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South Indian Rice Noodles (Sevai, Idiyappam, Idiappam)

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Compiled by: Don Wiss
Recipes from: Aruna Viswadoss (av9y/


To make these South Indian rice noodles (and several methods are described below) one needs a special press called a "sevai press" or "idiappam press". A pasta one will not work. At least three types exist:

(1) Is a brass cylinder looking like a large pepper grinder. By cranking down the threaded shaft, the steamed and cooked rice is squeezed out through the holes in the removable bottom plate. This is the traditional device that was used before. They are about $12.

(2) This is same cylinder thingy mounted on a metal tripod, with the inner cranking cylinder containing a handle that involves the use of the "coupling forces"; So one can stand, bend over, and "drive" the cylinder to squeeze out the rice.

(3) This press has a piston to push rice dough down through the holes. The piston operates when you press the handles together -- a larger version of a nailcutter handles comes to mind. This involves a lot less labor. There are many brands on sale; I have the Maruti brand. It works well for me. You keep pressing and releasing the handles -- good gentle hand exercise.

You need to use a disc that will give thin noodles-- meaning, one with *small* holes.

Anyway, ask for the sevai press or idiappam press in a U.S. Indian store. I have seen some at Sam and Raj Indian store in D.C. Maybe in Patel Bros, as well.
Rice Idiappam or Sevai (Vermicelli type)

Method one: This involves doing things from scratch so that you avoid the possibility of flour contamination completely.

Take 3 cups of rice, and soak them in lukewarm water for at least 6 hours (overnight is better).
Using a blender, grind the partly drained rice to a fine fine consistency. In fact, make sure that there is just an inch of water over the rice to be ground. Do this in two or three batches if necessary.
Next, to make sure that you have no unground particles, filter this mixture through a fine sieve, or a clean white cotton cloth. Mix a tablespoon of unflavored/plain sesame oil with the filtered rice batter, add about 1/3 or 1/2 tsp of salt, and place these in a heavy bottomed wok (you can use a saucepan if you want; we use the Indian woks traditionally). Keep stirring it constantly (requires some elbow grease) till it is like playdough. You will get the nice smell of rice cooking as it changes color to creamy translucent off-white. When it starts to leave the sides of the container, you know it is ready. (Note: if the batter is too thick to begin with, add a little more water -- yeah I know it is tricky not being too precise, but that never helps in this type of cooking anyway).
Anyway, keep covered till bearably warm.
When your hands can deal with the heat, add a teaspoon of sesame or plain vegetable. oil now, and begin to knead the dough gently to mix it well, and make it smooth. Make 2 or 3 inches thick, and 6 to 8 inches long cylinders out of this.
Heat some water in a pan. Take a steel colander that can stand on its legs, and line it with a wet clean white cloth. (If you have a idli vessel, use that instead; or if you have a rice cooker with a steamer, use the steamer for this purpose; coming to think of it, you might use any vegetable steamer insert like you use for veggies. NEVER use a pressure cooker for this) Place the rice cylinders in the cloth lined steamer, and cover the pan. In 20 or 30 minutes, it should be cooked. Insert a toothpick and test for doneness; the dough should not stick to the tooth pick.
Next, is when you need to act quickly. Remove the pan from heat; but keep it covered still. Wait for 2 minutes; take 1 cylinder or half (depending on the size of your press), and put it into the oiled outer cylinder. When you use this for the first time, discard the first few strands that come out of the press. Use the press in such a way that your noodles will fall on to a plate in a circular motion. Repeat the next onto a different plate. (The idea is that you do not stack each circle on another.)
There, your noodles are ready.
Method Two (easier)

This is an easier, though not very traditional method:

Take 3 cups of rice flour, and add 1 and a 1/2 cups of water, sesame oil, and salt. Mix well with a whisk. Add some more water if necessary (I have found that adding 1 and 2/3 c. water, makes the noodles softer; but if you add too much, then it can make it into a rice paste). Follow the same recipe as above for the rest of the method.
Method Three (long storage)

A third way which will help you store the idiappam flour for 6 months or more. (I do not know if this is practical here, but many people back home follow this method; the idiappam texture and taste are slightly different when prepared this way).

Take rice and soak it in cold water.
(Some use parboiled rice)
Drain it after 3 hours, and spread it out on a cloth lined large plate in a thin layer. Pound this rice in a large mortar with (we are talking a 2 ft diameter at least) a wooden pestle.
Seriously, here, one can use a blender and powder this, only make sure to sift it using a fine sieve, and use the fine flour. Take this still damp flour, and roast it in a wok over medium flame till the dampness disappears, the color changes, a flavor develops, and the flour, when lifted by fingers and dropped down settles, flies and feels like fine sand.

Store this in a air-tight container for up to 9 months max.

