Sel are rice based treats that you’re likely to find in Nepal during holidays, religious festivals, and special occasions. To make her sel, Rachana grinds soaked rice for an hour in a wet grinder (a special machine that’s also used for dosa batter) to create a very smooth batter. Sel are usually fried in oil, but Rachana follows the court tradition of frying in ghee. Rachana fries her sel individually in a wrought iron pot that belonged to her grandmother. Rachana’s grandmother passed the pot down to her mother, who then passed it down to Rachana (over her sisters) because she was the best sel maker of her generation.
Instead of a wet grinder, our sel recipe uses a regular blender, which
creates a more grainy, though not unpleasant, texture. The end result is
crispy, sweet, slightly sticky ghee-infused fritters.
Yield: 4 servings (about 8 sel)
2 cups jasmine rice, soaked overnight
¼ cup water
1 cup sugar
½ tsp ghee
About 4 cups ghee, for frying (see Cook’s Notes)
Ghee’s consistency is a soft solid. As it heats, it will liquify for frying.
1) Drain the rice and add to a blender with the water. Grind on the crush ice setting for a couple of minutes at a time, scraping down the sides a few times, until the batter is thick, glossy, and the whole rice grains are crushed. Scrape into a bowl and stir in the sugar. It will be a little tough at first, but then the batter will become liquidy, like paint. Let stand for 30 minutes.
2) Pour enough ghee into a medium saucepan to come 1 ½ inches up the sides. Heat over medium-high to high heat until shimmering and small bubbles appear, to about 380 degrees F.
3) Give the batter another stir and pour about ½ cup into a mug. Pour in a large circle into the ghee – it will bubble up. The circle may stick to the bottom at first, but the bubbles will help lift it. Fry, turning with long chopsticks, until golden brown, about 2 minutes total.
4) Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate. Let the ghee come back up to temperature. Repeat with the remaining batter.