Zucchini Handvo (Savory Squash Cakes)

We're good at hiding.  We're good at pretending.  We are good at acting.  Almost too good.  We prefer the world to perceive us as happy and colorful and vibrant and perfect.

We polish off the dust, giving ourselves a shiny coat...like new.  We sand off the splinters and remove the burrs.  We put fillers in the cracks and apply putty in the voids.  We oil the hinges and stain the wood.  We prime and paint.

And then the world sees us: Smiling, polished, whole, and fixed.  Effortless.

The world doesn't ask what's under the paint, or where the putty is, or what happened to the burrs.  The world doesn't credit the improvement.  The world expects it.  

But we know what's underneath.  We know.

We might be built on fractured foundation. We cover it up with a carpet of woven loops. We conceal it with wooden planks tightly fit by tongue and groove. We piece ourselves together arranging an array of textured tiles and fill the narrow channels with grout. 

When we know what's wrong with our house, we don't forget.  No one can see it, no one asks about it, but we know and it bothers us.  And we hide it.  We seal it.  We keep drinking the secrets so that they won't spill.

But what we forget is that everyone else has a home.  Small, large, old, or new.  (Yes, even the new dream homes that seem absolutely perfect).  In these homes, repairs are also needed if not fulfilled already.  Perhaps not as many repairs are needed in their home, as are needed in your home, yet still there is damage, imperfection, and imbalance.  Maybe, fewer but deeper, or maybe, more but milder.  Either way, these too, are concealed under paint, stain, or polish.

Just remember that everyone has something that needs repair.  It's not just you.  It only seems that way because you only know your house.  You don't know what is beyond their polished, sanded, stained, and closed doors.

Zucchini Handvo (Savory Squash Cakes)
(pronounced HAHND-vo)

Handvo is traditional lunch/brunch item made with lauki/doodhi which is a mild but large squash found in India.  I prefer zucchini, as it gives a hint of sweetness, but no matter what squash you use, handvo always has a crispy top.  Handvo is usually made in a big square or rectangular pan and everyone always reaches for a crispy corner piece.  I modified this recipe to cupcake sizes so that everyone gets a crispy piece.
These savory zucchini cakes are simply AWESOME!!!!!!


2 cups semolina flour (aka sooji at Indian stores)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2-1/2 Tablespoons vegetable/canola oil
3-1/2 cups packed, grated zucchini (~2 large zucchinis)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons ginger-chili paste
1 cup plain low fat yogurt
3/4 cup water

Crispy Topping:
2 Tablespoons vegetable/canola oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds for garnish

1.  Combine the semolina flour (sooji), baking soda, salt, turmeric, and 2-1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil in a small mixing bowl and mix well. The mixture should resemble cornmeal-like texture.
2.  Combine zucchini, sugar, and ginger-chili paste in a large mixing bowl.  Add yogurt and the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add 3/4 cup water and mix well again.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush the inside of the cupcake cavities generously with oil.  Divide the dough mixture among ~10 cupcakes.  Fill each cavity almost to the top (just sub-flush with the top of the pan).  Level each cupcake as much as possible
4.  Make the "topping":  In a small sauce pan, heat 2 Tablespoons oil.  Then add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and asafoetida.  Cook for no longer than one minute, being careful not to burn the cumin seeds.  Remove from heat.
5.  Spoon a little of the seasoned oil on each cupcake. (about 1 scant teaspoon of oil per cupcake)  The seasoned oil is what yields a crispy crust on top.  Don't miss this step!!
6.  Bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes.  Then change the oven setting to broil and broil for 7-10 minutes, or until the tops have browned.
7.  Remove pan from the oven, scatter with some sesame seeds, and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes.   Then you can remove cakes from the pan.  Cupcakes should still be warm when you remove them from pan.


  1. Such lovely writing here, Amee. The imagery is devastatingly beautiful, and the recipe looks (though I hate to say it given the context of the story) flawless.

    I like this darker side of you.

    1. Thanks, Cheryl! I appreciate you stopping by and posting a comment. And I love puns. (is that a pun?)

      I'm glad you like the darker side of me. Actually my entire outside is dark. ;-)

  2. What a great post. It was just what I needed to hear today!

    1. Kathy, thanks for your comment. I'm so glad this post spoke to you. That means SO much. Really. Everyone has something, right? Whether it's a terminally ill child, or an impossible mother-in-law, or an unfaithful wife, or a disease, or a broken friendship, a difficult teenager, a hateful sibling, an aimless career....the list goes on. Thanks for posting your comment.

  3. MG KalraMay 30, 2013

    I just have one question: Where's your putty?

    Ummm...did that sound weird? Ok that was two questions =).

    Love you Amee! And love your posts!

    1. Haha! I have putty everywhere! lol. Thanks for loving me and my posts! :)

  4. Lovely post and the recipe sounds delicious

    1. Thanks, Aimee! I appreciate your comment.

  5. I have to make these -- they sound wonderful. So how soon do we get the ginger-chili paste? I've located an Indian grocer in my NJ neighborhood and can hardly wait to get started!

    1. I know i totally owe you guys that recipe. I will post that next. Thanks for the comment. (the ratio is 1 cup chopped* serrano peppers; 1/4 cup green chilies; 1/4 cup chopped ginger - pureed in a blender. Then freeze. Then cut up in 1" cubes and freeze those) (*the chilies and serranos are chopped into thirds before measuring and blending)
      I will post the recipe!

  6. Oh wow - these look absolutely amazing!! And I have an entire back of Sooji in my cabinet from a prior trip to a Middle Eastern market, actually.

    Do you have any recommendations for subbing out the asofetida? Or would it still be pretty tasty without it? I have (or can easily get) the rest of the ingredients!

    1. Diana, yes skip the asafoetida..no need to even substitute. I would LOVE to know how it turns out!!! :) thanks for the comment!!

    2. Diana, yes skip the asafoetida..no need to even substitute. I would LOVE to know how it turns out!!! :) thanks for the comment!!

  7. Hello! I made these yesterday as appetizers for a BBQ and just wanted to say that they turned out wonderfully! Received a lot of compliments, and I will certainly be making these again soon. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe!

    1. Anonymous - thanks so much for not only trying the recipe but posting a comment. I'm sooo glad they turned out well and you and your friends enjoyed them!! You have no idea how much satisfaction a comment like this brings to a blogger. ;-) hugs and hope to see you back here soon!

  8. I made your recipe & YUMMY it turned out really crispy on the outside & soft & fluffy in the inside.Thank You very much for sharing your recipe. I'll be making these more often from now onwards. Please share some more of your recipes.

  9. Thanks Usha! Please follow me on my new domain www.rabbitfoodrocks.com thanks!

  10. this turned out fabulous thanks so much

  11. liked the aspect of bringing the normal handvo to cup cake form... thanks for details . will try the recipe


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