The magic of Sanna heralds Eid

Sanna Hungry for Halaal

I cannot remember an Eid day without the presence of these fluffy, spongy steamed sweet rice cakes to be served on Eid morning with a little bit of the chicken curry prepared for lunch. This is how my dad enjoyed it every Eid morning on his return from mosque. Ever since I was little I have memories of my mom preparing the batter the day before and steaming what appeared to be hundreds of these white cakes that night. There was no small quantities in our house. My mom was making sanna for the whole dunya (world), ok, maybe not the whole dunya, but close. Cos every aunty, uncle, cousin, friend was waiting for their share. As we got older, it was a treat to help with removing them from the little metal saucers they were steamed in. Which required a little practice before you got the knack for it. This annual ritual, always set the tone for the end of Ramadaan and the coming of Eid. It is one of the many happy memories from my mother’s kitchen and one I hope to create in my own home Insha Allah.

It’s only in the last 2 years that I have become brave enough to attempt making sanna myself. I was always daunted by what seemed like a time consuming and complicated process but upon biting the bullet am happy to report that it is easy as chips. There are some details that one just won’t know until you’ve done it yourself and to date I have yet to find an online source that gives a proper step by step recipe. So I decided to put one together myself cos if you’re like me then you want to know exactly how fine must I grind the rice? And how fine is too fine? And what is the mixture supposed to look like? etc, etc. Yeah, I’m particular like that. Drives me crazy when my mom says just a little of this and a handful of that…

Sanna has it’s origins in the Goan part of India and is cousin to what is commonly known as Idli. Some people make their sanna with the addition of Tasty Wheat/Semolina which has a slightly smoother texture, but we have always made it with rice only. The other innovation is the use of powdered or tinned coconut milk. My mum used to make her coconut milk by liquidising dessicated coconut and hot water and then squeezing the coconut milk out. Too time-consuming for me. A tin works just fine and I think delivers an even better coconut flavour to the end result. I’ve also had it with cream in the mixture. Which has a lovely taste as well. You could substitute 1 cup of the coconut milk for cream if desired. But add the cream just before steaming. And finally, after some rambling, here is my mother’s recipe with a little innovation from my side.

Sanna Hungry for Halaal



4 cups white rice
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast


Wash rice and dry in the sun on a cloth-lined tray for at least a day. You could use a low oven to slowly dry your rice if you’re running late. Grind your rice in a spice or coffee grinder. It does not have to be too fine. This is about the right texture. Do this a day or 2 or even a week before you plan to make the sanna. It will reduce the time taken on the day you make it.

Sanna Hungry for Halaal
Sift the rice. You should be left with about a cup of course rice which did not pass through the sieve. Use this to make the ghoi (a thick porridge).

Add the course rice to a pot with 3 cups boiling water. Boil for about 5 minutes. Turn on low for another 5 minutes, Switch off heat and allow to steam for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Allow the ghoi to cool slightly. Add sugar and mix through. Then add the coconut milk and mix through as well.

Add the finer rice to a larger pot. Add salt and yeast. Add the ghoi mixture to this and and mix it through. You may need to do this by hand to break up any lumps that may form. A singularly gratifying step, squeezing the thick porridge through your fingers. Cover the pot and leave to rise for about 3 hours.

Once the mixture has risen it will feel looser. Using a ladle fill your taata (little metal saucers specially for making sanna) till about half full or 3/4 if you like your sanna really thick. At this point you would place the taata inside a satcho which is a special steamer for sanna. But my mom has been doing it with a big pot and a round metal grid stand since I can remember. So any kind of steamer will work. Stack them off centre on one another and build up about 3 layers if your pot is large enough. Cover and steam over simmering water for about 20 minutes.

Remove from the pot and cool on a wire rack. When cool enough to handle, use the flat back of a metal spoon or a butter knife to remove the sanna from the taata. The texture on the top is usually a little smoother than the bottom. Cool on the wire rack. Enjoy with curries or as a snack just on it’s own.

Left over sanna a day or 2 old is delicious when pan fried with a little butter or ghee for brekkie or a snack.


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    • In Cape Town MR trading in Rylands is the go to. Then there’s also a shop on Pine road in Rylands where you can get an idli steamer which some people use. In Johannesburg you might get it in Fordsburg though it’s hard to find. Some people use tuna tins or foil pie plates as makeshift moulds.

