Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kalathappam/Kalthappam – Kannur Style….. An attempt on a never before eaten/seen old fashioned snack from Kerala……

A name I heard occasionally from the women at my paternal side……...a picture or two I saw at the time I started scanning through the food blogs on Kerala cuisine……and when I browsed through those recipes, the doubts that evolved, based on a murky memory of me, tasting the same at a very tender age when my taste buds were not matured enough to tolerate such a taste, yet uncertain enough to buy that skeptical mind…..the state of being intimidated seeing the recipes and methods and the fear to try out something without any point of taste-reference in the past ……..and the (mis) perception that slowly got absorbed into my head that it is a northern Kerala delicacy ……..that was pretty much the data , the hard-disk of my brain could extract whenever I saw the word Kalathappam/kalthappam ! !

And then came that comment around three months back, from someone named Revathy, a name unfamiliar to my comment section till that day and she left this message :

Hi mish,I was googling for kinnathppam recipe and one link was to ur site,and you wanted to know the kalathappam and kinnathappam recipe.I am from Kannur so kalthappam is one of our teatime snack back in india.I made it today after a long time and came out so well so I thought of sharing it with you as you want to know the recipe.Well about kinnathappam is normally made in large quantities and its a long process ,I remember once that was made in our home in big Uruli with 2-3 people continuosly stirring it for hours. my kalathappam came out good for the first in US.I tried soaking grinding basmati and other rices but didnt came out well. I used Nirapara Aripodi this time. here it is goes: nirapara aripodi 2-3cups, Vellam/Jaggery - as per sweetness, cooked rice - 1 cup, cardomon -6-7 , thenga kothu -11/2 cup, small onion - 1/2 cup, cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp, baking poweder - 1tsp, ghee /cocnut oil- as per req ……… Make a batter with rice powder ,melt the jaggery mix it well then grind the mix with cumin seeds ,cardomom , baking powder and cooked rice.the consistency of the battery kind of loose not so thick. then leave the mix for 2-3 hours room temp. Now heat the entire batter continously stirring ,be careful at this time,u shud keep stirring all part as it get cooked else.heat it for 2-3 mints. heat coconut oil or ghee in the pressure cooker roast thengakotthu and onions add some cardomom powder also.once it started turning brownish remove it from the cooker.then add some more ghee or cocnut oil again spread it little on the sides of the cooker since appam puffs out ,so it will stick on the pour the mix in the cooker then scatter the fried thngakotthu and onion.keep the stove on high then close the lid without Whistle .cook for 3 mints on high flame now fully lower the stove cook it in low flame for 10 mints turn off the stove. leave it for 30 mints and open the cooker.carefully remove it from the sides first then it will easily come out if u put the cooker upside down slightly on a plate. This is not a comment Shn. Love

Revathy’s admiration for the snack from her hometown, her passion for cooking and open mindedness to share the recipe and moreover, the care and trust that she showed in me that I would be giving it a try for sure, was enough to earn my respect , both for the person and for the recipe she shared with me. As much as I was intimidated by the method and the pressure cooker steaming part, I gave it a try two months back ,by halving her recipe . Though we developed an instant liking at the first bite itself, the texture of my steamed version was not anywhere close to what she had painted or what I had seen earlier in other blogs. The bottom layer of fried coconut slices and onion got burnt and the texture was no where near the word, fluffy. I knew I messed up at the consistency of the batter as well as the temperature control department. After a couple of mail exchanges with Revathy, she gave me some important pointers like “practice of using raw rice for grinding, instead of rice flour….picking rice that is not starchy at all….and the liquid like consistency of the batter ….and mixing the ghee roasted coconut and onion slices to the batter instead of layering at the bottom to suit the electric stove temperature setting…

In the meantime, I had asked my mother to get in touch with my aunt from kannur, knowing very well that I was on the right track. And on a crumbled piece of paper, I got to read my aunt’s recipe jotted down by my mother during her telecon and that piece of paper carrying my aunt’s instructions gave me the crucial info which said “ grind 1 glass kaima rice or biryani rice with 1 1/2 tbsp cooked rice and sharakkara-paavu/jaggery syrup thoroughly without adding water or very little water ( if required) to a dosa batter consistency and later heat it in cheru-theeyil/low heat…” and the picture and recipe given below is from the recent second attempt , under the guidance of my mother.

