Sevai ~ South Indian rice noodles | Stringhoppers | GFCF

Sevai ~ Gluten-free rice noodles seasoned with coconut

Have you ever got hooked to the same kind of cooking once you start cooking with an ingredient/method you love?  It happens to me very often.  I call it the baking spree, the gluten-free baking spree, the tart spree and this whole month it has been steamed cooking that has caught my fancy.  I look forward each morning to cook something healthier than before, and it is not very tough as Palakkad cuisine is mostly healthy, apart from being gluten-free.  That makes it perfect for my daughter too.  It has been almost a year since we found that Jr.H is gluten intolerant and one year since I learnt that we do not need to give up tasty things just because wheat/refined white flour can no longer be included in her diet.  Yes, I still haven’t been able to create breads due to unavailability of some ingredients that are vital for gluten-free breads, but I am sure we will find a way soon.

Back to this month’s craze – I am besotted by steamed rice flour preparations.  It started with Ganesh Chaturthi when we prepare rice flour dumplings and suddenly the whole process seems so easy that I seem to be making dumplings of various kinds or steamed rice flour preparations, all month long!

Sevai is the Tamilian term for rice noodles.  These days you do get instant sevai off the shelves but I soon found that the texture was more like hay or straw, and it only made me nostalgic for my mother’s homemade, fresh version.  I was in contemplation mode a couple of years back as to whether we really needed a sevai-press but my son made it simpler for us to make the decision when he cried over the plate of instant rice noodles I set before him.  One look and he said, “How I wish pati lived somewhere close by.” [pati – maternal grandmother].  I made my decision and bought a sevai-press that weekend.  Since then we enjoy fresh, soft rice noodles and I regret the few times I had tortured us into eating straw!

Making fresh rice noodles requires some advance planning but is well worth it.  The dish can be prepared with homemade rice flour or with ground rice paste.  I prefer making it with the latter.


Sevai ~ Gluten-free rice noodles seasoned with lemon

Kitchen tools needed: Sevai press

Recipe: Sevai ~ South Indian, homemade, rice noodles | Stringhoppers

Yield: Serves 6 persons

Gluten-free, allergy friendly recipe


For the dough, and preparation of rice noodles:

Rice – 4 cups (soaked 4-5 hrs. or overnight in 4 cups of water)
Water – 4 cups + 1.5 cups
Salt – 1.5 tbsp.
Sesame oil (or any neutral flavoured oil) – 2tbsp.

For seasoning and preparing plain sevai:

Fresh coconut, grated – 1 cup
Coconut oil – 1tbsp.
Mustard seeds – 1 tbsp.
Bengal gram dal / Chana dal – 1 tbsp.
Husked black gram dal / Urad dal – 1 tbsp.
A sprig of curry leaves / kadi patta, cut into strips
Fresh red/green chillies – 4 or 5, as per taste, chopped fine
Ginger – 1” chopped fine, optional
Cashew nuts – About 10, halved or chopped
Asafoetida / hing – 1/8 tsp.

For seasoning and preparing lemon sevai:

Fresh coconut, grated – 1 cup
Coconut oil – 1tbsp.
Mustard seeds – 1 tbsp.
Bengal gram dal / Chana dal – 1 tbsp.
Husked black gram dal / Urad dal – 1 tbsp.
A sprig of curry leaves / kadi patta, cut into strips
Fresh red/green chillies – 4 or 5, as per taste, chopped fine
Ginger – 1” chopped fine, optional
Cashew nuts – About 10, halved or chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/8 tsp.
Lemon – 1 big sized lemon, juiced and de-seeded


To prepare dough:

Pick, rinse rice well and soak in 4 cups of clean water overnight or for about 4 hours.

Drain the rice, collecting the water in another vessel, instead of throwing it.  Grind the soaked rice grains to a smooth paste in a grinder or blender.  If needed, add some of the reserved water.

Heat the rest of the water, along with additional 1.5 cups of water and the oil in a heavy bottomed vessel.  Add salt to taste.  When the water comes to a boil, lower the heat.  Add the ground rice paste and using a spatula, mix continuously so that the batter cooks with minimum lumps.

