Washington D.C. is home to a wealth of beloved restaurants, but Rasika stands out for its longevity and popularity. The modern Indian eatery takes classic preparations and modernizes them using local, seasonal produce. The ambiance, service and beverage program have all contributed to Rasika’s long reign as one of the Capitol’s favorites. Ready to learn how to make rice and dal pancakes?
This thick, topped pancake is made from a fermented batter of rice and dal. It is a popular southern dish, particularly in Tamil Nadu, where people eat it for breakfast or with afternoon tea. Chopped onions and tomatoes are a common topping that we sometimes add at Rasika. We’ve also made uttapam with fava beans when in season and asparagus, as we have here.
You need to prepare a bit in advance to make this dish. The rice and urad dal need to soak overnight and then the batter you make from them needs to ferment overnight. Fermenting the batter makes the flavor profile more interesting by virtue of the sourness, as with sourdough bread.
You drizzle oil around the outside edge of the pancake while it’s cooking to keep it moist and to achieve a nice golden color.
It’s best to make uttapam when you want to eat it, although I can’t say it’s exactly bad if you were to reheat leftovers.
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1/4 cup parboiled (converted) rice, such as Uncle Ben's or Mahatma brand
- 1/2 cup urad dal
- 1 tablespoon chana dal
- 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 tablespoon ghee, melted
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon chana dal
- 1 teaspoon urad dal
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Thai green chili
- 10 (1 1/2-inch) fresh curry leaves (more if smaller), coarsely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
For the pancakes
In a bowl, combine the basmati rice, parboiled rice, urad dal, them on the counter to soak overnight uncovered. The next day, drain them and puree them in a blender with 1½ cups water until smooth. Pour the liquid into a bowl, cover it, and let it ferment overnight. Stir in the ghee, sugar, and salt.
Set up a large bowl of ice and water. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the asparagus spears to the ice water. Once they are completely cool, drain them and blot dry on paper towels. (Don’t let them languish in the water.) Cut the spears on the diagonal into ¼- inch slivers.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium- high heat until it shimmers. Add the mustard seeds, chana dal, and urad dal. Once the dals turn golden brown, about 30 seconds, add the onion, ginger, green chili, and curry leaves. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft but not at all browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, asafetida, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the asparagus and mix well. Portion the filling into six equal piles on a plate.
Preheat the oven to 175°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and put it in the oven.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium- high heat until a drop of water spatters— you want the pan hot but not scorching. Using a 4-ounce ladle, pour ½ cup of batter into the center of the pan. Use the bottom of the ladle to spread it from the center and coax it into a 6-inch round. (This is so it won’t be too thick in the center.
Drizzle ½ teaspoon oil around the outside edge of the pancake. Sprinkle the entire surface of the pancake with one of the piles of asparagus filling. (Your hand is the best tool.) With a wide spatula, gently press the filling into the batter. Cook for a minute, then flip the uttapam over. Drizzle another ½ teaspoon oil around the outside edge. Let the filling heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip again and transfer the uttapam to the oven.
Repeat with the remaining batter and topping, wiping out the pan after each one with a wad of paper towels and letting the pan get hot again. Serve warm with coconut chutney on the side.