Here the main frame-work is based on Revathy’s recipe and supported by my aunt’s instructions and tips on the process. My aunt’s recipe doesn’t mention baking powder and it is very obvious that it is not a conventional choice either. But from the very little information I was able to collect on this topic, conventionally Kalathappam/kalthappam, was not cooked in pressure cooker either. What I learnt was , it is cooked in a Uruli/bell metal vessel and cooked covered with a lid, topped with some coal/dum method- a conventional style of baking. Please correct me, If I am wrong! But just like some out there who started using baking powder as a short cut to give fluffiness in deep fried fritters like Uzhunnu Vada, Pazhampori et al or replacing the dum method with oven baking for making biryani, here in this recipe also, I feel the use of baking powder and pressure cooker steaming is a modern day interpretation to get the old world taste staying within the given functionalities of our modern day kitchen.

(Recipe Source: Revathy from Kannur ; Instructions : My aunt from Kannur )
  • 1 cup Kaima /jeerakasaala rice soaked for about 4-6 hours
  • 1 cup melted & filtered light brown jaggery/Vellam/Sarkkara thick syrup ( Adjust as per sweetness and consistency of the syrup)*
  • ¼ cup cooked rice, loosely packed
  • ¼ cup thengakothu/ small coconut slices
  • ¼ cup Kunjulli/red small pearl onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 pods of Elakkaya/cardamom
  • ¼ tsp Jeerakam/cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp to 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 3tbsp ghee/clarified butter
  • Wash and soak rice for about 4-6 hours; drain the water and grind in a mixer along with melted jaggery, cooked rice and a pinch of salt, to a fine/smooth and pouring consistency batter ( like dosa/vattayappam batter) without adding water. Towards the end, add cardamom, cumin seeds and baking powder and grind and mix well with the batter. Pour this to a saucepot and leave it on the kitchen counter for about 1 hour.
  • Heat ghee in a small pressure cooker and fry thengakothu/ small coconut slices till golden brown, in medium heat. Remove with a slotted spoon to another plate; now add the sliced small onions and sauté till lightly browned/caramelized and remove with a slotted spoon and keep it aside.
  • Now heat the batter in the saucepot, in very low heat and stir continuously, until the batter is warm to touch. (Note: Please do not let the batter cook at this stage; it’s only meant to be warmed a bit.) At this stage remove from the heat and continue stirring , else the temperature of the saucepot would continue to cook the batter at the bottom, creating lumps which is to be avoided by stirring continuously.
  • There is enough ghee left in the pressure cooker now and swirl the cooker to give a coating of ghee on its sides. Quickly mix half of the fried coconut and onion slices to the batter and pour to the pressure cooker and top with the leftover fried coconut and onion slices; lock and secure with its tight lid, with rubber and without the weight/whistle………: I do not have a gas stove and controlling the cooking temperature is very tricky and significant in this case. Hence, Electric stove users with coiled burners, need to be a bit cautious. On my mother’s suggestion, we heated two small burners at the same time and kept one in low heat (at 3 )and the other at medium ( at 5) and cooked the first 2 minutes in medium heat and then moved the cooker immediately to the one with low heat and cooked for around 18-20 minutes; after turning off the heat, moved the cooker to another unused burner and left it there for the next 15 minutes. (Note: I think, Gas stove users can cook in high heat for about 2 minutes and reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for the rest of the cooking time as heat controlling is easier with gas flames ). Now , Open the cooker carefully and check its doneness by inserting a knife or wooden skewer and if it comes out with very little crumbs here and there or none at all, with its edges separated from the cooker, then it is cooked to perfection. Now let it cool completely. At this point, keep a plate, slightly bigger than the cooker and invert carefully and gently and the steamed cake would come off easily. If you’ re having trouble, gently try to lift the steamed cake with a flat spatula, from the bottom and sides and then try to invert ; once you get Kalathappam/Kalthappam perfectly round in shape, gently flip and serve with the crowned part as the top ; slice into wedges and serve with tea/coffee.
Based on the very little information I could grab on this snack, I had a strong inclination to brand this snack as a Northern Kerala delicacy as it is generally perceived to be, until I saw this video below from a cooking segment, telecast by a Malayalam TV Channel. For those who cannot understand Malayalam, this segment throws light into the fact that Kalathappam is a popular snack, not just in Northern Kerala but around the extreme Southern regions of Kerala too, though with a slightly different interpretation which can be beautifully categorized under the term, regional variation. In these parts, they call this snack Kalathappam or Melchatti Appam. The main variation in this recipe is the use of cooked green grams/cheru-payar and the video shows how ingredients like rice flour, jaggery, coconut and cooked green grams are blended and stirred continuously to a thick batter and finally finishing the cooking with ghee roasted nuts and raisins, drizzled with more ghee and then covered and topped with coal to finish off the final cooking. That makes me conclude that at times, there is a general tendency on some of our part to generalize a cuisine without having proper research or based on some half cooked information out there or simply because of our ignorance or lack of understanding.