In minutes the batter will start gathering into a sticky dough.  If you find it difficult to mix, just lift the dough and turn it, cut and repeat a few times.  The colour should change from raw white to cooked, translucent white.  At this stage cover the vessel and let the dough cook for a minute.  Remove the cover after a minute, toss the dough and push the uncooked portion below and again cover and cook for a minute.  Repeat this about four or five times.  By now, the dough should be very thick and tough to mix.  Do not let the bottom layer stick to the vessel.  The whole process of cooking the dough should not take more than 10 to 15 minutes, at the most.  The heat should be low throughout, once the ground paste is added.

Now, put off fire.  Cover the vessel and let it rest for about ten minutes to allow the dough to cook in its own steam.  It is alright for condensed droplets to fall on the dough.

After ten minutes remove the cover, turn out the dough on to a large tray or ‘tambalam’ and let it cool, till it reaches a temperature where it can be handled by you.  Dip your fingers in cool water or oil and knead small portions of the dough till smooth and pliable.  Repeat with the rest of the dough till done.

Divide the dough into fist-sized portions and shape them into oblong balls.

Making the rice noodles:

Bring about 4-5 cups of water to a boil in a deep vessel.  When the water starts boiling, add a few portions of the oblong dumplings into the vessel.  Initially they will sink to the bottom, but gradually they will rise to the top once they are completely cooked. This will take about 5-7 minutes.


Making sevai in the sevai-press (sevai – nazhi)

Drain and place one cooked dumpling inside the sevai press.  Press out the noodles and place them to cool in a large greased plate.  Continue with the rest of the dumplings till done.

You must start pressing the dumplings even while they are hot.  It will be a tough process once they are cool.  The idea is to drain out a few at a time and add more dumplings to the water while pressing the drained ones.  This does not take very long.


Making sevai

Let the noodles cool completely.  With hands that have been dipped in cold water, mix the noodles gently, taking care not to break them.

At this stage you can store the noodles in an airtight box in the refrigerator for a couple of days and use as and when required.

I divided the noodles into equal portions and prepared plain sevai as well as lemon sevai.

To assemble plain noodles

Heat oil.  When hot season with mustard seeds.  As soon as they crackle add the dals, chillies, and cashewnuts.  Lower heat and saute till the cashew nuts turn pink.  Add the curry leaves and asafoetida.  Saute till the curry leaves crackle.  Pour the seasoning over half the portion of rice noodles.  Taste the noodles, if needed add salt as preferred.  Now heat the wok and add grated coconut.  Saute over medium heat till the gratings turn pink or light golden.  Add this to the seasoned rice noodles.  Using a flat spoon or pancake turner, or two forks, toss the noodles till the seasoning and coconut is mixed evenly. Serve without heating the noodles along with coconut chutney on the side.


Sevai ~ Gluten-free rice noodles seasoned with coconut

To assemble lemon noodles

Heat oil.  When hot season with mustard seeds.  As soon as they crackle add the dals, chillies, and cashewnuts.  Lower heat and saute till the cashew nuts turn pink.  Add the curry leaves and asafoetida.  Saute till the curry leaves crackle.  Pour the seasoning over half the portion of rice noodles.

In a small bowl, squeeze lemon juice, add turmeric and mix well.  Pour this over the seasoning and mix using a flat spoon, pancake turner or two forks.  Toss till the flavours and juice is evenly distributed.  Serve with coconut chutney on the side.

I know the dish is elaborate, but it is worth the effort.  I am a stickler for perfection and like to prepare dishes from the scratch.  That is what homemade is all about – isn’t it?


Sevai ~ Gluten-free rice noodles seasoned with lemon


If you are trying this for the first using my recipe, please do not alter the ratio of rice and water.  Everything depends on this ratio.  I used kolam rice, but the ratio should not change much for other varieties.  I have made it with basmati using the same proportions with same results.

Very soft dough will result in noodles that will break, turn pasty and not hold their shape.

Very less water will result in hard noodles.

The dumplings must be boiled till they rise to the top and float in the water.  This easily takes about 7-10 minutes.  If not, the noodles will be pasty and cannot be mixed.  They might stick together.

