Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tiffin Time - Coconut Sevai

sevai closeup

Coconut Sevai

Does anyone do Tiffin anymore? err...what is Tiffin you ask? Tiffin is an old-fashioned word for a light lunch or dinner. The word and concept are quite commonly used in the southern parts of India and usually in homes where breakfast is not the norm.

When I was growing up, we usually did not eat breakfast in the mornings. A big glass of milk usually fortified with a malted "powder du jour" - Bournvita, Ovaltine, Horlicks or Complan depending on whose advertising seemed most attractive at that time and also on what the majority of the kids in the neighborhood were drinking. I used to detest, simply detest those horrible mixes and still shudder at the sight of Complan bottles lined up in the stores. I think my mother must have tried every powdered mix available in the hope that I might take a liking to at least one! No such luck! I hated them then and I hate them now!! Mornings were blissful only after I got old enough to graduate to drinking tea in the mornings! Ahh chai !

So, anyway, breakfast being such a simple or non-existent affair, the highlight of the day was "Tiffin". We would usually eat tiffin around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and because there was plenty of time to cook tiffin, all sorts of exotic creations would make an appearance every now and then in the midst of the humdrum grub like idlis and upmas. Cutlets, vadas, pakoras, kachoris would be the stars of the show in these afternoon tiffins.

Today, I often put together a similar show for Tiffin, usually as a stand-in for dinner or lunch. However, the star of a show often needs a supporting cast. That's where the "Coconut Sevai" comes in. It provides a pleasing counterpart to the fried, spicy stuff and can still shine in its own right. It is really easy to make with convenient packets of dried rice noodles from the asian stores and takes 10 mins from start to finish.

I make several varieties of sevai - coconut, lime, tamarind, sweet with jaggery. My favorite however, is coconut.

Flavored with fresh shredded coconut, studded with crispy fried cashew nut pieces, spiked with tangy salt-cured chillies and fragrant with corriander and curry leaves - can you resist the allure of coconut sevai?


1/2 packet dried rice noodles
1/2 cup fresh/frozen grated coconut
handful of cashew nuts
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp udad dal seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida
4-5 salt cured chillies
2-3 green chillies
a sprig of curry leaves
cilantro leaves for garnish
salt to taste


The rice noodles are cooked very similar to pasta - in lots of generously salted boiling water.
  1. Boil plenty of water in a large pot
  2. When the water comes to a rolling boil, salt generously
  3. Add the rice noodles. They cook very quickly, so watch carefully and take off the flame when they are almost cooked. They will continue to cook as they drain.
  4. Drain well and let cool a little.
  5. When the noodles are slightly cooled, I like to make criss-cross cuts in the mass of noodles with a sharp knife so as to break them up a little bit.
  6. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a saucepan.
  7. Add the mustard seeds and when it barely start to pop, add the asafoetida, cashewnuts and the salt-cured chillies.
  8. When the cashewnuts are fried to a golden brown color, add the shredded coconut and the curry leaves and green chillies.
  9. Fry for a few seconds.
  10. Add the rice noodles and mix well.
  11. Add salt to taste.
  12. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and serve.

This is wonderful with coconut chutney or tomato-onion chutney, sambhar or mor kozhambu.

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At Thu Apr 13, 09:25:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i can just say one word.. WOW.. i don't know if the picture needs to be appreciated or the food..
i think your pictures bring out the aroma and flavor of the food that you make.

Absolutely amazing.. and the food looks delicious.. Many a time i get hunger pangs when i see your pictures, though my stomach is fully stuffed..


At Thu Apr 13, 09:51:00 AM 2006, Blogger Priya said...

Tiffin what is that ????? oh the sevai looks stunning. I wish i had the sevai maker. The sveai photo is gorgeous. I loved the urili.

I tried making shamosas yday, and it was YUMMMM ! i have a doubt though. Do u brush the pastry sheets with butter coz mine looked kinda a dry. Does it have anything to do wiht the thawing or adding to much of flour while rolling ?

At Thu Apr 13, 09:59:00 AM 2006, Blogger Meeta said...

