Most weekends these days, I make sevai for breakfast. It is really tasty and filling and also low fat. Most importantly, it is really easy to make. Why else would I even consider cooking it on a Saturday morning?
I don’t remember eating sevai too often while in India. Back then, packaged rice noodles were not really available in stores (atleast not in North India) and if you wanted to eat sevai, you had to make your own. This involves making a dough from rice flour, extruding it into thin noodles and steaming it. Definitely not much fun, especially if you are making large quantities. On the other hand, packaged vermicelli (the wheat version) was much more ubiquitous in India.
When I think of rice noodles, I always think Chinese or Thai (or South East Asian) cuisine. But rice noodles are also part of South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine.
I wonder if someone has done a study on where noodles originated and how they spread across the world. I did not realize until a few months ago that noodles have very similar names across South and West Asia. Rice noodles are called “sevai” in South India, while wheat noodles are called “sevaiyyan” or “sevayyan” in North India, Pakistan and as far west as Turkey. Then there are the fried chick pea noodles, also called “sev” .
Wheat noodles are of course much more global. Mexico also has a variety of wheat noodles called “fideo“. I believe “fideo” is also part of Spanish cuisine. We usually never say “wheat noodles”, we just say “Vermicelli” which we know is the Italian version. Did you realize that vermicelli literally means “little worms”? Okay, I am not going to think about that next time I make vermicelli kheer, or “semiya payasam“.
Coming back to my sevai, do you want to know how I made it? Can you imagine me spending my Saturday mornings extruding rice flour into little worms? That will be the day 🙂 No, I just buy the frozen “Idiyappam” that you get in the Indian store (now that’s one more variety of rice noodles). I am guessing you can also use the rice noodles you get in Asian stores, but this works for me.
Steam the idiyappam/ rice noodles. You can just place them on idli stands and steam them. Let them steam for say 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and add some mustard. Once it splutters, add a little chana dal, urad dal, red chilli, curry leaves, (unsalted) peanuts and turmeric powder. You can also add a little asafoetida if you want.
Reduce heat until the dal turns golden. Then switch off the gas and squeeze in the juice of one lime. I like to cool down the dal a little before squeezing the lime. Otherwise, the lime juice generates an exothermic reaction which might blacken your beautiful golden dal.
Add salt to taste. That’s really it. Once the sevai is steamed, just add it to the pan and mix it all up. It will look just like the picture above. Try it this weekend!