For preparing coconut chutney:

Grate one coconut and grind coarsely with 2tsps. of chutney dal (Pottukadalai in Tamil, or Bhuja hua chana in Hindi) and 3 green chillies adding a little water.

check and add water if it is too thick and grind till the paste is well mixed but not completely homogeneous. The consistency should be neither too thick nor runny. Add salt to taste and season.

Seasoning for chutney:
Heat a tsp. of coconut oil and add mustard seeds(Or ‘rai’). When they splutter add a few curry leaves and then pour it over the chutney. Mix well.


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Have your say

  1. Beautiful pictures as usual, Harini!

  2. That was quick, Saee! Thank you.:)

  3. I’ve been looking for a very long time for a rice noodles recipe and now I see I’ve been having a totally wrong idea about how these little “worms” are being made.
    I don’t have such press but I have something in mind to adjust. So I’ll definitely try the recipe.

  4. Silvia, do let us know your idea here! I am sure others will benefit from it.:)

  5. Gorgeous Harini. That press reminds me of my childhood. My grandparents had a cast iron press and my aunts use to make this for me every time I visited them.

  6. lovely pics, love the one with bucket, I grew up eating sevai made traditional way. it was fun watching making sevai

  7. beautiful pictures harini.. and i like the lemon tang.. havent made savory sevai in a while… time to make this version…:)

    ps. one of the pics on the post is showing not available.

  8. Thanks Richa! Will check on the pics!

  9. Though elaborate, yet the freshness of the noodles will make it worthy of all the efforts. Thanks for sharing such a healthy recipe!!

  10. Initially I thought it would be possible to use a pasta maker to do this but now that I have seen how thin the ricenoodles are when they come out of the sevai-press I don’t think that would work. It does look intriguing but I’ve never seen a press like that.. Gorgeous photos as usual Harini!

  11. Thanks, Simone. I too have my own doubts about making this in a pasta maker, and whether the sevai-press is available in Asian/Indian shops there.

  12. Lovely photos! I made sevai with ragi mavu yesterday. I made the coconut version with them.

  13. Thanks, Vijitha! I have been thinking of making with ragi but never tried it before. Got to try it sometime soon. Do you steam the dough like ragi mudde before making?

  14. Wow wow flavourful and yummy sevai

  15. Harini, you make the kozhukkattais the same as what my mother makes. I know that’s the traditional way. I started with the shortcut way of idlis and now switched over to kozhakkattais. I steam them and have been thinking of doing the traditional way. Now I think, next time I am going to do this way. And I love to sip that hot kanji. Yummm

  16. I feel these are easier to press than the idlis as they go cold easily, while one can have a control over the temperature here. But I do understand that it is just preferences! I throw away the kanji! Must drink it up next time! Thanks for the tip.:)

  17. Perfect!!!! is all I could think of…the entire post spells it…the food, the pictures and those beautiful props.
    Alternately you can steam the kozhukkattais in lieu of dropping them in boiling water. I too find that the idli method makes it a bit hard to press if we are not quick.

  18. Thanks, Lata! I am glad you think its perfect! Yes, one can steam them too.

  19. Nice Pics, Harini… lovely clicks..
    love the lemon flavor noodles..

  20. This is my most fav one….Happy to see the sevai press…:) I m yet to buy one…nothing beats this freshly pressed rice noodles..

  21. I like that sevai press..I use the good old murukku maker for the same. Beautiful clicks, Harini…you made the humble sevai look like some kind of an exotic dish! Beautiful post.

  22. nice picture and my favourit. please give suggestions. some of the doubts about rice.which one is better the usual rice or idli rice or boiled rice?

  23. Malini, thank you for your kind words.:)

    The best rice is the one that you use daily – raw rice. Not boiled rice or idli rice (I assume you mean idli rawa which is broken par-boiled rice).

  24. Great post! thanks for the detailed post. Where can I buy this sevai press (dont want to use the murukku one) in the bay area?

  25. Thank you! Regarding availability, I will have to ask around, Leena! I live in Thane and am not aware about the availability in other places. I will post this query on my fb page and check whether I get any responses. If I do, will post another comment here. Some of my friends say they use the murukku press. Never worked for me though!

