Handvo - Healthy Vegetable Cornmeal Cake

handvo-steamed-cornmeal-cake "Handvo" is a cherished gujarati recipe which can be called a savoury steamed vegetable cornmeal cake, and is filled with several nutritious ingredients. The flour used in Handwo generally consists of corn, rice and chana dal(lentils). It is then combined with yogurt, spices and healthy vegetables, then allowed to ferment before steaming in a vessel, leading to yield a soft and delicious, yet healthy snack which can be relished with chutneys or tea. It is a beautiful blend of spices, flour, fresh vegetables and yogurt to make a light snack, or in my case a fulfilling dinner!

"Handwa Flour" can be bought from any indian store, and would look like coarsely-ground idli-flour; it consists of chana dal, rawa and cornmeal, so I would recommend trying to get the actual flour first. If you simply cannot find it, then you can use yellow or white cornmeal. Please keep in mind that the latter has a typical corn flavor, which will dominate the flavor of the dish. I'm sending this traditional gujarati recipe to Pam who's hosting weekend-herb-blogging for Kalyn this week.

2 cups handva flour (or cornmeal, as a second option)
1/2 cup bottle gourd or zucchini
3 tsp shredded carrot
1/4 cup fenugreek leaves
1/4 cup spinach leaves (optional)
2 green chillies -finely chopped
4-5 garlic cloves - finely chopped
1/2 tsp ginger paste
3 cups buttermilk (or yogurt mixed with water)
1 tsp soda bi-carb (fruit salt)
** increase it by 1/2 tsp if you don't feel its frothy enough
1 tsp each urad and channa dal
salt - to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)

For Tempering
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp oil

Take buttermilk in a large vessel. Add salt, soda and flour and mix well. As the mixture begins to froth, cover and set aside for 6-7 hours for fermentation.

Grate the bottle-gourd or zucchi and squeeze out all excess water. DO this after the fermentation is done, as leaving bottle-gourd in air oxidises it and makes it turn brown.

Now add all the vegetables, bottle-gourd, spices and green chillies to the flour mixture.

Heat oil in a pan, add urad & channa dals, and the mustard seeds. Allow to splutter, then pour half of it into the batter and mix thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into a steel or aluminium container. Place in a Steam Cooker and cook like idlis, for about 25-30 mins, then check to make sure its cooked through. Remove from flame and keep it covered for another 7-10 mins. Once cooled, you can slice it into wedges.

Put in a greased oven proof deep container. Pour remaining seasoning and sesame seeds on the top. Place in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Then reduce to 300 and bake for another 30 minutes until done. Check by inserting a skewer or toothpick, which should come out clean. Slice into wedges and serve hot.

Individual Pancakes
You can even drop pancake-sized portions in a greased covered cook-top sauce pan instead of the oven, and let it cook for 10 mins, or until done. Its a little time-consuming, but works great when you want to dazzle your guests!

This goes to my Healthy Cooking event, and if you haven't cooked already, please do share you healthy recipes with us for the winner gets a copy of Pam Anderson's new cookbook!

Serve the Handvo with cilantro chutney or tamarind chutney; for me, I'll gladly have it with a cup of Masala Chai!

Related Recipes:
Fluffy Khaman Dhokla
Tirangi Dhokla Sandwich
Baked Green Rava Dhokla

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amna said...

corn meal is cornflour right? this is a very different dish :)

Mansi said...

Nags, actually cornmeal is NOT cornflour...its made of corn, and goes by the name of cornmeal, and can be used to make tartelette shells too...but its best to look for "handva" or "undhwa" flour, which you can get in indian stores.

Sonia said...

Hi dear,
Hope u must b doing well. ur Handavo recipe reminded me my mom very much...indeed! Nice presentation too...!!! I m sure that u r origin frm Gujarat. right?
well, I wanna to knw abt AeroGarden. have u brought it...? if so, how's it...? I want a feedback before buy it.

Adam said...

I like the idea. Cornmeal, buttermilk, AND vegetables. That's all I need right now :)

FH said...

YUM! I have plenty of cornmeal at home, got to this girl. Looks beautiful like mt masala Thatte Idli!:))
I have bought Dhokla flour/mix too, it looks like crushed rice like Idli mix, is that how it supposed to be?
I will post for your event today a bit later,just started the day and will send it to you.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Yum. This looks like an excellent weeknight meal. It's an inspiration for using up a bag of cornmeal I have lying around my kitchen right now.

delhibelle said...

That looks seriously good!
Do u think it can be made in a rice cooker?

Mansi said...

