Good Food Guide: Steamed Kitchili Samba Dumplings Two Ways

[Every Thursday in August, we will feature recipes that use native varieties of rice from across India. Native rice is better adapted to local climatic conditions and tolerant to poor soils and harsh weather, making it one of the most ecologically sound food choices in a changing environment.]

The Green Revolution is infamous for its homogenisation of agriculture and for wiping out several indigenous varieties of food staples, many of which were hardy, climate-resilient, disease-resistant and naturally suited to environment-friendly farming techniques.

Kitchili Samba

Kitchili samba is one variety of traditional rice that has survived at a time when hybridisation and mass production have obliterated thousands of indigenous rice varieties along with the centuries old knowledge and culture built around their growing, cooking and consumption. It is one of many different samba (or rabi season) rice varieties grown in Tamil Nadu.


Many traditional varieties are named for their appearance and fragrance, the soils they were sown in and the cultural practices they became associated with in places where they were traditionally cultivated. For instance, Azhagu samba (azhagu means beautiful), Seeraga samba (seeraga is cumin, refers to the rice's cumin-like fragrance), Iluppai Poo samba (name of a flower), Thogai samba (the grains are shaped like, thogai, or peacock feathers), Thumbai pasi (the grain is as white as the thumbai flower), Pisini (pisini is a stingy person), named perhaps for the limited expansion of its grains on cooking.

Kitchili samba is named for the appearance of the grains whose pale orange hue and distinct aroma closely resemble a citrus fruit called Kitchili. Its easy digestibility makes this a popular choice in South Indian meals and biryanis.

Here's a recipe for sweet and savoury Kitchili samba kozhukattai or steamed rice dumplings:


Savoury kozhukattai

For the stuffing you'll need

  • 2 tablespoons black urad (with skin)
  • 2 red chillies 
  • A pinch of Himalayan salt
  • A pinch of hing.

Make the savoury stuffing

Soak the black urad for an hour. Grind the soaked urad, chillies, salt & asafoetida into a coarse mixture. Steam the mixture in an idly pan. Crumble the steamed urad cakes to make a coarse filling mix.

Sweet kozhukattai

Ingredients for the stuffing

  • 1 cup of freshly grated coconut
  • 1 cup of powdered jaggery
  • Powdered cardamom.

Make the sweet stuffing

Slowly melt the powdered jaggery in a pan on low heat. When the jaggery attains a stringy consistency, add the grated coconut, powdered cardamom and stir well until the mix becomes dry. Remove from flame and roll the mix into small balls. Keep aside.

For the outer shell, you'll need

  • 1 cup raw brown Kitchili samba rice
  • 2 cups water

Make the shell

Wash the rice and dry in shade for an hour. When the rice is semi dry, grind it into a fine flour. (You can get your rice ground at a flour mill since domestic mixers do not make fine rice flour.) Alternatively, use whole Kitchili samba rice flour, if available.

Boil the water with salt and a few drops of sesame or coconut oil. When the water starts to boil, lower the flame and slowly stir in the rice flour. Keep stirring to prevent the flour from lumping up. When all the water is absorbed and the flour has cooked well, turn off the flame. This will get done in less than a minute or two.

Assemble the kozhukattai

Transfer the cooked flour onto a clean plate and knead it to a chapathi dough consistency.

Make small lemon-sized balls of dough. Keep the roundels moist by covering them with a wet cloth. Flatten each ball and roll it into thin disks

Place a spoonful of the savoury stuffing mix/ or one ball of sweet stuffing and close it like a samosa, carefully sealing the edges firmly together. Place the filled kozhukattai in an idly pan and steam for 5 - 10 minutes. Transfer the steamed kozhukattai onto a serving dish. The savoury kozhukattai can be garnished with a tadka of mustard and curry leaves.

(Note: To tell the sweet from the savoury kozhukattai, I make the rice flour shell round for the sweet kozhukattai like dumplings shells.)

(The Good Food Guide brings you weekly recipes for wholesome meals that you can easily cook at home. The guide is published in partnership with My Learning Game.)

Satyabhama has been exploring alternatives to  urban and contemporary lifestyles,  seeking holistic and healthy living . She spends most of her time at her organic farm tending a small family dairy of traditional desi cows. She has great interest in food, health and alternative medicine.