Wednesday 15 September 2010


I had posted the recipe for sannas previously, but it somehow got lost in the blog. So I decided to repost, as I have received several requests for the recipe for this popular and delicate rice cake/ bread. This time I even have pictures!

Sannas are popular all over Mangalore, and are traditionally eaten with pork sorpotel or chicken curry. They taste awesome with a chicken curry as they soak up the curry beautifully. The original recipe uses palm alcohol (toddy) in order to ferment the rice mixture, but as toddy is not available in this country (its highly illegal too ;-)) I use a yeast mixture. You really do need a very powerful blender to grind here as the rice needs to be ground really fine, until you cannot feel any coarseness in the batter and its as smooth as cream.

There is a difference between the idli and sanna. The idli is coarser, while sannas are softer and fluffier. Sannas can also be served at breakfast with a coconut chutney.

Sannas are traditionally made with a kind of rice called 'boiled rice'. The name is misleading, as the rice is not really boiled. Its a kind of rice that resembles arborio rice, but is not arborio either. You can buy this type of rice in the UK and other Western countries in Asian specialty shops [ask for Idli Rice]. This rice is soaked with basmati rice, cleaned urad dal (white black gram, duh! available in most Indian shops) and beaten rice (called poha, which is optional, if you use idli rice), and left to ferment overnight.

The idlis are cooked in small steel ramekins called gindlan, and steamed in a tondor, which is not available in the UK as yet. However, you can use thin ramekins and a three tier normal steamer as well. The shape may not be perfect, but they'll taste just as good.



1 1/2 cup 'boiled rice' [Idli Rice]
3/4 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup beaten rice (optional)
1/4 cup cleaned white urad dal
3 tablespoons white sugar or to taste
1 - 2 tsp salt or to taste
1 teaspoon yeast dissolved in a tablespoon of warm water
Water for grinding the batter


In a bowl, soak the idli rice, basmati rice, urad dal and beaten rice (if using) for roughly 4 hours. Drain all the water out.

Using a powerful blender, grind the soaked mixture, sugar and salt, using enough water to achieve the consistency of very thick cream. The trick is to start with less water and increase it as you go. If the resulting mixture is too thick, you can thin it to the needed consistency by adding water later. If the mixture is too thin, add rice flour to thicken it. Best to avoid having to do this though.

Pour the batter into a large bowl (leave enough room in the bowl for the batter to rise by about a third) and stir in the dissolved yeast.

Leave the batter in the bowl, in a warm place to ferment and rise. Leave in a fridge overnight, but if you're rushed at least 4 hours in a warmer place.

When you are ready to steam your sannas, prepare the ramekins or gindlan by greasing them very well with vegetable or coconut oil. This step is important, as the sannas will stick to the ramekins otherwise. Then pour a little batter into the ramekin (about a third of the way). Leave room in the ramekin for the sanna to rise.

When you have about 6 ramekins prepared, pop them into the top two tiers of the steamer or your tondor, and let them steam for 8 - 10 minutes. Check by poking a toothpick into a sanna, if its doesn't have wet batter sticking to it, its ready.

Carefully take out the ramekins and leave them to cool completely in a water bath with ice in it. Once cold, turn the ramekin upside down and the sanna should slide out easily. If it doesn't carefully run a knife around it to loosen and push it out using your fingers. Wash and oil the ramekins again and make a few more batches until the batter is all used up. The batter keeps in the fridge for up to two days, and sannas freeze very well. Just microwave for about 30 seconds to get back their softness.

Serve with any kind of curry or chutney. Or make sannwiches for breakfast (slice sannas in half, spread with jam, sandwich... my little girl adores these!!)


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for your sanna posting. I was wondering if you have any tips in case the sanna batter does not rise ? I've made them twice before both during fall, but now its december and really cold here on the east coast of the US and am very surprised that the batter has not risen yet. Its been 8 hourse already and doesn't look like anything is rising!! let me know if you have any suggestions.

    1. IF the weather is cold. Pls leave the batter out side at room temerature. Also mix a tsp of sugar with yeast in a small cup with very luke warm water. Too hot water will kill the yeast & will not ferment the batter.

  2. Hmm, that's unusual. It should rise even if the weather is cold, as normally most people would put it in the fridge for overnight. The only thing I can suggest in this case is that maybe you could increase the yeast by an extra 2 tsps and dissolve this in the existing batter. And make sure when you prepare the yeast the water is just very lightly warm and not hot, as this can kill the yeast, which is what I think may have happened in this case. Also, while dried yeast does keep well, sometimes the fresher the yeast the sooner the batter will rise.

