Kothimbir vadi is served on a grey plate against a wooden backdrop

Kothimbir Vadi / कोथिंबीर वडी /Steamed Coriander bites

Kothimbir vadi is to Maharashtrians what pakoras are to the rest of the world. Not that we don’t enjoy pakoras too – both have their own charm, but kothimbir vadi is the classic. It even has its own designated spot on a Maharashtrian thali served at weddings or festivals. The mere sound of a thunderstorm after the sweltering heat of summer is enough to get me hankering for this savoury fried snack. The star of this snack unarguably is fresh coriander, known as ‘kothimbir’ or ‘kothmir’ in Marathi. When the said ‘kothimbir’ is steamed, it becomes a dainty cake, often square or circular, it’s then called a ‘vadi’ in Marathi. Hence the name ‘kothimbir vadi’. I don’t like translating this traditional delicacy in English but if I must, it can be called fresh coriander cake. I will be calling it ‘Kothimbir Vadi’ throughout this post.

If you’ve been to Maharashtra, especially my home city – Pune, and returned without trying this regional delicacy then I suggest you turn right around and head back as soon as you can! 

What does kothimbir vadi taste like

Coriander is the main ingredient in kothimbir vadi. It is widely used as a herb and garnish in Indian cuisine, though rarely as the main ingredient, as it is here in kothimbir vadi. Its aroma is delicate, fresh and citrusy. On the tongue, it’s a little more punchy with an earthy intensely savoury taste. Some even say it has a slightly soapy flavour. As part of my research, I asked my nearly six-year-old daughter and she said – ‘it tastes like… err.. coriander and definitely not soapy’. So I now consider the matter closed. But I digress..

In kothimbir vadi those earthy iron-rich notes are accentuated; making them taste ‘almost meaty’ according to my husband. For me, it’s not kothimbir vadi unless the coriander is dominating my palate, ably assisted by the deep umami of gram flour or ‘besan’ (or chickpea flour). The coriander has to shine in this savoury and crispy snack.

The texture of kothimbir vadi is crispy on the outside with a comparatively soft inside. Rice flour is the magical ingredient that lends that crispy texture you’re looking for. Then sesame seeds add the nuttiness we love in Maharashtrian cuisine, making it soothingly ‘khamang’. Check out this post where I elaborate on the ‘khamang’ flavour sensation. Whether you shallow or deep fry it, a kothimbir vadi should be ‘khuskhusit’ meaning delightfully crispy and flakey with each mouthful joyfully rolling off the tongue, giving your tastebuds a happy savoury sensation.

Key ingredients:

Fresh Coriander: The key ingredient is lush green coriander. Try picking it fresh from your local farmer’s market or farm shop and avoid the plastic-packaged supermarket variety if you can. Coriander that is truly fresh will quite likely be a bit muddy. Chop a centimetre off the muddy stalks and wash the remainder with plenty of cold water. Then pat dry using kitchen paper or a cloth

Gram flour/chickpea flour : Known as ‘besan’ it imparts wonderful umami to this snack when fried. It also binds the herb with all the dry flours.

Rice flour: It is used to make this snack light and crispy

How to make kothimbir vadi

  1. Firstly, wash the gritty coriander in a bowl and pat dry using either a paper towel or tea towel. Coarsely chop the coriander including its stalks. Grind the green chillies, garlic, ginger and cumin seeds to a paste. Then, mix all the flours, spices, chilli paste, and chopped coriander in a bowl. The dampness of the coriander should be sufficient to bind the ingredients together. Failing that, simply add a tablespoon or more of water little by little until the mixture comes together in a dough. Don’t use any more water than necessary to just bring the dough together. Best don’t use any water at all.
  1. Evenly flatten the dough, to a thickness of about 2cm, by hand onto a small pre-greased steel plate or a heat-proof container with a flat bottom. Steam this plate or bowl either in an Instant Pot or a regular steamer. You can use the equipment of your choice for steaming.
    1. If steaming in an Instant Pot, first let some water come to a boil in sauté mode. Then place the plate containing the dough onto the Instant Pot trivet. Secure the lid. Change to steam mode on low setting for 15-18 minutes with the vent in the release position (to let the steam out). Use a separate timer as the IP timer doesn’t work in steam mode. Remove the plate and allow the dough to cool.
    2. If steaming in a pressure cooker, pour some water. Place a trivet in the pressure cooker and bring the water to a boil. Place the dough plate onto the trivet and secure the lid without the whistle (so that steam can escape freely). Continue steaming for 15-18 minutes over a low to medium flame. Remove after 15 minutes and allow the dough to cool.
    3. If steaming in a steamer or saucepan, simply pour some water into the steamer over a high flame. Bring the water to a boil then place the plate containing the dough onto the trivet. Turn the heat down to low to medium, put the lid on, and continue steaming for 15-18 minutes. Remove after 15 minutes and allow the dough to cool.
Steam the fresh coriander dough for 15-18 minutes
Cut into the steamed cake using a knife.
  1. Using a knife, cut into the dough which will by now have become a cake. Make a few deep incisions horizontally and then vertically to form 3-4cm square portions. Loosen the pieces with a spatula or knife and remove each square.
Deep-fry the steamed square pieces (vadis) over a low to medium flame until golden brown
  1. Deep-fry the steamed square pieces over a low to medium flame until golden brown for that ultimate ‘khamang’-ness that we Maharashtrians swear by. If you’re health conscious, shallow fry over a medium flame. You can even air fry them