A bouquet of thanks to Revathy , My aunt and my mother :)


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

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tharavu Curry – Kerala Style Duck Curry

With our feet up on the coffee table, holding hands and watching television, cozily snuggled under a soft fabric, the chillness of which caressing my skin as the cool breezy night winds stream through the French windows, my brain was busy recollecting the taste and fragrance of the ghee flavored rice my tastebuds soaked up that noon for lunch……and I heard myself asking CJJ:

"….ennathe neichoru nalla ruchi aayirunnalle…?.entho onnu different aayirunnu…. “ ( . that ghee rice tasted great today…something was different, wasn’t it? )

He responded sharing the same tone and depth of satisfaction …” sherikkum…..nalla adipoli aayirunnu…..njan randu moonnu thavana eduthu…..” ( truly….it was awesome.. I went for 2-3 servings)

….njanum kore kazhichu….” I replied and with a playful smile tucked around the corner of my lips, I added hesitantly yet with a pinch of pride in my words “ njan ondakkeethaa….. :)” ( me too had lotss… know, I made it ? )

Even before the words got slipped into air, he blurted out the next line, “ pakshe aa curry ugran aayirunnu…..athaa athrem kazhiche….” ( but that curry tasted awesome….that’s why I had so much of food..

That was like an unexpected slap on my face…… a gentle slap smeared with love. I didn’t feel bad as the curry under discussion was my mother’s duck curry and I knew how much of care and attention to detail had gone into the preparation of the same. I have never been able to understand and appreciate the depth of flavours in this particular dish as I am not a duck lover, to put it mildly but I have always noticed duck curry enthusiasts like CJJ and my uncle relishing her work of art with disturbing silence at the table which is a true indication of their approval and appreciation of the dish. Sharpness from the roasted powdered spices gets well balanced with the mild sweetness of the coconut milk and the potato wedges dunked in the pool, soak up the heat and fatty flavours of the meat and spices like a sponge. Adding coconut milk to meat preparations is a method that got introduced to my mother’s kitchen through our extended family members hailing from the Thrissur region of Kerala and from the time she realised the depth of taste the oil adds when coconut milk gets slow-cooked while simmering, she has been adding coconut milk to this particular duck preparation.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients: (Approx.)
To Marinate:
  • Around 1 kg Duck, cut and cleaned into pieces
  • ¼ cup coriander powder, lightly dry roasted
  • 4 tsp ( or to taste ) red chilly powder, lightly dry roasted
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder, freshly made
  • 1 tsp homemade masala powder/garam masala
  • 3 tsp ginger and garlic paste, freshly made
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 whole potato, medium size, washed and cleaned
To Sauté & Cook :
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 big onion, thinly sliced ( around 1 cup)
  • 1 cup small red pearl onion , thinly sliced
  • 6-8 Indian green chillies, slit lengthwise
  • 1 ½ inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 medium cloves of garlic, thinly sliced ( Optional/ As per taste & tolerance)
  • 1 tsp + 1 tsp homemade masala powder/garam masala
  • ½ cup freshly extracted coconut milk, medium consistency
  • 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cup water or as required
  • 1 large sprig of curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Marinate duck with all the spices and herbs, listed under the marinate section, except the whole potato and leave it covered on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes.
  • After the 30 minutes window, place the whole potato on top of the marinated meat layer in a pressure cooker and pressure cook until cooked and soft. Duck usually takes more time to get cooked, compared to chicken.
  • Heat oil in a mann-chatti/clay pot or a large wok; sauté thinly sliced big onion and small onion till they begin to turn soft; now add thinly sliced ginger, garlic and green chillies and cook till it leaves an aroma. At this stage, add homemade masala powder and stir in low-medium heat, until a nice whiff of aroma comes; remove the cooked whole potato from the pressure cooker and add only cooked meat to this masala base and also add little water, about ¼ cup to the pressure cooker to wipe off the traces of spices and herbs from the cooker , to add to the cooking pot. Let it sit together for 1-2 minutes, in heat. Meanwhile, peel off the skin and gently cut the potato into wedges and add to the meat . Add ½ cup medium consistency coconut milk and mix everything well ; to this pour about 1 ¼ cup water or just enough to cover the meat ( mainly to get the gravy), and bring to a boil in medium heat. Add curry leaves and 1 tsp homemade masala powder and mix well and let it simmer for another 20-30 minutes, in low heat, till the gravy thickens and the oil coating ( from the fatty meat as well as the freshly extracted coconut milk) floats on top. Switch off the stove and let it sit for atleast 30-60 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with rice or any leavened or unleavened bread.
Related posts:
Mutton Curry Ghee Rice Roast Chicken Vegetable Ghee rice Kerala Chicken Stew

