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.
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.
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.