Hi SH,

Funny that you should post something about the tiffin. My other bog (besides What's For Lunch Honey?) is The Daily Tiffin where I kind of document what my son takes to pre-school. Check it out. Great pics as always!

At Thu Apr 13, 10:12:00 AM 2006, Blogger Sandhya said...

SH, that looks delicious! I'd love to make sevai at home someday. Beyoooooooootiful picture!

At Thu Apr 13, 10:51:00 AM 2006, Blogger KrishnaArjuna said...

Looks yummy SH, great pictures!!

At Thu Apr 13, 10:55:00 AM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

Jasper Thanks! I know the feeling :) I think I've put on a few pounds since I discovered the wonderful world of food blogs!

Priya Thanks! Hey, you don't need any sevai maker!! the rice sticks are just fabulous - very very close to the authentic sevai. Give it a try.

Glad you liked the shamosas! Nope, no butter. I thawed it for 40 mins like the box said and didn't use any flour to roll at all. Just rolled it out on the counter top as is.

Meeta Yup, tiffin box! Checked out your tiffin site. Cool idea! bet your little one loves the food and the fact that there's a picture of what he eats everyday!

Sandhya Thanks! Hey, long time no see? welcome back! I still have your old comment about a better blog format in the back of my mind. Just haven't got around to it :) :)

At Thu Apr 13, 11:08:00 AM 2006, Blogger Sandhya said...

Oh SH, i check your blog everyday for updates. How can i miss the lovely writing style and creativity? It's just that i don't leave a comment often. You must put a picture book together for me to drool over ;)

At Thu Apr 13, 11:19:00 AM 2006, Blogger Ashwini said...

I cud live on sevai and I not even from South India :-)Good job SH

At Thu Apr 13, 11:41:00 AM 2006, Blogger BDSN said...

Hey i just tried idiyappam with sevai few days back but still i have to try a coupla times before i could post it...

Ur writing style is lovely!!!

At Thu Apr 13, 11:50:00 AM 2006, Blogger Krithika said...

Dont know what to appreciate. The simplicity of the recipe, the writing style or the picture. Excellent !

At Thu Apr 13, 12:01:00 PM 2006, Blogger RP said...

Looks great. The rice sticks I got from Walmart(Chinese section) is too rubbery. I bought it because I thought it could replace idiyappam! No way.
Rice noodles should be different. Where can I find that?

OK I am going to be a little nosey....may I know what kind of light do you use when you take picures? Is it camera’s own flash, or pure sunlight, or an extra fluorescent lamp, or something else?

At Thu Apr 13, 12:02:00 PM 2006, Blogger RP said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Thu Apr 13, 12:08:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Hyma said...

Hi Saffronhut,
TIFFIN....... yeah I still use the waord a lot and my husband laughs at me. Thanks for reminding me of my childhood days. The pictures look wonderful and amazing.

At Thu Apr 13, 12:28:00 PM 2006, Blogger Jayashree said...


Lovely post. You brought back lovely memories of hot upma or sajjige (kannada) or some bondas prepared by 4 pm by my grand mothers and devoured lazily by is kids while waiting for the afternoon heat to go down a bit before we went out to play.

I chanced upon your blog recently. The pictures and presentation of food are really amazing.

I wish I got get rss feeds of your blog to add to "My Yahoo". Do you plan to provide these anytime soon?


At Thu Apr 13, 12:39:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Indira said...

Yay..tiffin. Love it, SF.
I often prepare it with rice noodles just like you did, except that I don't add coconut.
Yours with coconut looks very tempting and gorgeous photo.

At Thu Apr 13, 12:53:00 PM 2006, Blogger Vineela said...

Hi SF,
Nice pics and i lole that sevai too.
Adding coconut its a additional taste.I will try this recipe.

At Thu Apr 13, 03:24:00 PM 2006, Blogger Priya Bhaskaran said...

SF, The pictures are too good. I want to have sevai now after seeing your the pictures!!

At Thu Apr 13, 03:25:00 PM 2006, Blogger Priya Bhaskaran said...

Hey btw, I tried your samosa, turned out yummy. Next is ur muffins in my list.

