Somehow, this time of the year in the UK also reminds me of poka mithoi l Assamese spiced rice flour balls (laru /laddu). These laddus are made with rice flour, jaggery and a blend of warm spices, predominantly peppercorn.
There are no visible or invisible similarities between gingerbread and other spiced cookies popular during Christmas, and the poka mithoi. It’s just that the warm spices that I use for various bakes during this time of the year somehow reminds me of this laru / laddu. Poka mithoi is a sweetmeat laden with earthy spices. Food has an amazing capability to take one back to a moment in time. For me, biting into a poka mithoi and feeling the warmth of the spices is special as it is laden with memories and of growing up. Not to mention that I am a huge fan of larus / laddus; both eating and making them. I find the rolling of laddus very therapeutic and nostalgic at the same time. It reminds me of those times that I helped ma as she made a variety of sweetmeats (including various larus , of course) during our festivals. Those were really the ‘all hands on deck’ kind of days!
Poka mithoi is a regular feature in Assam during festivities, especially during Krishna Janmashtami, the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. It is also distributed among the devotees of Namghars (Assamese prayer houses). It is also made during the Assamese festival of Bihu. Or just make them to enjoy on their own or with your cuppa.
Poka mithoi has a somewhat bad reputation in the sense that they sometimes harden too much and might be difficult to eat. But I can promise you that the ones that I have made here are firm and hold their shape but not hard at all; just need to keep a few things in mind.
Rice eating community-
Rice is the staple grain of the Assamese community. Not only the savoury dishes centred around some plain rice, many of the desserts feature rice too. And this poka mithoi is one of them.
The rice flour-
I used shop bought glutinous rice flour, but any rice flour will work. It will need to be dry roasted. Make sure that you stir constantly over low heat; this needs to be done until the rice emanates a lovely aroma. It then needs to be removed from heat and transferred to a bowl to stop it from cooking further.
The jaggery syrup-
The jaggery syrup needs to be cooked until it just reaches a single string consistency before adding the rice flour. If you overcook the syrup, the laddus will be hard.
Poka mithoi is usually just made with just pepper to flavour it. I have used pepper of course, but also added a few fennel (saunf) seeds and a little carom (ajwain) seeds.
Continue reading for the full recipe / video for these Poka mithoi l Assamese spiced rice flour balls (laru /laddu).
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Poka mithoi l Spiced rice flour balls (laddu) from Assam
- 2½ cup rice flour ( I used store bought glutinous rice flour)
- 1-1½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- ½ tsp fennel (saunf) seeds
- ½ tsp carom (ajwain) seeds
- 1 cup jaggery shavings
- ½ cup water
- In a small pan, add the peppercorn, fennel and carom seeds and roast over low heat till they leave a nice aroma. Make sure not to burn.
- Remove from heat and grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle. You can use a spice grinder too, but do not make it powdery.
- In a bigger pan, add the rice flour and place over low to medium heat. Stir constantly till it starts to leave a nice aroma. Do not let it burn. This took me about 10 minutes.
- Remove the pan from heat and transfer the rice flour to a bowl to avoid overcooking in the hot pan.
- Remove about one cup of the flour mixture to help in rolling and storing the balls.
- In a pan, add the jaggery and water and bring to a simmer over low to medium heat.
- Keep stirring the jaggery mixture till a single thread consistency is achieved. Dip the cooking spoon into the syrup. Take a little of the syrup from the spoon with your index finger and with the index finger and the thumb, try to press the fingers and pull them apart. If you see a thread forming, that means that the syrup is ready.
- Mix in the ground spice mixture.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the rice flour in batches. Keep stirring.
- As soon as the mixture comes together and is lumpy, remove from heat and onto a plate. It does not matter if there are streaks of rice flour in the mixture, it will all come together later.
- Lightly fold in the mixture a little; be careful, it will be hot.
- Quickly, shape the mixture into 12 – 13 balls. You can use a some of the extra roasted flour that we saved earlier to help in binding the poka mithoi.
- Roll the balls in the rice flour and keep aside.
- Initially, the poka mithoi may not form perfect balls. But, as it cools, you can give them a second hand and reshape them. The idea is to get them into some shape before the mixture cools down and then fine tune it later.
- Serve or if you want to store them, place them in air tight containers and roll in some roasted flour. Enjoy!
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Until next time,