For more options, check the complete recipe index.


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

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kuzhalappam – An old world crispy treat from Kerala….A rookie attempt…..Hits n misses…..

For me the thought of Kuzhalappam takes me back to those days when I sneaked a peek into my grandma’s built in snack cabinet and reached out for those crispy tubular shaped snacks during those afternoons, when she was enjoying a nap after lunch and I had a craving to munch on something……it also takes me back to those days when my father took me to the bakery in our city to get our quota of pastries and sweets and me grabbing a packet of Kuzhalappam, at times dusted with sugar or lightly coated with sugar syrup. I also have vague memories of women selling stacks of Kuzhalappam packets wrapped neatly in clear plastic, at those densely crowded Ulsava Parambu/ festival grounds………

But when it comes to my mother’s generation, I learn that they associate this snack with a different set of memories. My mother’s recollections about this snack does not include a bakery or those stacks of crispy tubes wrapped neatly in plastic…….for her, it was part of festival fare- like Onam or Christmas ,when women in the family fry up a huge batch of Kuzhalappam or Achappam or some other traditional snacks, so they could feed their guests, distribute as gifts and also fill up large boxes to send it over, on their daughter’s return to her husband’s place…… was also part of functions like Kalyanam/marriages where such homemade treats were served to guests on the eve of marriage/Kalyana Thalennu…………these crispy treats also made regular appearances at special occasions like ‘Vayaru Kaanal Chadangu’ , when a woman was pregnant and as the custom goes, her family visited on the seventh month of her pregnancy to bring her back to her house, from her husband’s place; on such occasions, an array of traditional snacks were prepared at the girl’s side, either by women folks in the family or by a specially appointed pachakakkaran/cook , to carry them along on their visit, and Kuzhalappam was one of the main items.

On one of those days when nostalgia hit the shores and craving for the taste and smell of home was at its high, I ventured out to try my hands on this old time favorite, without realizing that it requires certain skill, expertise and patience. Did I get the desired result? Well………

Well, you might notice some differences in terms of thickness and size between the fried ones and the ones in the pictorial below. The ones in the pictorial are from my first attempt last year around Christmas time and the fried ones are from our recent second attempt. I had my lucky stars smiling at me pleasantly on my first attempt, till the shaping part but everything took a sudden U –turn when I started frying them up. Not only did the fried ones failed to crisp up well, but they got browned quickly, forcing me to remove them from spitting hot oil. As always, , my mother ,my 911 for kitchen mishaps shared her words of wisdom listing out the causes for all mishaps, and Lesson No: 1 Learnt was: Heat needs to be adjusted often, allowing it to cook on its own and crisp up well; it is not as easy or quick as frying Pappadam !

Another challenge was that the tubular shaped ones started flattening out as though a flying saucer fell on it as soon as I dropped them in hot oil, giving me an end product that can be called Kuzhalappam without its typical ‘Kuzhal” or that tubular look. Lesson Learnt: There needs to be enough oil for the prepared dough tubes to get fully drenched in oil and as soon as you drop one. No skimping on oil.