At Thu Apr 13, 04:14:00 PM 2006, Blogger Lakshmi said...

looks yummy SH. Even we do prepare, but don't use coconut and ya we now also call tiffin. I like it better.

At Thu Apr 13, 05:24:00 PM 2006, Blogger Vineela said...

Hey SF,
By the way i made paratas by following u.It came nicely.
Muffins,Samosa r in list.

At Thu Apr 13, 07:50:00 PM 2006, Blogger Menu Today said...

Hi SH,
Your Photos really great. I too love coconut sevai

At Thu Apr 13, 09:59:00 PM 2006, Blogger Nandita said...

Hey SH,
Happy tamil new year! I remember the sevai days, my grandma used to make them in that machine and i had to hold the legs of that machine so that the sevai falls on the plate below
The taste of vella sevai, lemon sevai, coconut sevai and ellu sevai still lingers in my mouth.
I have prepared cashew payasam to bring in the new year ! And so has my blog.
Great work

At Thu Apr 13, 10:19:00 PM 2006, Blogger Tanuja said...

Happy New year SH:)

ur coconut sevai tiffin is excellent ur picture awsome as always:)

At Fri Apr 14, 08:29:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Vee said...

Yes..."tiffin" as you call it is still a norm at my place. In fact , tiffin is the dinner and the actual dinner is just a formality...but still very much there. I love coconut shevai and prepare it pretty much the same as you do, but of course, yours looks much prettier :)

At Fri Apr 14, 02:20:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Trupti said...

I absolutely love your presentation, very simple yet interesting. Please keep posting.


At Sat Apr 15, 02:08:00 AM 2006, Blogger sailu said...

Tiffin is a word heard in my home every son's tiffin dabba or box is packed with healthy foods like your sevai.Love your version with coconut.Lovely pics!

At Sat Apr 15, 07:39:00 AM 2006, Blogger Reshma said...

amusing post:) we used to call our lunch boxes tiffins/tiffin boxes in school.

At Sat Apr 15, 08:12:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Mythili said...

Saffron, Nice recipe and nicer presentation.

At Sun Apr 16, 02:06:00 PM 2006, Blogger Revathi said...

Did you see this ?
I am going to send in some fotos. You should participate too. You will doo gr8

At Mon Apr 17, 03:14:00 PM 2006, Blogger shammi said...

Oooh... Saffron hut, your sevai is meant to be savoured all by itself, going by the photo! Absolutely FANTASTIC!

At Tue May 23, 06:13:00 PM 2006, Anonymous aparna said...

I think I made this today. I say "think" :) because I made this with something that said "rice vermicelli" (and not "rice noodles") on the packet. I am guessing they are the same though. It turned out great! I added some lemon juice in addition to the coconut and it was absolutely yummy!

Great recipe, thanks SH!

At Thu Mar 08, 09:02:00 AM 2007, Blogger anu said...

I am new to USA. Your sight is looking delicious by the way.Can u tell me where to get rice noodles in US? Am in Pennsylvania

At Thu Apr 26, 12:05:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At Fri Apr 27, 01:17:00 PM 2007, Blogger Priya Dilip said...

Hi Saffron..
this is the first dish i am trying from your site.. came across it recently and absolutely love it.. what is salt cured chillies? are they mor- milagai??

At Sat Sep 01, 08:03:00 AM 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great receipes ! Your pictures are very very inviting. I am not a great cook, but just looking at these pictures makes me want to instantly try these out ! And yes, tiffin time ! I remember how we used to come back from school and ask out mother " Amma, enna tiffin? "

At Mon Oct 06, 09:39:00 AM 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried this out for a south Indian Navratri was well appreciated..People loved the food..Thanks for sharing!

At Thu Jul 23, 03:48:00 AM 2009, Anonymous Rumela said...

I like this recipe. these coconut sevai are sure to taste great and are extremely nutritious as well. I am going to make it for the holidays when my kids will be at home. I'll be sure that what they are eating is healthy. thank you for shearing your post.

At Tue Apr 12, 03:16:00 PM 2011, Blogger A Voyager said...

I tried this recipe last weekend and it came out really well. Thanks.

At Wed Jun 06, 04:16:00 PM 2012, Blogger Priyaseker said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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