  • Yummy 😋 just the way I like it…

    Do you have a recipe with the rice flour option instead of the ground rice?

  • I always thot making Sanaa was difficult, as that is what the older generation made it sound like. But when i.started. making it myself… it was actually easy peasy. Think the fact that in the older days, our grandparents used to buy the fresh coconut, ghowan it and then get thr milk from it, def was a tedious process. Thats how i remember my grandmom n mom making it. But, since then, things have been made easier. The trick of a good sanaa is khoi (porridge)… that is what will make or break your sanaa… sjoe now i cant wait for Eid day lol. Shukr for sharing your recipe. PS… neva heard of adding eggs to sanaa either… sounds interesting.

    • Slms I’m Nujmoonnisa Parker of Kokni Delights indeed Sanna is not a difficult process itself, once you rice is ground coarse and fine it actually goes quick However best to use coconut liquidized and squeezed out rather than tin coconut milk
      Reason being is because tin coconut milk is preserved and often has a reaction to the yeast and baking mixed in the mixture
      Also your ghoi is the key importance to this dish because if your ghoi is not correct your sanna is bound not to come right
      I enjoy making them especially if I have everything ready
      I sell them too as many think is a very difficult item to make

  • This is our family recipe

    1 heaped cup fine soji
    3 heaped cups rice flour
    1 heaped cup of cream of rice (khoy)
    2 cans of coconut milk
    11/2 packets of dry yeast not rapid rise just regular

    1 heaped cup sugar
    6 eggs
    Elachi and saffron

    Put about 1 liter water with some salt to boil. Add the cream of rice, boil till thick. Allow to cool a little then add the yeast first then the soji and flour. Add some water if needed. Allow to stand for about 1 hour then add the 2 cans of coconut milk. Now leave to raise a few hours. When it is fermented you can start making if you need the plain white ones. I only make the sweet ones so I add the eggs, elachi and saffron then I start steaming the sandans

    • Thanks for sharing your recipe Suraya. I’ve never had sanna with eggs in. I’m going to try making some of this as well for Eid.

  • Wow amazing u could actually put that recipe together in words. My mum has been making it forever and I learnt the recipe my looking and learning and no measurement. My favourite Eid dish

    • Thanks Ilhaam. That’s how I learnt as well. But when it came to the crunch and making it without her I realised how stuck I got without the details. Which is why I put together this post. To make it easier for others doing it without mum to hold your hand.

  • Imw. I did not know this takes so much time!

    I will try it one day. InShaAllah. Once I have all the necessary utensils.

    • Hey Fierdouz. Not so much if you plan ahead. Or use some shortcuts like Aisha suggested. Good luck.

  • Salaam baby ! Had this in Cairo yrs ago ,not here !!!!
    Makin my own tonite !!! Gotta get ready for Schl ,last day !!!!!!
    Take care love to ALL XXXXXXXXXXXXXX RON

  • Who makes the best Sanaa in Cpt… I do, sorry moved away, now my family must have for Eid!! Yeah, thanks for sharing your recipe, however, I have changed my recipe from all he hard slog our parents did. I buy Ground rice, excellent in Australia, use tinned or carton Coconut Milk, cream etc. has made making Sanaa very easy.
    Wow, us Koknis know how important Sanaa is and so nice to see the younger gen learning too. Masha Allah.

  • eid is not eid without saannaa. thank you for impressing on us who don’t know that making saannaa is not that difficult. one can oven-dry the rice instead of in the sun. also that one does not need to use the original saacho for the steaming process – as shown in your pictures a large pot with a wire mesh stand in the pot is even better. shukriyaa

    • Thanks for your comment Noor. Yes, when I first made it I was surprised at how easy it was.

  • I’ve always wanted to have a Sanna show down. Because too many times there’s a debate between friends and relatives about who makes the best. Some too sweet, some too dry etc. Could this possibly be something people would like to partake in? Who makes the best Sanna in Cape Town?

    • Hmmm, that’s an interesting idea Abdusamad. Top Sanna Chef, Cape Town. Let’s see if people are keen. So if anyone thinks this is something they’d like to do or watch, please leave a comment.