Asha - yeah the dhokla flour looks like a coarse idly mix; actually, you should probably use that instead of cornmeal to make this..i think it'll give a better flavor..unless you can find actual "handwa flour"

delhibelle - No, i don't think a rice cooker will work, b'cox that's suppoosed to work for something with water...you need an idli cooker for this one

Mansi said...

sonu, yes, I am from gujarat:)
as for aerogarden, no, I haven't bought it yet..but I'm just waiting for the price to go down a bit:) I've added a reviews link in my aerogarden post, which shows that it really DOES work, and is very easy to use...I would def recommend it!:)

Pooja said...

oh wow , that looks yummy . i just love it anyday.
adding many veggies must make it more healthy choice to eat
we just add dudhi in it :P.

KALVA said...

oh yeah my gujarati freind made this for me... love it

Sunshinemom said...

I have made this with the readymade mix, and again with a magazine recipe but did not get it right. The pic did not open up:(, but having eaten this one at my neighbour's place I know its tasty!

Shammi said...

Aha... nioce timing, Mansi! I was thinking of looking up a recipe for handvo and here you are, providing me with the perfect one! :) I'll let you know how it turns out :) Yours looks SCRUMMY!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

now that looks really great. i'd like to definitely give this a try!

Tee said...

looks delicious! My mom used to make a similar vegetable cake but i don't think she used cornmeal in it...wil try this one out.

Anonymous said...

love handvo mansi! its been ages since i had it! it looks delish!

ST said...

Looks yummy....Its new for me ..will give a try.....

Richa said...

handvo is such a fav, urs looks so yummy :) it is such a perfect snack anytime!

Usha said...

Hi Mansi,Your handvoh looked delicious,even though I lived in Bombay for many years,I have never tasted this dish,will definitely try this soon !

Unknown said...

I had it in my friends home and it was great .I loved it and I am going try ur recipe soon.Nice presentation Mansi.

Kalyn Denny said...

Sounds so tasty, and what a great entry for WHB. Very interesting to hear about how this is made.

Rachel said...

The pic makes me want to try it..

Johanna GGG said...

this looks amazing - I have never heard of handvo flour but will try and look for it when in an Indian grocerie next as I would love to try this

J said...

My friend made me handvo pancakes but it had far too much oil in it!! I like your healthier version.

Anisheetu said...

Thanks for the tips dear... handvo also looks delicious... :)

Simply...Gluten-free said...

This looks great - and it is gluten free from what I can see. YUM!

@the_whisk_affair said...

hey mansi, theres something for you on my blog!! check it out...

Kana said...

Thanks for the recipe. I am going to make this one of these days - and in turn make it for my mom when I visit her in Malaysia this October, can't wait!

Medhaa said...

Finally, I was looking for a handvo recipe, Its fermenting now, will be adding some other marrow vege since I dont have bottle gourd with me. WIll let you know how it came out I am so excited....

Unknown said...

I love everything about this cake! I will be trying this. Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe.

Anonymous said...

This is fabulous..one of my most favorites...
But I got some problem, Handvo gets brown and tight from outside layer, but remains little uncooked from inside..
I could feel that inner layers are not well baked.What can I do to get this properly cooked?

Mansi said...

hi there! what oven temp are you using? try lowering it a little; also, allow the oven to properly pre-heat, and bake in the lower shelf rather than the upper one as using the upper one might make it brown faster but uncooked from inside..sometimes different ovens need different bake times...if you can, i would recommend using the "steaming" method as it works the best with no cracking and even heating.

hope this helps!

SonyER said...

Hi Mansi,

I tried making this yesterday. Couple of things that didnt work for me

1. When i put 1 tsp the flour never frothed.
2. Though i left it for fermenting, i never saw the flour raise at all.

I still went ahead with making it. for sure it was tasting of baking soda since i kept adding thinking that it was not enough:-)

My questions

1. Why the flour never ferments even though i added the soda and kept it out for such long time?

2. When do i add the lemon juice and sugar part

I am still going to venture it today since other than the taste of baking soda, it was very soft.


Mansi said...

Meena - first, where do you stay? is the weather warm enough to allow fermentation? if not, a tiny pinch of yeast might help. i stay in CA and I face the same problem too...but it still comes out soft, though not like in India!:)

two, are you using cornmeal or actual handwa flour? Cornmeal is more dense, hence it will not rise as much as actual handwa flour, which is very hard to find in US. even the ones you get in the indian stores ahve more cornmeal, so don't expect it to fluff a lot

third - make sure your baking soda is not old; the older it gets, it loses its leavening characteristic. try 1.5 tsp, but don't go over that limit.

fourth- fermentation also depends on how sour your buttermilk is; the more sour, the better; also, you could try to cover it and put it inside the oven (without turning it on) and allow rather than on kitchen counter, or maybe near a sunny window..I've tried this once and it has worked better that way! also, allowing 6-7 hours to ferment is optimum, so try overnight if you can.

remember, fermentation is caused by bacteria, and they need adequate conditions and heat to thrive! that's the reason sometimes you can't ferment yogurt properly at home, because the starter is not sour or strong enough!

try the tips above and see if they make a difference; but as long as your handvo comes out soft, you should be good to go!:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mansi.
I was so glad to find ur recipe.
Its was long time I was searching for one.
I tried ur recipe and it just worked great.
Just had one doubt?
I was not able to cut in pieces.
It was falling apart though the taste was just fantastic.
Can u let me know what could be the reason for falling it apart .It was just breaking.
Awaiting ur reply.
Thanks in advance.