The ones that showed resistance to flatten out and maintained a not-so-pathetic shape did not crisp up enough and had sogginess to it. Lesson Learnt: When the two edges of the circle are pulled together and folded to seal tightly, overlapping should not be more than ¼ inch as that part takes more time to cook and crisp up to perfection, compared to rest of the thinnest parts of the tube.

With the realisation that it was the shaping part and frying part that led to the catastrophe on my first attempt, conscious effort was made to take care of those areas but over confidence on the dough part forced me to blindly follow the same measurements for the rice flour- coconut milk proportion and the result was a bit disturbing; as the dough was rolled out and folded and shaped, it started tearing up a bit here and there and at that point , the bulb of enlightenment lit and Lesson 4 & 5 learnt: A very soft and smooth dough is mandatory to roll out thin flat discs and to get such a perfect consistency, it is best to know your rice flour well and depending on the nature/quality of flour, quantity of coconut milk should be adjusted ( increased or decreased); also it is to be made sure that dough does not dry up quickly, so always keep it covered, locking in the moisture coming from warm dough.

So, here’s how it finally turned out for us with all the above mentioned hits n misses and I am sharing the recipe we followed.

Recipe Source: Aunt S from my paternal side.
  • ¾ cup rice flour, lightly roasted and cooled
  • ¾ to 1 cup coconut milk, medium consistency ( varies with rice flour quality)
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds/ellu
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds/jeerakam
  • 2 tsp small red pearl onion/Kunjulli, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying
  • Heat medium consistency coconut milk and bring to a boil. To this add, salt and minced small onion and stir well; then add rice flour and mix everything with a wooden spoon and when everything is wet enough , add cumin seeds and sesame seeds, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let it rest for about 10 minutes. When the dough is warm enough to touch, knead the dough gently until it gives a smooth and soft texture.
  • Divide the dough into small balls and start rolling out one at a time, into flat thin rounds and using a cookie cutter or lid of a jar, cut them into a perfect circle. As shown in the picture, pull the edge from two sides, folding to place one on another (overlapping only about ¼ inch or so) and press down with your fingers and seal them tightly. Sprinkle some all purpose flour/ Maida while rolling out the dough to make the process easier. (Note: Back home, this is done on a cassava or banana stem ( kappa kuzhal/Vaazha-thandu), to get the tubular shape. You can use anything in a tubular shape but I find my alternative method easier, atleast it works well for me.)
  • When you are done rolling out and making about 5-6 tubes, heat oil in a small wok/cheenachatti; when it is really hot, slide in one at a time, making sure that there is enough oil for the prepared dough tubes to get fully drenched in oil and as soon as you drop one, you see the oil bubbles multiplying . Adjust the heat to make sure that it doesn’t burn or brown immediately and has enough time and heat, to crisp up perfectly. Keep flipping the sides, until it is cooked well and when crisp, remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a paper towel; fry rest of them and when it is completely cooled, store in an airtight container. Repeat this process till you finish rolling out, shaping and frying the entire batch. (Note: You can fry 2-3 at a time, depending on the size of your wok and your expertise)
  • Serve as a crispy treat with tea or coffee or just munch on them whenever you feel like.
Variation: If you want the sweeter version of it, you may coat it with sugar syrup, after frying, as diamond cuts are coated with sugar syrup. You may also dust it with some superfine sugar (after frying) to lend a mild sweetness to Kuzhalappam. I feel this sweetened version is a bakery innovation and not an old world discovery.

Hope you read through the mishaps mentioned in the introduction and take tips before venturing out to fry up a batch of these crispy treats. It takes practice and time to perfect these crispy tubes, so don’t be disheartened if it turns out flattened or burnt or soggy. Know your ingredients, polish your skills and master the technique, you are sure to get a taste of the old world.

For more snack recipes, check complete recipe index.


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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Orotti/Rotti & Poruthal Ada – Flat rustic breads from Kerala..

Warning: Long one…Continuing from my previous post….

