Monday, July 20, 2009

Pappadam Thalichathu…..Pappadam gets a makeover!

For a young girl who grew up sitting on the steps of her mother’s kitchen , gazing at the coconut palm fronds swaying in the morning breeze while her mother refilled the plate with laced Paalappam hot off the Appachatti with a side of warm and creamy potato stew, it was literally an eye-popping and jaw- dropping moment when she got a plate of some mushy pile of rice with some tiny specks of yellow here and there, drenched in a pool of coconut chutney for breakfast on her first day at the hostel. She walked back to her room, holding the plate carefully without letting the chutney flow out of her rimless plate . She stared at the food in front for a while and started taking small spoonfuls and after three or four , she realised it could be a distant relative of the tasty Pongal she had relished at one of her classmate’s marriage at Nagercoil. There at that moment, she started missing HOME badly but didn’t realise that it was only the first scoop of reality shock in the many more to come.

She went back to the hostel mess to fill her lunch box and instead of plain white rice, what she found there was another soggy mix of rice mixed with curd and a bowl of lemon pickle. Though the idea of mixed rice was hard to stomach, she filled up the box and by the lunch time at the office, the curd rice had become ice cold and she stopped eating after a couple spoonfuls. By evening her stomach started grumbling and all she could do was run to the bakery at the ground floor of that office building and buy some chicken puffs which strangely had an orange colored filling , quite different from her favourite spicy chicken puffs she was used to, from the famous Best Bakers near her home. But she sank her teeth into it as though she had not seen food for last one week.

Back at the hostel, it was time for dinner , and she grabbed her plate and glass to hit the mess ( pun intended) one more time and there her eyes widened and face beamed at the sight of plain steamed rice……. but all that joy was short lived when she noticed the curry of greens, overcooked and soggy in a pale green water and a yellow side dish of some unknown vegetable mixed with lentils, again in a liquid base. For someone who grew up eating her greens as a dry stirfry with a touch of grated coconut and mustard seeds, the sight of those dishes were quite unappetizing. She served some rice and curd on to her plate and picked a couple of deep fried flat round discs, that looked somewhat similar to the Pappadam from her mother’s kitchen and ate her dinner with a heavy heart and welled up eyes, thinking of her home, parents and the innumerable times she rejected the tastiest food her mother cooked for her with all that love and care!!!!!

That was one of my first experience in the web of real life learnings outside the coziness and comforts of my home ……the experiences that taught me the meaning of thoughtfully crafted home cooked meals and the value of staying with parents……slowly I learned to adjust to my new surroundings, wash my own clothes,tidy up the room and bath and eat whatever food that was available, as long as it was edible and free of worms !! Literally, 2 ½ years of ‘taming’ ( yes, I meant it) that gave me the foundation to start a family and run a house without the luxury of a maid !!

I survived those days with frequent visits to my cousin’s and local guardian’s homes for some home cooked meals and they were kind enough to take me as a refugee. At one point of time, I was so used to that bland hostel food that my stomach resisted badly whenever my aunt fed me all those familiar dishes cooked in coconut oil!! And those days whenever I had a sudden urge to eat some simple meal, I went to the nearby restaurant and ordered just plain steamed rice, curd and a spicy fish fry….the only combo that gave me a break from the soggy mess at the hostel-mess.

Knowing my plight, my mother utilised every opportunity to courier some of her tasty creations whenever any of my cousins travelled via the city I lived and they passed on that classic shopping bag in jute-‘Big Shopper’, stuffed with boxes of fish fry, chicken fry, the tastiest yet simple Moru kachiyathu ( a yogurt based sauce) in an old Horlicks bottle and a huge plastic bottle filled with my life saver, Pappadam Thalichathu. On such days me and my other two roommates from Kerala, my best roomies ever, waited to get back from work and literally ‘attack’ the big shopper like barbarians (or a class below) ! The tantalising aroma of non veg food cooked in coconut oil with spices and curry leaves was so unbearable for our hostel warden that she scooted from Room No: 7B on her routine checks….poor lady, little did she know what she was missing ;-P

We always saved that big bottle of Pappadam Thalichathu for later as it could be easily stored for 3-4 weeks. We were quite stingy with the portions each one got to make sure that we get a whiff of curry leaves fried in coconut oil with a bite of mustard seeds and fried onions along with those crispy diamond shaped Pappadam everynight for dinner and for me , it was the taste and smell of home… the taste and smell I longed for!!!