    Thanks for letting me know that you liked the posting :-)

    1. Hi Michelle. I have a suggestion for those who have problems with the batter not rising as good. I turn on the lights in the oven, and leave the batter covered in shrink wrap. This works out perfectly for me irrespective of the weather. What's your opinion ?. Secondly. Could I substitute Idli rice / par boiled rice with brown Basmati or any other brown rice ?. Thanks

  3. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks for the response. I had to leave it overnight. It started to rise this morning. My next question is how much should you allow it to rise before you start making the sannas ie steaming. how do you know when its time to start steaming them ?


  4. Preeti, you can start cooking the sannas when the batter rises by at least 1/3 to half of its original volume. Even better of you can get it to 2/3rds or double.

    If it has risen, you can make the sannas whenever you want, but remember to put the batter in the fridge if keeping it for a while. Then stir the batter before steaming the sannas. The risen batter will keep in the fridge for at least 2 days. But I find that its better to make and freezxe the sannas, and then microwave them to get back the softness.

  5. Thanks for the sanna recipe but can you tell me why the sannas crack on steaming. Thanks.

  6. Hello there,

    Normally sannas do tend to crack very slightly when steamed. If the cracks are deep, it may be that there is too much batter in the ramekins. So you could try reducing the amount of batter. The sannas will be thinner, but they shouldn't crack then. Good luck.

  7. Michelle, I've been searching for long and asking around from friends for a recipe for Sanna but I never succeeded. Made one attempt after a recipe was given orally but it was a flop and I was so disappointed. I'm a fairly good cook (I'm 66+)but this rattled me. Now, here I am with your wonderful recipe and all the tips and finer points that people normallly do not stress. I am really excited and want to thank you very much. I will try out the recipe over the weekend and report back my success story to you - hopefully !!!


  8. Thank you Joan, and I will keep my fingers crossed for you. Most recipes from our parents are handed down orally, and most of the time the recipe includes amounts of ingredients measured out in handfuls or pinches... works if you ahve been consistently using the same hand to make them I suppose :-)

    I really like this recipe, as my mum made a big effort to work out quantities as this recipe was to help my husband make the perfect sannas. He is now the official sanna maker in the house.

    The nice thing about this is that once you have success with them a couple times, then you will automatically start eyeballing ingredients and will get a feel for the textures and consistency very quickly.

    Good luck and I am keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  9. Michelle,

    I tried your sanna recipe today and it turned out wonderful. Thanks for the recipe.

  10. Mich, Dont we need sugar to get the yeast to activate ?

  11. SCF, no, not necessarily. If you use fast acting yeast, you actually don't even need to reactivate it in water when using.

    If you have the kind of yeast that needs reactivating, you can use a pinch of sugar when mixing up the yeast, if you want.

    The batter also has sugar in it and it will work with the yeast to raise it.

  12. Hi Michelle
    Thanks for this recipe.. I have been looking for it.
    It's been 8 years since I left Mangalore and I really miss Sannas


  13. why do u use beatean rice ??
    hopefully this time when I use your recipe it turns perfect.....

  14. Hiya, I use beaten rice to make the sannas very soft. You can skip it if you use idli rice, but it does make them soft. You can substitute the same amount of cooked rice for the poha.

    Good luck.

  15. Mitchelle ... Indeed it was a success..!!!! hopefully will post them in my blog www.mypotpourriofrecipes.blogspot.com

  16. I've been wanting to make these beauties at home ever since I first ate them a couple of years ago. Thanks for the recipe... They look divine!

  17. An easy tip that has been handed down in our family is to add an onion to the batter to know when the batter is fermented. Takes the guess work out.

    Top, tail and skin an onion. Wash it and put it into the batter at the outset. The onion will float or sink just a bit into the batter, but when the batter is fermented, the onion will sink to the bottom and you can be sure that the batter is fermented. I use this method for all the "polis" I prepare.

  18. So excited(and nervous) to try this ... I've made idlis before but never sannas. I just got my mom's tondor so I'm really anxious to give it a test drive. Do you know what the katoris are made of? They look like a different type of metal - I'd like to buy a few extras when I go back.

  19. Lovely recipe, easy to understand. thanks


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