What is Sevai?

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Sevai is a type of South Indian rice noodle that can be eaten plain or used as a base for more elaborate Indian cuisine. Indian home cooks often make sevai with parboiled rice extruded in a specialized noodle press. Sevai gets its texture from rice paste, which was later softened in a steamer. This noodle is usually eaten with small amounts of oil and is popular in many Indian homes for both dinner and breakfast.

Santhakai refers to another method of making these types of rice noodles. Instead of rice, santhakai is usually made from wheat or a type of flour called ragi. The process of making from scratch is very similar to making sevai. In some areas of India, the terms are used interchangeably for the same types of noodles. Indian cuisine experts claim that the two are different dishes because of the difference in raw ingredients.

Rice noodles are common in Indian diets because of their versatility and ability to mix well with different flavors. Along with vegetables, noodles are one of the staples of traditionally vegetarian Indian cuisine. Lemon and coconut are favorite flavor choices for sevai.

To make rice sevai from scratch, the home cook starts by boiling the rice and then soaking it until it is soft enough to be kneaded into a paste. While prepared sevai can be found at Indian specialty stores, experienced Indian cooks recommend starting with rice, claiming that the resulting sevai tastes more authentic. Creating rice paste for sevai is the most labor-intensive part of the process, but mixing and kneading are essential for a good end result.

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Many Indian home cooks grind the soaked rice and then cook it until it resembles a very thick paste that looks like bread dough, which they then cool slightly and knead. At this point, salt is mixed for flavor and oil is added to prevent the paste from sticking to the inside of the steamer or pasta machine. The home cook then rolls the dough into small round or oval balls that are easier to pass through the extruder.

Before the pasta balls can pass through the pasta extruder, they need to be steamed for about 15 minutes. This step is important to give these rice noodles their unique texture. The finished noodles can then be mixed with flavorings like shredded coconut, curry, lemon zest and sesame oil.

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