Dhokla is one of the most popular street snacks in the state of Gujarat, reflecting the vegetarian principles of the Jain religion. The fermented chickpea batter results in a light and airy snack that is as comforting for breakfast as it is as a midday pick-me-up. It’s important to allow enough time for the batter to ferment properly in order to guarantee dhokla’s signature fluffy texture and slightly pungent flavor note. This recipe calls for citric acid. If you have trouble sourcing it, substitute an equal amount of baking soda.
Make the dhokla batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour and semolina. Whisk in the sugar, ginger, hing, salt, 2½ tablespoons of oil, citric acid, and chiles. The batter should resemble a slightly fluffy sponge cake batter. If it’s too thick, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until it has an airy texture. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours to ferment. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 11×7-inch cake pan with oil.
Fill a roasting pan that is big enough for the cake pan to fit into with 1 inch of boiling water. Pour the dhokla batter into the greased pan and use a spatula to spread into an even layer. Cover with foil, carefully place in the water bath, and transfer to the oven. Oven-steam the dhokla until it has risen, the texture is light and airy, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the garnish: In a sauté pan, heat the mustard oil over medium heat until it glistens, about 3 minutes. Add the brown and black mustard seeds, and once they begin to pop, after about 2 minutes, reduce the heat to low, add the curry leaves and chiles, and sauté until the chiles are tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, turmeric, lemon juice, sugar, and 3 tablespoons water. Remove the pan from the heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then season to taste with salt.
Use a knife to separate the dhokla from the edges of the pan. Carefully invert it onto a clean, flat work surface. Cut into 1×2-inch squares and then pour the garnish on top. Sprinkle with cilantro and coconut and serve warm or cold.