Have you tasted the light, fluffy rice preparation, which is an essential at Goan festive meals?
Sanna are spongy, steamed rice cakes, made from a batter consisting of ground red rice (ukde) and freshly grated coconut. The rice and coconut are ground using toddy (sur) which is the sap from the coconut palm.
Sanna are a popular accompaniment with Sorpotel, Xacuti, Chicken Curry and other meat curries. They are slightly sweet and, hence, pair perfectly with these fiery and tangy local gravies.
Coming to the process of making sanna, you start by soaking rice for a couple of hours. The rice is then ground with toddy and some grated coconut. Salt and sugar are also added. The batter is then left to ferment for a few hours.
Fresh coconut toddy contains plant sugars and wild fermenting yeasts. The addition of sugar to toddy accelerates fermentation. When biologically active toddy is mixed with ground soaked rice, rock salt and ground coconut, and kept overnight, a heavy formation of carbon dioxide takes place.
The fermented batter will have tiny bubbles and a characteristic fermented smell. It is, then, transferred to greased moulds and steamed for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.
In Goa, there are 2 varieties of sanna:
· Plain sanna: The batter consists of rice and coconut, fermented with toddy
· Godachem/chunachi (sweet) sanna: The batter consists of rice, fermented with toddy, and is filled with a coconut and jaggery mixture.
Sanna are small in size, and cooked in uniform sized moulds. Traditionally, a locally-crafted copper utensil called ‘compro’ was used, which would generate steam under low pressure. It is important that the batter does not turn sour, and too much steaming hardens the sannas due to the evaporation of moisture.
When the batter is dispensed in the moulds of the steamed cooker, the trapped carbon dioxide escapes and this improves the texture, making the sannas soft.
Traditional red boiled rice (ukde), which was used in the past, takes longer to cook, but it is so much healthier and nutrient-rich. Nowadays, most of the sannas, are prepared using white rice, since it is more economical and cooks much faster.
Also toddy, which is a very important ingredient required for batter fermentation is, many a time, replaced with yeast, either due to the non-availability of toddy or due to lack of time, since using yeast reduces the time needed for fermentation.
Some people make homemade toddy using tender coconut water, wherein the tender coconut water is fermented with active dry yeast. The results are apparently satisfactory. Quite often, even Sprite is used to make sannas!
NUTRITIOUS & TASTY
Sannas are light and are a rich source of carbohydrates, fibre as well as trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. Both, Hindus and Catholics, in Goa prepare them. In Hindu households, urad dal is used as a leavening agent, whereas Catholic families use toddy. Sanna, prepared with fresh toddy, are an important item at Catholic marriages, birthdays, feasts, Holy Communions and other celebrations in Goa.
Well prepared sanna should be delicious and soft, and should never taste sour.
So, while nutritionists keep stressing on food concepts like probiotics, let’s not forget the several delicious creations that have been prepared for ages by our ancestors using the simple process of fermentation.
The writer is a Clinical Dietician & Obesity Consultant, based in Panjim, Goa