bursts of festivals and rituals, unparalleled hospitality that never fails to fill your heart with warmth and the unmistakable element of organized chaos.....I am in INDIA!

I've been in Bangalore, enjoying the glorious weather, taking long naps, flipping through a mountain of stacked Filmfare magazines, meeting friends, eating at restaurants at every given opportunity (but also enjoying home cooked food) and indulging in a spot of retail therapy every now and then. Usually our trips to India have a jam-packed schedule with us hopping from city to city, house to house and function to function until we desperately yearn for the comfort of home and the luxury of doing absolutely nothing (for a change). Fortunately, this time is quite unlike the rest and we have plenty of time to relax and unwind. The fact that I have found time to structure this post is testament to how jobless I am at the moment! :)

Before I get any undue credit for this post, let me be upfront and say that this is my atthe's (MIL's) contribution to my blog. Two days ago, I broached the subject of posting one of her recipes on my blog which she willingly agreed. Asking her or my mum to cook something for my blog is the easiest thing in the world because whatever they make ends up tasting great so I don't have to think twice. However, I was hoping for it to be a dish that I don't prepare myself. At that particular moment, I couldn't think of anything aside from Rice Shavige/Semige, also known as Sevai or Santhakai in Tamil; Idiappam or Noolappam in Malayalam and also as String Hoppers. The reason I have never attempted this breakfast dish before is not out of laziness but out of pure intimidation. Traditionally, the device used to make it, called a shavige press looks like an ancient contraption right out of Indus Valley civilization or something :P You need two people to operate it efficiently, with one person rotating the sturdy handle to squeeze the steamed rice mixture through the sieve at the end of the mould and the other person to collect the long strands of shavige that drops below onto a plate. It can also be made using a chakli press but despite owning one, I never even tried making it. This South-Indian take on noodles is served with a variety of savoury or sweet accompaniments. The most popular savoury combinations in our household being tender mango pickle and coconut oil, coconut chutney, majjige huli (a coconut-based vegetable gravy) or sweet combinations like mango or banana rasayana (coconut milk sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with cardamom). It can be also made into a shavige chitranna (lemon rice like preparation) as well as a shavige oggarane (shavige mixed with tempering and ground coconut, mustard seeds and dry red chillies). I love shavige and I devour platefuls of it during the rare occasions it is made at home. I don't depend on a variety of sides to go along with it. Instead, I march into the kitchen, open the cabinet, get a bottle of tantalizing appemidi pickle and coconut oil, generously pour it over the shavige, give it a good mix until the contents on my plate turns a crimson shade of red and begin wolfing it down at breakneck speed!

My only contribution to this post is this lengthy monologue and typing out the detailed instructions that my atthe gave me. I share the photo credits with her because she spent considerable time searching through cupboards and drawers, looking for props that we could use to make the photo look appealing. In the process we found so many interesting plates, pots and utensils tucked away in different corners of the house, most of them long forgotten. I must say, that whole process was quite fun! Whatever props you see in the photos here has been sourced by my atthe so in addition to cooking one of my all-time favourite dishes for my blog, she has helped me get these photos looking as colorful as they do :) So, a big thank you atthe! 

The recipe quantities given in the recipe below serves 2-3 people but the quantities that you see in the step-by-step photos yields much more because when atthe made it at home, she made it for more people and to last a couple of days. So don't go by the quantity shown in the pics....they are solely for illustrative purposes.

This recipe hails from my native place and is very close to my heart so although it is elaborate and not very easy, please dont be a scaredy cat like me and shy away from it. If you are up for a kitchen challenge, this is the perfect dish for you! I hope you give it and go and discover the joy in the simplicity of this wonderful dish. Since I've already made a couple of cooking resolutions for this year, I'm going to go on a limb and add one more to it. I am going to make shavige at home in Singapore using my chakli press so that I won't ever regret not even attempting it. Whether or not I'm successful at it....well....lets just say, I'll keep you posted!

Rice Shavige (Semige)

Preparation time: 14-16 hours
Cooking time: 40 min
Serves: 2-3
Recipe Level: Elaborate procedure + moderate difficulty level
Recipe Source: My Atthe

1 cup raw rice (sona masoori)
1.5 cups water
1-2 tsp coconut oil, Optional
Salt to taste

Equipment needed:
Steamer (idli steamer or pressure cooker)
Shavige press or Chakli press


1. Wash the raw rice under running water three times. Drain the excess water and soak the rice with 1.5 cups of water for 4-5 hours.