How to store Kothimbir Vadi

The vadis keep well in the fridge for well over a week, if kept in an airtight container lined with either grease proof. Allow the vadis to cool completely before transferring them to the container. 

Alternatively, you can freeze them once steamed. Allow them to cool before freezing. Then when you need them, simply thaw at room temperature. Pat them dry and deep-fry over a low to medium flame. You can also shallow or air fry them. 

Kothimbir Vadi / कोथिंबीर वडी /Steamed Coriander Cake

Recipe by RieethaaCourse: Starter, MainCuisine: Maharashtrian, IndianDifficulty: Medium
Servings

15

pieces
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes
Total time

45

minutes

Ingredients

  • 85g (1½ cup) fresh coriander or kothimbir (cleaned, washed, pat dried and chopped)

  • 5 green chillies

  • 50g (½ cup) gram flour or chickpea flour or besan

  • 2 tbsp rice flour

  • 1 tbsp semolina

  • 8 cloves garlic

  • ½ inch root ginger

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • ½ tsp red chilli powder

  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder

  • ½ tsp garam masala 

  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds 

  • 1 tsp sunflower oil

  • 2 tbsp water

  • Salt to taste

  • Sunflower oil to deep fry and to grease the container used for steaming

Directions

  • Wash the coriander thoroughly to remove any grit. Chop a centimetre off the ends of the stalks, if they’re muddy. Pat dry using a kitchen towel. Coarsely chop the coriander. This should now be about 85g or 1½ cups. 
  • Grease the bottom and edges of a steel plate or any flat bottomed container that’s heatproof, with oil and keep it aside.
  • Grind the green chillies, ginger, garlic and cumin seeds to a paste and set aside.
  • In a bowl, mix the gram flour, rice flour, and semolina along with the ground spices (red chilli powder, turmeric powder, garam masala), half of the sesame seeds as well as the green chilli paste (from step 3) with the coriander. Add salt to taste at this stage. 
  • Continue mixing all the dry ingredients by hand. Then add the water little by little until a tight dough is formed. Drizzle 1 tsp oil over the dough. Knead and set aside.
  • Transfer the dough onto the greased plate or container. Flatten and spread evenly using fingers to a thickness of about 2cm. Sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds on top and give the flattened dough a gentle pat.
  • Steam the dough for 15-18 minutes in an Instant Pot, pressure cooker, or  steamer:

    a. If steaming in an Instant Pot, heat some water (about 100ml) in Sauté Mode for 5 minutes or until it comes to a boil. Place the trivet inside the Instant Pot with the plate containing the flatted dough on top. Secure the lid in the venting position to let the steam out. Switch to Steam Mode on Low setting. Set a separate timer on for 15-18 minutes. 

    b. If steaming in a pressure cooker, pour some hot water (50-100ml). Insert a stand or steaming plate and bring the water to a boil. Place the dough container onto the stand. Secure the lid without the whistle or weights and steam over a low to medium flame.

    c. If using a steamer, boil some water. Place the dough container onto the sieve, put the lid on and continue steaming over a low to medium flame.
  • After steaming the dough will have cooked to a cake-like consistency. Allow it to cool on the plate. Using a knife, cut the cake. Make a few deep incisions horizontally and then vertically to form 3-4cm square portions. Loosen the pieces with a spatula or knife and remove each square.
  • Deep-fry the steamed square pieces over a low to medium flame until golden brown and enjoy at room temperature.

Notes

  • Instead of greasing the steel plate used for steaming, you can simply line it with greaseproof paper and flatten the dough onto it. 
  • You can add a pinch of baking soda to the dough to make it lighter, but I find it unnecessary given the use of rice flour and semolina.
  • Semolina and rice are added to keep this snack light and crispy. However if you’re gluten intolerant, simply substitute semolina with  extra rice flour.
  • You can add a pinch of sugar, ground peanut powder and carom seeds to the dough. In the interest of keeping the recipe minimal, I’ve chosen not to use them.
  • You can adjust or even skip the red chilli powder,green chillies or garam masala to your taste.
  • You can also shallow or air-fry the steamed squares or even enjoy them steamed as they are.
  • If using an Instant Pot for steaming, use a separate timer.
  • This snack keeps well in the fridge for up to two weeks.
  • You can freeze the steamed pieces to fry later when needed.  

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