Whenever you want to eat rice noodles, heat some water till it comes to a rolling boil. Add some oil to this water, and salt. Take the rice flour. Turn the heat off, and pour the water over the rice flour a little at a time, mixing simultaneously with your free hand. (Use a wooden spoon if you want). Make a nice squeezable dough, and make cylinders with this using oiled hands. Warm up the steaming device, and when the water boils, using the press, squeeze the dough through, using a thin disc. Make individual circles, and cover the steamer (you can use bamboo steaming plates for this which is how this particular idiappam is made by Mom and others; Instead of on cloth-lined steamer plates, squeeze directly onto 3 or 4 inch diameter bamboo plates, and place them on the steamer. You can stack them not right on top of each other, but once the bottom circle is filled, take more plates and place them over the gaps between the bottom plates: remember the hexagonal arrangement of atoms?) Cover and cook till color changes and the noodles are done. sprinkle some cold water over as soon as you open the lid of the steamer. Serve with my Aappam accompaniments.
Serving Suggestions

Now there are different things you do with them:

Serve them with the side dishes I had sent earlier for "Aappam" -- the spongy rice bread.

Mix a few circles with freshly grated coconut, white sugar, ghee (clarified/melted to a golden brown butter), and freshly ground cardamoms. Kids LOOOOOOve this stuff.

Make the following sevais:

Lime sevai: Heat some vegetable. oil, add some mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal, and crushed red chilies--a couple, asafoetida, and turmeric powder. When these crackle, add crushed curry leaves, and some chopped green chilies. Add some salt, and fry a bit. Remove from stove, and cool a bit, and add a lot of lime juice. Using your clean hands, mix it with the sevai.

Coconut sevai: Follow the same recipe as for lime, only hold the turmeric, and the lime juice. Instead, in the end, add a cup of freshly grated juicy coconut to the mixture, heat a bit on stove (30 sec), and cool. Mix with sevai.

Black pepper and cummin sevai: Heat some peanut or sesame oil, add mustard seeds, lots of curry leaves minced, and lots of crushed black pepper and jeera (cummin seeds)-- crush them coarsely. Add salt, and mix with sevai.

Sesame sevai: On a dry pan, heat roast some red chilies, asafoetida, urad dal, and lots of sesame seeds. When roasted till fragrant, (golden red), cool it a bit, and grind in the spice grinder till almost smooth. Mix with sevai. Add some ghee in the end. (In fact, add a teaspoon of ghee to all the above sevais in the end). In this sevai, you might substitute sliced garlic pieces for asafoetida. Make sure they get roasted to a light golden red, and are brittle in the end.

Ulundu sevai: This is a little more time consuming to make, but one of the tastiest in my opinion. Soak some urad dal (Indian store) say a cup or so in room temp water. After an hour and a half or two, Drain it almost completely, and grind it with red chilies, asafoetida, and curry leaves. Add salt. Grind in a blender till well blended but not too smooth. The particles can be as coarse as olden times granulated sugar.

Steam this in a cloth lined steamer till dry and done. Heat a couple of tablespoons of peanut or sesame (or vegetable which is not as flavorful) oil. Add black mustard seeds, and when they crackle, add the steamed and crumbled urad dal paste, and fry till roasted and crisp (Some don't let it roast too long and do not add as much oil). Remove from heat, and mix with sevai.
Foods that usually go with this type of idiappam

Remember the recipe for soft rice noodles that I had sent earlier (use the first or second method). Before steaming the partly cooked rice dough, when you knead it with a little oil well, make small balls about an inch and a half in diameter. This dish is called Kolukkattai (for lack of English letters that can aptly denote the "l" sound)
With oiled fingers/hands, spread each ball out into a cup shape thin and even. Or just make a flat plate; a cup is easier to fill things with. Now add any of the following fillings, seal it to form a semi circular shape, or like a dimsum (we call those shapes Modakams), bring the edges together on top and twist then around gently with the filling inside. [Filling recipes on bottom]. Steam them all on a cloth lines steamer. Sprinkle some water when cooked, turn heat off, and remove from steamer gently. We make these for a special festival called Ganesha Chaturti, but I make it here when I feel like eating something exotic.
Fillings: Roasted sesame seeds, powdered jaggery or sugar, and some ground cardamom mixed together and spooned into dough cups, sealed.


1. Soaked urad dal, drained and ground with red chilies, asafoetida, salt, curry leaves, and water into a thick almost smooth paste. Just fill the cup with the paste, seal and steam.

2. Cook freshly grated (you could use store-bought shredded type) coconut with jaggery, dried ginger powder, cardamoms, and ghee. Add Khoya (milk cooked till it is like fudge; if you use milk fudge here, they add sugar to it, reduce the amount of jaggery then). When solid, cool it down, make small balls, and fill the dough plates and make modakams. Now the plates are about 3 to 3 and a half inches in diameter.