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Alternative namesKoḻukattai
Kangidan (歓喜団)
Num kom (នំគម)
Kanom nab (ເຂົ້າຫນົມແຫນບ)
Bánh ít nhân dừa
Kuih modak
Kue modak
Place of originIndia
Region or stateIndia, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore
Main ingredientsRice flour, or wheat, coconut, jaggery
Similar dishesKhanom tom/khanom kho (Thailand)
Mont lone yay baw (Myanmar)

Modak (Marathi: मोदक) or Modakam (Sanskrit: मोदकम्), also referred to as Koḻukattai (கொழுக்கட்டை) in Tamil,[1] is an Indian sweet dish popular in many Indian states and cultures. According to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, it is one of the favourite dishes of Ganesha and the Buddha and is therefore used in prayers.[2][3][4] The sweet filling inside a modak consists of freshly grated coconut and jaggery, while the outer soft shell is made from rice flour or wheat flour mixed with khowa or maida flour.[5]

There are two distinct varieties of Modakam, fried and steamed. The steamed version (called Ukadiche Modakam)[6] is often served hot with ghee.


According to culinary historian Darra Goldstein, modaka is an ancient sweet that dates back to around 200 BCE.[7] Early mentions of modaka are found in Ayurveda, Ramayana and Mahabharata where it is described as a dumpling confectionery with sweet stuffing. Sangam literature similarly mentions modakas as rice dumplings filled with sweet stuffing that were also sold by street vendors in the ancient city of Madurai.[8][9] The medieval Manasollasa culinary text explains that modakas, as prepared with rice flour and a sweet stuffing with aromatic spices such as cardamom and camphor, were called Varsopalagolakas because they looked like hailstones.[10] Fried modakas are made with wheat flour, while steamed modakas are made from rice flour.[7]

In a Hindu context, the word 'modaka' is explained as being derived from the words "Moda" and "Pramoda", meaning joy, happiness, delight; modakas being gifts that Ganesha, the god of good luck, bestows on his devotees.[11] The shape of modaka is also said to represent a bag of money. Thus, it is also used to symbolize wealth, and all the sweet pleasures that wealth gives to humans. In a Tantric context, its shape is seen to symbolise an upward pointing triangle, which in Tantric art represents Shiva, i.e. spiritual reality, in contrast to the downward pointing triangle, which represents Shakti, material reality.[12]

Religious significance[edit]


Modak is considered to be the favourite sweet of the Hindu deity, Ganesha.[2] From it, he gets the moniker modakapriya (one who likes modak) in Sanskrit. The word modak means "small part of bliss" and it symbolises spiritual knowledge.[13] During Ganesh Chaturthi, the puja usually concludes with an offering of 21 or 101 modaks to Ganesha. Modaks made with rice flour shells are often preferred for this purpose, although wheat shell versions are also used. Local businesses outside Ganesh temples across India usually sell pre-packed/ready-made versions of modaks.


Modak is also considered to be the favourite sweet of Gautama Buddha. During Buddha's Birthday, modaks are offered to the Buddha.[14]

Similar dishes[edit]


In Cambodia, num kom (នំគម) is similar to modak. However, the wrapping is much different as num kom does not use rice flour.[15]


In Japan, a sweet similar to modak and known locally as kangidan (歓喜団), is offered to both the god Kangiten, the Japanese equivalent of Ganesh. Kangidans are made from curds, honey, and red bean paste. They are wrapped in kneaded dough made from parched flour and shaped like a bun before they are deep fried.[16] However, as the majority of Japanese are non-religious, it can be eaten on any occasion such as Shōgatsu, Culture Day, Christmas, Halloween, birthdays and retirement parties.


In Laos, modaks are known as kanom nab (ເຂົ້າຫນົມແຫນບ).

Malay world[edit]

In the Malay world, modaks are known as kuih modak (in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore) or kue modak (in Indonesia).


In Myanmar, modaks are known as mont lone yay baw and are eaten during Thingyan.


In Thailand, Khanom tom and khanom kho are said to be the close cousins of modaks due to their similarities. However, they come in other colours and are covered in coconuts shreds.[17]


In Vietnam, modaks are known as bánh ít nhân dừa.


Type Characteristics
Steamed modak (ukadiche modak in the Marathi language) Made of coconut and sugar/jaggery. This variation is especially prepared during the Ganesh Festival. They are hand-made and cooked in a steamer. They are perishable and need to be consumed immediately.[18][19][20]
Fried modak Deep fried in oil instead of being steamed. Frying makes the modaks last longer and gives them a different taste.[21]
Mawa modak These are khoa (milk solids) based preparations that are shaped like a modak. A variety of flavors can be obtained by addition of materials such as pistachio, cardamom, chocolate, and almond.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ S, Latha Maheswari (3 October 2015). So Tasty Healthy Low Calorie Vegetarian Cooking Book-2: Take care calorie by calorie DOSAS AND SOUTH INDIAN MOUTH WATERING VARIETIES. AB Publishing House. p. 130. ISBN 978-1-5176-3269-4.
  2. ^ a b Chef Mandaar Sukhtankar (24 August 2017). "A modak by any other name". The Hindu. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Indian classic: Modak". Traveldine. Archived from the original on 22 October 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  4. ^ "Culinary Capital: How Modaks, Ganesha's food, have broken barriers, travelled well through history". Indian Express. 4 September 2022.
  5. ^ "Modak Recipe".
  6. ^ "Jatra gets its flavour from Maharashtra for authentic taste". The Times of India. Indore. 7 October 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  7. ^ a b The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets - Page 82, Darra Goldstein · 2015
  8. ^ Food in Pathupattu Part III Maduraikanchi - Achaya, K.T. Indian Food: A Historical Companion. Oxford University Press 1994
  9. ^ Champakalakshmi R. Trade, ideology and Urbanization South India 300 BC to 1300 AD. Oxford University Press India 1996.
  10. ^ Traditional Foods: Some Products and Technologies - Page 55, Central Food Technological Research Institute (India) · 1986
  11. ^ Gaṇeśa, the Enchanter of the Three Worlds, Page 203, Paul Martin-Dubost (1997)
  12. ^ Pattanaik, Devdutt (27 January 2015). 99 Thoughts on Ganesha. Publisher:Jaico Publishing House. p. 39. ISBN 9788184951523. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  13. ^ "Why is Ganapati with the right sided trunk not commonly worshipped?". Sanatan Sanstha. 14 September 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Culinary Capital: How Modaks, Ganesha's food, have broken barriers, travelled well through history". The Indian Express. 4 September 2022. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  15. ^ Ramesh, Nisha (2 July 2018). "NUM KOM". 196 flavors.
  16. ^ "儀式のあとには、なにかを食べる。インドと日本の不思議な共通点". El-Aura (Trinity). 21 April 2016.
  17. ^ "Around Asia in six sweet dumplings". Mint Lounge. 14 September 2022. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  18. ^ Khanna, Vikas (2013). SAVOUR MUMBAI: A CULINARY JOURNEY THROUGH INDIA's MELTING POT. New Delhi: Westland Limited. ISBN 9789382618959.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Reejhsinghani 1975, p. x [1].
  20. ^ Reejhsinghani, Aroona (1975). Delights from Maharashtra. New Delhi. ISBN 9788172245184.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  21. ^ Modak

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