Exposing them to a piece of your culture is not a simple task when you have kids growing up in a different country. Teaching them about ours to our two girls has always been a struggle for Abhishek and I. Specially because we are not even sure whether we know the best either. And India being so diverse as it is with so many cultures within the “Indian culture” itself, its even more difficult. Its called the country of gods for some reason! Because its quite literally that. We worship so many gods that we can’t even name all of them and everyday is a festival for us. So how do you teach them all of that and the significance of it. But then you do try and do the best you can.
We do it in a cunning way or rather smart way as we’d like to believe! We pick the bits and pieces that are fun and interesting to a 3 and 8 year old minds and then focus on that. Like the part where the god look like a monkey and steals the sun for fun or where he looks like an elephant and rides on a mouse. Pieces like these catch their attention more and festivities involving these make them more involved.
Like the festival we are celebrating today, called Ganesh Chaturthi. The day we celebrate the birth of the “elephant god”, Ganesha. The god who is also the god of wisdom, prosperity, new beginnings and the remover of obstacles. The god who also happens to be the lover of food and of course, he is an Indian god! So on this day we celebrate by cooking all the delicious goodness for the god. Things like mithai (sweets) and modak.
Modak is believed to be Lord Ganesha’s favorite and so is specially prepared on Ganesh Chaturthi. A sweet that is prepared very much like a chinese dumpling only in this case the filling is sweet made of jaggery and coconut or Mava (reduced milk solids). The outer covering is made with rice or wheat flour and is prepared without any eggs but with flour mixed in water and ghee to make a smooth, soft dough. Then filled like a dumpling and steamed or fried like on. Below is a detailed recipe for Modak, the favorite dish of Ganesha and once you try it, its going to become a favorite of yours too.
1 cup rice flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ghee
1 cup jaggery (grated)
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
2 tablespoon poppy seeds (khas)
1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon ghee +extra for greasing while shaping the modak
Add ghee to the warm pan. As the ghee melts add jaggery. Let the jaggery melt as the pan heats up. Stir well. Turn off the heat.
Add rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Set aside for the puran to cool down completely.
In a medium sized pot, bring water to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in ghee and salt.
Stir in rice flour and mix well. Set aside for 10-15 minutes for it to cool down, enough to handle.
Once cooler to handle, knead the mixture into a smooth dough. Wrap in damp towel. Set aside.
How to Shape a Modak:
Take lemon sized piece of dough. Grease your palms and the rolling pin. Roll the dough into a ball and then using a rolling pin flatten into a disc. Place approx. 1 1/2 tablespoon of filling in the center. Lift the edges, making pleats and then pinch the edges together at a place giving it a tear drop shape. If the dough breaks in the process, smoothen it with wet fingers. Repeat the process for the rest of the filling.
In the meantime, bring 3-4 cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Grease the base of a steamer and place the teamer on top of the pot.
Line the steamer with modak. Cover with a lid and let it cook on medium low heat for 11-12 minutes or until the outer covering of the modak is shiny. That means its cooked through.
Turn off the heat. Take the modak out and let it cool for 15-20 minutes before serving or offering to the gods.
HAPPY GANESH CHTURTHI EVERYONE!