Till the day I left home and homeland, Kerala food was what my mother cooked at home, what I ate from my relatives and friends’ houses and those roadside eateries, Thattukada and small scale restaurants. Even before I realised, I lost count of the large chunk of women and a small bunch of men out there who fired up the stove for me and spread out a sumptuous array of palate tickling home cooked meals, sautéed with warmth and sprinkled with love ….. never did I bother to find out the recipe nor did I care to understand how it tasted different from my mother’s preparation. For me, the only thing that mattered was the taste...the taste that delighted my taste buds and made me a slave to their dining tables…….the taste that made me go for one more round of Parippu Pradhaman, the taste that forced me to go for one more slice of Meen Varuthathu….the taste that coaxed me to go for that last piece of cake which compelled my lecturer to baptise me with the name aka …………

After I got married and gained the courage to cook or discuss food with friends hailing from other parts of Kerala, I started having genuine doubts on the culinary legacy left behind by grandmas and great grandmas in my family mainly because there was always someone or the other to point out that “onion is never used in Avial” ……. “Kaalan has to be cooked with raw plantain and not ripe one or the consistency has to be thick and not the medium pouring consistency”…….”Paalappam has to be made from ground rice and coconut batter and not by mixing rice flour and coconut milk”…….the list was endless. Those people who maintained such claims seemed to be having their own perceptions (or misperceptions?) about how a particular Kerala dish should be. We, CJJ & I , were not saints either! As products with solid roots in the central part of Kerala, we had a disdain for all those who made Fish curry with Vaalan Puli/Sambar tamarind instead of Kudam Puli/gamboge. We considered it a sacrilege to add Vaalan Puli/Sambar tamarind in a fish curry, not realising that it is widely used in kitchens from the northern part of Kerala to make a fish curry.

This type of insistence on the actual list of ingredients or what is perceived to be the ‘authentic’ method of cooking left the rookie in me baffled each time doubting the culinary traditions of my family and questioning my mother whenever she passed me recipes as followed in her kitchen. For most of my “Are you sure that’s how it is generally done ‘coz they said they don’t add that for this preparation” type of questions , my mother tried to throw in some light into my head saying that “…I do it this way…but some people don’t…especially those from this area….” Without really using heavy jargons like regional variations in Kerala cuisine or local food habits or food preferences of an individual or a community, my family kept repeating that they follow a particular technique and at the same, the method followed at some of their friends’ places, coming from a different region in Kerala, was slightly different or fully unique.

Days and years passed by, regularly coming across such claims and arguments over professed way of cooking and I was almost at the brink of losing my sanity over what constitutes an ‘authentic’ preparation. Though I have traveled from one tip of Kerala to the other, it was never a culinary travel learning about the existing regional variations in cooking or food habits or exploring the virgin and undiscovered culinary pockets of Kerala. Yet a certain level of enlightenment and awareness came through some well written articles and blogs out there that helped me sort out some of my confusions about the subtle variations in cooking; they also helped me empty the brain clogged up with some of my own as well as forced upon set of assumptions and presumptions, and inevitably drew up my own conclusion that the word authentic is more like a cosmetic term marketed and glorified by a group of restaurant owners abroad to lure the expats and domestic resort owners that mushroomed during the tourism era to attract the tourists flocking to Kerala and it did confuse some of us atleast at some point in time and complicated things for us.

Along with that realization, I was slowly getting some explanation as to why a certain dish is cooked in a particular way in my household and why it is cooked differently in our friend’s place and why it is paired differently by individuals or communities. The day I read Mallugirl’s post on how her family devour Puttu with fish curry for breakfast, I was thrilled to prove to CJJ that I am not a weirdo as he could never swallow the sight of me relishing a plate of puttu mixed with fiery red fish curry!! On another occasion, I found immense joy when his maternal grandma scoffed at her own daughter and family who enjoyed Kappa Puzhukku and Meen Curry for lunch as the old woman could not digest the idea of serving this ever popular combo as lunch; for her it was a tea time special though she personally preferred to pair kappa with Mulaku Chammanthi. It was a perfect opportunity for me to point out to CJJ that it was not strange on my part to get surprised when I heard their lunch menu on one of my first visits to their place. The idiosyncrasies in terms of food habits that I found in CJJ’s family did not stop with that. They named my favourite evening snack Poruthal Ada - a flat rustic bread made of rice flour and grated coconut, wrapped in banana leaf parcels and roasted on a clay pot and served with sweetened coconut milk – as Orotti. Not only did I find the name weird but also found their habit of pairing it with a savory side dish, as a breakfast item, a bit crazy until I read Annita’ s post on Orotti and learnt that such a combo exists and is again a classic example of variations in food habits and preferences. What is strange and awkward for some could be normal and comfort to others !