Mansi said...

i! thanks for trying out the recipe!

but I'm really surprised it wasn't firm enough, b'coz most of the times, its a problem to get it soft enough, rather than hard enough!:)

in any case, maybe you didn't remove all excess water from vegetables like gourd or cabbage, etc. A higher water content can make it disintegrate. So maybe, try adding more flour and veggies and a little less buttermilk in the beginning, and add a little slowly only if you need it.

using a good quality baking soda is also imp, as it helps give it form and texture. And finally, make sure the oven temperature is set right. A little less heat and it may harden or brown from the sides but remain soggy in the center, which can also make it disintegrate...

hope these tips help!:)

Unknown said...

Hi Mansi,
thanks for ur help.
forgot to mention that I used eno fruit salt instead of baking soda and also added the eno at the end.
Can I use Eno ?
if yes then when?
I mean the time when I mix flour , buttermilk or later when I am about to pour batter to cook

Mansi said...

hi Bhavika - yes, Eno should work well too, just use a little more than baking soda....and you should add it at the beginning, when you mix flour and buttermilk, as Eno will create froth and allow it to ferment. So don't wait to add it till the end!

hope this helps!:)

Unknown said...

Hi Mansi,
Will definitely try it and let u know the results.
thanks for all help !!


Unknown said...

Hi Mansi,
Thanks a lot for Eno thing.
Put the Eno first helped me a lot in fermenting it well.
So I got the batter right.
One more question if I want to go ahead with making pancakes of this.
Then do I need to temper each one of them ?
Where does half of the seasoning go which make for tempering as mentioned in ur recipe?
How many spoons of batter to be taken to make each pancake?
Thanks for all ur help in advance.


Mansi said...

Hi bhavike, greta to know the recipe worked for you!

for the pancakes, I'd say use about 1.5-2 ladle-fulls of batter, if you are using a small pancake-sized pan. If u use a large pan, then the pancake will become thin, and handvo will not come out soft. I generally use a 4-inch pan to make mine.

As for tempering, let the pancake cook for about 3-4 mins, covered, then open the lid, add 1 tsp oil and mustard and sesame seeds, coconut etc on the pancake, then cover and cook until the handvo is done completely. You can just sprinkle tempering individually on each, no need for exact measurements:)

hope this helps!

Unknown said...

Hi Mansi,
Thanks again.
Can you please post recipe for Undhui (Gujarati vegetable).
One more thing do u have any idea if I can find Clay Tawa (mati ni tavdi as they call in Gujarati) here in the US?

Mansi said...

HI Bhavika,

You can find my Undhiyu recipe on my main web site:

As for "mati ni tavi", I have seen it at least in one Indian grocery store in CA, so I know you can find it. Sometimes, you can ask the owner and they can even order it for you. However, as most ppl have electric furnaces, its not much use for them:(

Anonymous said...

Hi Manasi,

I followed all the steps mentioned by you for making handvo. I chose to bake the handvo and I think it was biggest mistake. I followed all the instructions but somehow since last 1.5 hrs container is still in oven and not getting cooked. The handvo has started getting cracks but not yet cooked. I can see rawness no need to insert the toothpick also.

Could you please comment on what went wrong? Or may be suggest what can I do to improve and make it eatable. :(


Mansi said...

Hi Kavita,

the handvo u see in the pic has been baked, so i know it should work. However, try preheating oven at 450 F instead, then lower temp to 350 and let it cook. Also, keep it in the middle rack, not the top rack, so that it gets even heat throughout and not just the top. And did u add baking soda/powder? also, use a larger but less-thick vessel to bake, like a cake pan, rather than a deep one. If the baking dish is too deep, it may not cook from the center.

Hope these tips help! baking is always a challenge, whether its a cake or anything else, esp as its hard to narrow down what exactly u did wrong...hence I always prefer steaming the Handvo...

Anonymous said...

Hey Manasi,

Thanks a lot for your suggestions. I used glass bake ware for baking, may be that was the reason. Anyway, I did something to cooks it. :)

First I cooled it and then put some uncooked handvo in cloth and steamed it for 15-20 minutes. Once cooked properly this way, I gave seasoning using little bit oil. That's it, handvo bhooko was ready to eat. :) It tasted so good. Who care's if we couldn't eat it as cake. :)

Next time I will steam it only.

Thanks for the recipe.