Jun 27, 2013

Gunta Pongana/Guliappa/Paniyaram

While most of us occasionally yearn for dishes from our childhood nothing compares to my hubby pining for what his grandmother used to make for him. Ammaji, as we call her, may be old and frail today but her mind is as sharp as it used to be when she was in her hay days. She used to run an Anganwadi in her hometown, which was on the Karnataka Andhra border, and still remains a forward thinker. Her social work often kept her occupied for many hours of the day and consequently she was not the one cooking all the meals in her house but what she made, I am told, had the golden touch. T and his brother used to swoop in on the town during their summer vacation and, owing to the popularity of their grandmother and the position of their grandfather, were often treated as royalty. The doting grandmother gave them special attention and ensured she spent ample time with them while treating them to all kinds of delicacies. One of the most cherished dishes is the Gunta Ponganalu (or Pongadalu) that she is an expert at.
Coincidentally, I have a related story with this dish from my childhood. For the first few years of my life we lived in Hyderabad so my mom was well exposed to local cuisine and she picked up making this dish although she calls it Guliappa. It was one of the few snacks with the dosa batter that I absolutely loved. (Dont ask me why I did not like idlis and dosas, growing up!!)

Gunta, literally meaning ditch in Telugu, and Ponganalu (or Pongadalu) which I think means round balls is an extremely addictive and a very tasty way of using idli and dosa batter. The only hitch to making this dish is that there is a special pan required to make this. If you are equipped with the pan making this snack is a breeze.

We took my m-i-l who is currently visiting us to a trip around a store here a couple of weeks back and much to my delight and T's disbelief, we found an Ebelskiver pan which we knew we could use to make Gunta Ponganalu! We brought it home and that very weekend, armed with left over idli batter this amazing dish came to light in our kitchen. Such a happy coincidence and fun ending to a long story here.

I made this with idli batter but I know that it should turn out very good or even better with the dosa batter so long as it is thick and not too watery. I also had some dill handy and I popped it in and I must say that was the best decision. The aroma was heavenly and it gave the dish a mouth watering flavour.

They make for excellent snacks at home and also are very good for the lunch box.

Gunta Pongana/Guliappa/Paniyaram

Servings: 16 Gunta Ponganalu
Prep Time: 5 mins (if Idli batter ready)    Cook Time: 8 mins for each batch (16 minutes totally)


2 cups Idli batter
1 Medium Onion
1 tsp Cumin powder
1 tsp Coriander seed powder
3 Green chillies
A bunch of Dill leaves (or Coriander leaves)
Salt to taste


  1. Cut onion, green chillies and dill leaves finely and add to the idli batter along with the spices and salt. Mix thoroughly
  2. Smear oil into each pit on the Gunta Ponganalu pan or Ebelskiver pan. If using nonstick pan a drop of oil smeared into each pit will do. If not, then 1/2 tsp of oil needs to be smeared into each pit.
  3. Heat the pan on the stove at medium heat.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of batter into each pit, to reach 3/4 the height.
  5. Wait till the bottom side of the batter starts to brown and then scoop it up with a spoon and flip it over. Drop some oil into each pit from the sides. This will enable the other side to cook and get rounded.
  6. When the bottom side is browned remove from pan. At this time the batter should have turned into a fried well rounded and slightly browned ball.
  7. Gunta ponganalu are dense on the outside and airy and fluffy on the inside.
  8. Serve with coconut chutney or spicy chutney powder.

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