  26. A silent reader of ur blog but this post made me comment here.

    Such an elaborate process of making sevai.

    We do it in a slightly different method. we use parboiled rice for sevai or shyavige and the ground batter is steamed in idli moulds.
    The hot idly is pressed into sevai.

  27. Thanks Madura for writing in, my mother makes it like you mention, but I find this easier. The idlis tend to get cold soon making the extrusion process difficult towards the end for me. With this method I do not face that problem as I boil only few balls at a time. I must try with parboiled rice too!

  28. lovely presentation!
    My gran used to make it the exact same way except that she used rice powder instead of rice paste;while my Mother-in-law used rice paste but with boiled rice! i have heard it said that sevais from boiled rice stay softer for a longer time but there is never a chance to find out , as they dissappear as soon as they are made .
    the rice powder must make it hard to stir and press, i suppose
    As Regards seasoning, there is one more flavour which we used to enjoy;soak chana dal and udid dal and grind it coarsely with one or two red chillies, season it with a liberal dash of oil,mustard , kadipatta, hing, green chillies and some fresh cocnut in a kadai ,and pour it on sevai and mix thoroughly; this is a protein enriched version, you may say!there could also be vella sevai; The Sky is the Limit!!

  29. Thanks Rama, for your compliments as well as the variation you suggested. Yes, the one made from boiled rice stays soft for a longer time. And this is easier to stir than powdered rice. The seasoning you suggested is a bit similar to the powder we use for mixed rice. Great idea!

  30. I was wondering if you knew where I could buy a sevai press, or if they go by other names? Running a quick internet search actually turned up nothing! I was very surprised. Or if you know of any alternative noodle-makers/presses that work just as well?
    Thank you so much for sharing these recipes!

  31. Where do you live, M.R.Weaver? Even in North India sevai press is available only in special shops that stock South Indian goods. Most of my friends have purchased it during their visit to India as it is not available abroad. There is an alternative, but that again is not available in places other than India! Tough luck.

  32. Ah, that’s too bad. I live in the USA, so probably zero chance of finding one even in an import store here. Thanks for replying though!

  33. good to see lovely rice noodles. especially its gluten free.

  34. liked the recipe similar to “Cook and See ” book recipe.have you heard about that is an awesome book considering it was written by a not so young widow at least 40 years before.such foresight-is the mother of all cookery books.

  35. Yes, Rama, I own the books and I have tried some of the recipes as well. I like the book too.:) It i This is how sevai was made traditionally, so I guess it should be a similar recipe. Glad you liked it.

  36. sir, whats difference between gnocchi and rice noodles?

  37. I am a lady, Rajesh. 🙂 Gnocchi is an Italian dish made with maida, eggs and potatoes and resembles ‘gatta’ in shape. Rice noodles is made of rice.

  38. Does the type of rice matter? Also, do you think that in lieu of a Savai press, a Kitchenaid mixer noodle press would work?

  39. Hi Maxine, the type of rice does make a difference. It is best to try out with a small quantity with the measurements given. If it turns out sticky or lacks texture, decrease the water a little and try. That should help. If the noodles turn out stiff, increase the quantity of water a little. The best would be to procure Indian rice variety from Asian stores and try this (the first time) so that you get an idea of now it should turn out. Kolam, Basmati, Parimal, Ponny, Ambemore are good varieties of rice from India. I tried making with Thai Jasmine rice but it turns out a little soft and sticky.

    I cannot comment on use of kitchenaid mixers as I haven’t seen one. However, if you try, I would be glad to know the results.

  40. Hey there, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your website in Opera, it looks fine
    but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some
    overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, excellent blog!

  41. Thank you. Will check.

  42. I tried making shavige but the texture was v sticky n all d strands were sticking. While mixing it to d seasing it became a dough. Pls help.

  43. Sorry about your experience, Roopa. The amount of water depends on the variety of rice used. From your comment it appears that the water content was too much. I suggest you reduce the water by about a cup when you cook next time if you make the same measurement of rice, or proportionately. That should help in reducing the stickiness.

  44. This was really different recipe. Noodles with rice. We can have taste of rice and feel of eating noodles. This was really good news for noodles lovers like me. Thanks for sharing.

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