Here’s the recipe for Pappadam Thalichathu that holds a special place in my taste memories.

12 medium size Pappadam/Indian wafers (buy the ones from Kerala)
1 -2 tbsp coconut oil plus more for deep frying Pappadam
1 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 small red pearl onions, thinly sliced
1 small sprig of curry leaves
½ tsp red chilly powder

  • Cut Pappadam into diamond shapes. You may tightly roll 2-3 Pappadam at a time, into a tube, and then cut them into small pieces using a scissor or knife. Deep fry Pappadam- diamonds until it is crisp and puffed up well; drain them and leave them on a plate.
  • Heat 1-2 tablespoon coconut oil in a large wok/cheenachatti/kadai and splutter mustard seeds and add thinly sliced onions and curry leaves. Sauté onions until they turn brown. Switch off the flame and ( to avoid burning the chilly powder) remove wok from the burner; add chilly powder and mix well with seasoned onions and curry leaves and transfer all the fried pappadam to the wok and coat thoroughly with the spices and herbs.
  • This can be stored in an airtight container for weeks (provided you have fried/browned small onions well). • Serve with rice.

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. Ha,what a read there Mish..I think most of us go through such situations in life to realise and experience the value of our precious ones..!! You know once at college,i happd to carry lunchbox from my hostel and when i opened the same with my friends,ha,what sorta comments I get for..haha,but i still remember one from them..boys are creative sometimes at least..They told me better fix wheels for your tiffinbox so that can be called as one of the corporation vehicle we have..howabout the imagination there ?
    Pappadam thalichathu is my fav too..looks yum yum..(gorgeous fish pickle and dried mango pickle were my fav parcles from home)

  2. That was an interesting read Shn! I know how much we miss home cooked food staying away in a hostel. I used to pack different types of pickles. That helped me to eat rice at least! The pappadam thalichathu looks so crunchy and delicious! I'm really surprised that I havent had this till now! Crispy curry leaves with pearl onions would have given a nice flavour!

  3. Trip down the memory lane made a good read. I have almost forgotten abt this dish, amma used to make. She never adds onion though. Thanks for bringing it back to my memory.

  4. wow thats a new twist to the regular pappadams..looks yummy n perfect..will definitely give a try..
    Do visit my blog when u get time..

  5. i cud relate to ur post very easily since almost all thr things happend in my life too....but they used to serve moru n pappadam in our hostel mess(at coimbatore) so things were easier...pappadom was my life saver...this version i havent tried but will definitely give it a try....

  6. Let me add to the serving suggestion, Shn: enjoy by itself :). Yum yum yum! Didn't you guys ever fight over it in the hostel ;).

    Btw, i got really nostalgic upon the mention of the good ole' "Big Shopper" :).

  7. This is totally new to me! Never had it where I'm from, wonder why!!

  8. Pappadam is a under estimated bro is so crazy about it..that he would even stop having lunch mid way if the pappadams ran out and fry some himself!!;-D

    I like papaddam if its a proper vegeterian in a sadya...this one looks properly decorated...pattumenikil can be marketed near movie houses instead of popcorn...;-P

    and the word pappadam is very popular in colleges as nicknames!!

  9. Hi shn...what a delight to get welcomed back with one of my favorite recipes..

  10. That's like a yummy yummy snack. Ideal for monsoons :D

  11. I have been staying in hostels for past 2.5 years....i cn relate to the story so well....luckily I have always managed to find a mallu hotel nearby for my weekend indulgences......ur recipe is simply awesome...reminds me of my grandma who use to conjure up simple dishes like these for supper on a very rainy night....