2. At the end of the soaking time, collect the soaking water in a separate vessel. Add the rice and soaking water incrementally in a stone grinder and grind well until it forms a very smooth and fine paste (20-30 min). Usually, all of the soaking water gets used up in the process (you can even use it to rinse out the grinder). The consistency of the ground paste will be quite thin (somewhat like butter milk consistency or neer dosa batter). 

Note: that you can also do this procedure in the blender. 

3. Keep the batter in a closed container overnight. The next day, you will see that the water would have formed a 1cm layer on top of the ground paste.
This step is optional. If you don't have time, after grinding the rice, you can directly proceed to the next step.

4. Now gently pour the water (that has formed a layer on top of the paste) into a preferably non-stick vessel, add coconut oil and salt to it and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the rest of the paste. Keep stirring until the mixture starts to thicken and leaves the sides of the pan. The mixture should come together in a firm ball. This might take 15-20 mins and will get your biceps working! Switch off the flame and let the mixture cool slightly. 

5. Now grease steamer plate/idli plates. With wet palms, form the rice mixture into balls, place on the greased plates and steam for 10-12 mins on medium flame. You can use an idli steamer or a pressure cooker (without weight) for this purpose. 

6. Once the steaming is done, start the process of making the shavige. Keep in mind that the mixture has to be hot otherwise it will be difficult to press through. Place the rice balls in the mould of the shavige press until full and twist the handle counter clockwise until you see the shavige start to drop down. Keep a plate at the bottom to collect the shavige. Keep turning the plate so that the shavige forms long loose strands.  My in-laws did this in tandem while I was preoccupied clicking the pics :D

7. The shavige is ready! Serve with coconut oil and pickle and/or any chutney of your choice or you could serve it with sweetened coconut milk.

  • Dosa rice does not work well in this recipe and nor does basmati. Sona masoori rice is the best
  • The ratio of rice to water also depends on the quality of rice that you have have to adopt a trial and error method to perfect this recipe
  • If you are using a pressure cooker to steam the rice balls, do not use a weight. You can invert a steel tumbler over the weight stand
  • The steamed rice mixture has to be hot when you pass it through the shavige press. Once it cools down, pressing it through the mould becomes difficult
  • You may find the legs of the shavige press start to lift or move around when you are using it. Support it at the bottom with a towel or keep a form grasp over it
  • Let the shavige cool down for a bit after you collect it in a plate. Otherwise, it may loose its shape
  • To reheat the shavige, all you have to do is microwave it for a few seconds. It tastes almost as good as new!



  1. Woow the props and pictures are awesome. The wooden bowl and plate make the shavige stand out and even so yummy/inviting. :D Awesome Atte and Meghs. I will have to buy the Shavige press / chakli maker to try this dish.

  2. Thanks Rosh :) I have to learn to make it too! Full inspiration eega nange :D

  3. I love the props... and the idiyappam is my favorite.. oh how I miss my MOM now! Loved reading through!

  4. One of my favs too. And we usually make a oggarane kind and a sweet powder... Enjoy the rest of vacation.

  5. Looks delicious Megha! Enjoy Bangalore.. I so miss it! The weather must be beautiful :)

  6. Lovely pictures Megha! After 14 yrs in the US, I made shamige several times last year and was surprised at how easy it is to make! One difference between S aunty's recipe and amma's is that I don't leave the batter sitting overnight. Grind, cook, steam and press is how Amma does it. She also adds a little grated coconut while grinding. We all (especially the kids) love it! Have a fun trip.

  7. Thank you ladies :)

    Chinki, is that you? I'm assuming it is :) I asked atthe about that actually and she said that is what Uppunda dodda suggested to do. I dunno how it is done in Parkala though. Anyways, I love semige so much that I don't think I would be able to tell the difference! haha

  8. Yup it is Megha :-) I posted using my gmail, wonder why I show up as anonymous. Interesting how people make subtle changes to the same dish! With you on love Semite, uppinkai, enne anytime any day.


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