Over the years, especially since I started food blogging I have been well aware of the markedly visible regional variations in cooking and food habits and hence it did not surprise me much when some of you commented on my previous post that my aunt’s version of Ottada is what they call Orotti and thought it is a good idea to showcase how Orotti is cooked at CJJ’s place. While discussing this topic with my mother, I was excited to learn that my maternal grandma made the same thing but she called it Rotti and served as a breakfast along with a savory side dish. Only after marrying my father, my mother discovered the pleasures of roasting this Ada/flat bread wrapped in a banana leaf and roasting on a mann-chatti/clay pot, from my paternal side and they soaked the torn pieces of warm Ada in a pool of sweetened coconut milk and relished each spoonful with some of that sweetened coconut milk as an evening snack. Ever since she enjoyed the delights of that combo, she followed the same method and serving style whenever she cooked the same for her kids.

Some subtle variations in cooking method…….some differences in eating habits and pairing of food……..yet multiple names for something that’s made from the same set of ingredients. Interesting and dynamic, isn’t t?

Here’s the recipe for Orotti/Rotti
Ingredients: ( Makes about 3-4 breads )

  • 2 cups roasted rice flour (pachari/raw rice)
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 ¼ to 2 ½ cup hot boiling water ( varies as per rice flour)
  • Non stick or cast iron griddle
  • Make the dough by first mixing rice flour and salt; to this add the boiling hot water, just enough to make a soft and smooth dough; use a spoon to blend everything well and then add grated coconut and mix with the rice flour dough; when it is warm enough to touch, knead gently and make a smooth dough.
  • Heat a cast iron or non –stick griddle and when it is really hot, pull out a handful of dough – as big as a grapefruit or a big mango – and roughly shape it into a round one; place the dough on the heated griddle and with your fingers, gently spread out the dough into a flat one, with around ¼ inch thickness or as the one in the picture; dipping your finger in little water will make the it easier for you to spread the dough. Now close the griddle with a lid and cook for about 2-3 minutes on high heat and then remove the lid and flip. Continue to close it with lid and keep flipping until both the sides are cooked/roasted well, with tiny golden brown spots here and there. The moisture that gets locked up inside when closed with a lid, help to retain a certain level of softness while roasting/cooking on the griddle.
  • Serve as a breakfast with any savory dish. We served with some Kheema Masala, a delicious ground meat preparation with the perfect blend of spices and herbs.

Poruthal Ada

  • Same as the ones for making Orotti/Rotti
  • Banana/plantain leaves
  • Mann-chatti/Shallow clay pot
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups coconut milk, medium consistency
  • 6-8 tbsp sugar or to taste

  • Follow the same steps and measurements, given above for making Orotti/Rotti, to make the dough with rice flour and grated coconut.
  • Heat the mann-chatti/clay pot .
  • As the clay pot is getting heated, wash the banana leaves and pull out some dough and roughly shape into a round one; place it on the banana/plantain leaf flatten it using your fingers as in the picture; dipping your finger in little water will make the it easier for you to spread the dough. Fold the leaf from all the sides, wrapping and protecting the flattened dough and place it directly on the well heated mann-chatti/clay pot and cover with a lid, let it cook for about 5-10 mts; now flip the parcels, reduce the heat and let the other side cook; you will notice the banana leaves drying up and browning as Ada gets cooked/roasted. Flip both the sides one more time and cook for some more minutes until Ada is cooked/roasted well with charred spots here and there as in the pictures given above.

To Serve: Discard the charred banana/plantain leaves ; remove any leftover burnt pieces of the leaf glued to roasted Ada. ( Note: Personally I am fine with tiny bits and pieces of burnt ones here and there on my Ada as I enjoy that flavor when soaked with coconut milk). When roasted Ada is still hot, tear then into bite size pieces or cut them using a food safe scissors and soak the pieces into coconut milk, sweetened with sugar. There should be enough coconut milk for all the pieces to get drenched and let it soak for about 30 minutes. Take enough individual portions and serve the soaked ones drenching in coconut milk as shown in the picture above.


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