  12. Good one and very new......nice pic...

  13. Hi!
    am new convert to your blog. I love food blogs and Mishmash is one of my favourites. I love it mostly because it's a Keralite's account and I relate very well to that. And another reason being that the recipes are easy and very much real and 'makeable'.
    Thank you.

    And do continue posting...

  14. This post brought memories of my hostel days, though I must say the food there was not so bad and some dishes infact really good! Very surprising. But it made me realize not to take my mom's cooking for granted and I definitely appreciated her more during/after my hostel stint :)
    Papd thalichathu sounds great, Shn!

  15. The Horlicks bottles of yore were collector items for all Moms!

    Somehow get the feel that the pappadam looks more yummy in the twisted newspaper.

  16. Such a great recipe for the pappadam lover in me!! :)

  17. Wow this is a brilliant idea...shall def try it out!

  18. Good to see you back Shn and this will make a lovely snack.

  19. Hostel food is enough to make the hardest food critic kneel down and retool his/her taste buds. though i love my hostel days, the food was torture.
    Pappadam this way is new to me. i have had rice wafers but not pappadums like this. "Mor in horlicks bottle" ...sigh:)

  20. So glad to see you back,Shn:)

    Nice write up. I can identify myself with the girl.. hehe!!5 yrs of hostel food.. Amma sending all big shoppers which would be empty within minutes it reaching the hostel... ordering the simplest meals in the hotels, hoping the fish curry or sambhar wouldnt b as bad as the curry u get in hostel..washing a pile of clothes.. ah! hostel life, has tamed us na.. really!! Your post brought back a lot of memories!! :)

    Pappasam thalichathu is quite new to me.. used to luv pappadam as kid and would finish it up pretty quick. will try tis out for sure..

  21. Never had pappadam thalichathu before. It sure is a make over for pappadams. I love the way you wrapped the dish in newspaper.

  22. I have never heard of this kind of pappadums! Must try it. Sure looks yummy.

  23. Hi Shn,
    I felt the same way when I was staying on-Campus. We don't have a kitchen in our dorms so I had to survive with the non-spicy cafeteria food. Now I live off-campus and get to cook. I have tried a few of your recipes and they turned out great. Thank you for posting Shn.

  24. Shn, i went thru the same while i stayed in PGs n hostels outside kerala. My weekend was always with my cousin, n i cud vouch that her food was my lifesaver.

    Yes, hostel days were my taming days too n just like u, by God's grace,am able to run my home without maids...

    am a big fan of pappadams n MIL makes this for me :)

    Keep posting :)

  25. Hi mishmash i am a chef.Over the last ten years i have been researching different Indian cuisines to try and better understand indian food and not just mughali(north indian) food which is synonymous with as indian my point of all this is that your blog has enlightened me and given me great pleasure and greater understanding of Indian food.Your Passion for cooking seems to even put me in second as far cooking goes and i was of the opinion that i was one of the only ones who cooked from the heart I would love to shake your hand one day god willing (i am a Punjabi)

  26. Hey this is new to me.. Should try this out.. Pappadam itself is yummy.. so this will definitely be yuuuummmmy :)

  27. I see an exactly same me in you when it is about a hostel in tamilnadu and the food from that mess.
    Thanks Mishmash..U made a think abt those days again...

  28. I discovered preparing pappadam this way quite recently. Very, very tasty!!!

    Messes are very aptly named so, it seems.
    Whenever my daughter complains about my cooking, I tell her she'll learn to appreciate once she leaves home for further studies! ;-)

  29. Hi,Amazing writing, mouthwatering presentation and clear receipes. I remembered my grandma's kitchen for a second. I am planning to try out few of your Nadan items this weekend. One thing about the fish Moli, there is another famous style which my husband calims as the real Fish Moli, Ernakulam Style. don't know how to make it but it looks and tastes good.
    Damila James


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.