Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kaayasoottu ? Or one more to the list of snacks with identity crisis?

I think it was almost towards the end of the first year of my blogging that I added a note to my blog title, “Rekindling the memories and Re-creating the forgotten taste…” At that point in time I was not conscious of the depth and spectrum of the word, “The forgotten taste..”. Till two days back, it meant the taste of my childhood….the taste of teenage and early adulthood….the taste of those days I spent with my family and friends. Sometimes, it was the taste I was beginning to forget or the taste and smell of my homeland or the taste I was unable to recreate in my American kitchen but it was never the taste I literally forgot or the taste that has been completely washed away from the shores of my memory lake…………….

Last time the culprit was Mathew and this time it is Maria who ignited my chamber of taste memories. As a comment for my previous post, she left a note for me,” hi shn, we make this at home & we call it unda payasam. we also add steamed or fried banana along with this. It's one of my fav palaharams :)” Hmm….steamed banana in coconut milk…?? I have tasted something like that!!!! I knew that it was part of my childhood …I knew that I know this dish!!! The image was blurred and the taste memory was vague…I was not sure if I had it at my grandma’s or at my mother’s. Yet, I knew it was one of my favourite evening snacks….. Winding back, digging up those days, it was hard this time. After 8 or 9 hours, I found a strip of light to the past….I could see the little me sitting on a wooden bench in my grandma’s kitchen and slurping a spoonful of steaming thick cream of coconut with some quartered pieces of ripe plantain, from a stainless steel plate !! What was vague and blurred few hours ago, was now dancing on my palate as taste dolls……the natural sweetness from the ripe plantains, the creaminess of the coconut milk …..I could almost feel it on my tongue….yet, I could not figure out what was that secret ingredient that gave the distinct flavour and a whiff of fragrance.

The next day I was talking to my parents and sharing all the possible traditional names you all left here, for the snack I featured a couple days back. Suddenly I heard my mother saying,” aah….there is one more thing Amma used to make…instead of rice flour balls, fully ripe plantain was cooked in coconut milk and then flavored with a hint of cardamom.” At that moment, I was amazed at the synchronization of our thoughts. And yes, it was the cardamom that gave a unique twist to such a simple lovely snack!!

You guessed it right…I recreated it in my kitchen following my mother’s suggestions and guess what, it was the same taste and the smell that pleased the palate of a 8 or 9 year old, decades ago :) I was delighted with each spoonful though it lacked my grandma’s Kaipunyam, the magic from a blessed hand and the sweetness of the native variety of plantains available in Kerala. Here’s how I made it:

  • 1 fully ripe plantain, peeled and diced into small quarters
  • 1 cup thin coconut milk/Randaampaal
  • ¾ cup thick coconut milk/Thanipaal
  • 8 tbsp sugar or to taste
  • 2 whole cardamom crushed
  • 1 ½ tbsp rice flour
  • 2 tbsp water or thin coconut milk
  • In a sauce-pot, heat diced pieces of plantain and thin coconut milk together; bring to a boil, in medium heat. Now reduce the heat, add sugar and cook until the plantain pieces are fully cooked and soft. Meanwhile mix rice flour with water and make a creamy paste (this works as a thickener) and add to the pot and blend well with the coconut milk for a minute; add thick coconut milk, cover with lid and let it cook in medium heat, until bubbles start to pop up. At this stage, it should have the consistency of Payasam. Add more sugar if required. If it is still liquid-y at this stage, reduce heat and let it simmer for some more time in low heat. Just a minute before turning off the stove, add the crushed cardamom and stir well. Turn off the stove and let it rest for 20-30 minutes and serve warm.
Well, again I don’t know the name of this snack…. :-) My mother is uncertain but doubts that my granny used to call this as ‘Kaayasoottu’. Though she checked with her sister, both of them are not able to confirm it. I should be happy that atleast I could revive a real forgotten taste of my childhood even if I fail to find the name!

Readers, you are welcome to drop a line if you know the traditional/regional/household name of this snack but no guesses and assumptions please. :)

Dear Maria, Thank YOU for this tasty experience :)

UPDATED on Oct 19th, 2008: Based on comments, this snack is also known as Ethakka Kurukkiyathu, Pazham Kurukku and Ethappazham Stew.


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