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 aakrantham.com aka gluttony.com …………

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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  1. Lovely clicks, oratti makes me drool esp with the topping :)

  2. I love how you use regular Malayalam words in each recipe instead of trying to translate everything into English. This brings a greater sense of authenticity to your food! Although I've grown up in the US, I still feel as though I can relate to your memories in my own way with every recipe. (maybe I'm just lucky to have parents that cooked a lot!)

  3. I totally understand hw regional variations in classic everyday dishes cn sumtimes be undigestable...
    Me being from central Kerala cnt stand coconut in Sambar which I reckon is a must hv in Trichur...
    Or the fact the towards Talasherry they mk fish curry with curd (horrors!!!)
    For all the differences I hv abt Northern Kerala recipes...I drool over Kinnathappam (Yummmmm)
    So I guess in the tiny little state of ours we hv as many differences as similarities...
    Best part abt these variations are with humble rice & coconut we have learnt to conjure up a feast !!!

  4. Thanks! This is new to me, looks wonderful and is making my mouth water! Gotto do this one of the weekends:)

  5. Awesome pictures shn..I can understand how eating habits change and mingle most times..:)..

  6. My BIL did the same eat puttu with meencurry.

  7. Even I love puttu with meen curry and my husband looks at me as though I am from an alien land :-)

    At home, 'Orotti' used to be wheat flour, coconut and jaggery, made the way you have described. Made it recently and the kids loved it.

  8. My mom too makes this.......looks delicious..

  9. My amma used to make a variation of this.. She adds jeera and chuvannulli instead of grated coconut. I guess even all 3 would also be a good combination.. She used to serve it with coconut milk..

  10. This post is really fantastic.What a good read.And now I have to decide which one to make.Oh dear! Thanks Shn.And I never knew the names of some of these although I have tasted some of them somewhere.Puttu with fish curry you say?Must try that one!

  11. Shn,
    I always believe that recipes vary from one home kitchen to other...and the way it's being prepared also ..to me ,what matters most is "good food" ... and these looks absolutely delicious :)..
    hugs and smiles

  12. Hi mishmash,
    we call this kai pathiri (central kerala, muslims). It is nice to know all the different variations of the same dish. You are doing a great job.

  13. s has left a new comment on your post "Orotti/Rotti & Poruthal Ada – Flat rustic breads f...":

    its delicious s.. mekes me want to reach out and grab it...you are really are a genius...

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  14. Hi, I enjoy all your recipes and have tried several of them.

    In Nagercoil (old Southern Travancore, now Tamilnadu) where I hail from, this same recipe is followed using cast iron griddle. However, the name is another thing, it is called pOl. I wonder if it is called pOl in any other part of Kerala. Sometimes sugar is added. pOl is a tea time snack.

    The manchatti/plantain leaf version is very tempting and I will be trying it soon.

    BTW, Puttu and Pork curry are a popular combination in Nagercoil.

  15. You write so well ! SIGH!!!

    I LOVE meen curry with anything! Be it puri,puttu,chapathi,dosa ...anything!

    The pics look good AS ALWAYS!!!


  16. poruthal adakku "ilayil parathi" ennum jhagalude nattil parayaru undu.
    orotti looks lovely.
    some eat puttu with egg curry for breakfast in malabar side.i can't even think abt having non veg in the morning.:)

  17. dear mish,
    i'm yet to read your recipe, but your post about the regional variations was quite interesting. you're perfectly correct. it is the 'regional variations,' if we put it in technical terms, as much as the dialectical variations of malayalam language. it is actually these regional variations that lend depth to any cuisine. just imagine if fish curry was cooked in the same way throughout kerala, how boring it would have been !
    or, if sambar or avial was the same stuff everywhere !
    thank god we have so much of regional variations in our culinary tradition that it takes a whole lifetime even to explore just kerala !
    and, i'm sometimes really sad to see that kerala cuisine is projected especially by the tourism industry as limited to a small variety... only if the restaurants and tourism sector knew what they were missing !

  18. Lovely clicks! Oratti is new to me. Lovely write up. Will try it for sure

  19. Another good read..thanks for sharing all those traditional and authentic recipes.. and surely it made me think of some more from my childhood..
    saw ur Alli pidi recipe... dont u make pidi+nadan kozhi curry?...I bet u will love it...:) then unda+ulli chammanthi... kanalil chutta nendra pazham... vazhayilayil pothinu kanalil chutta koonu(mushroom) thoran.... we used to get lot of edible mushrooms from our land once monsoon starts...
    then the meen peera pattichathu made of the 'paral meen' or kozhuva...Here I tried to recreate it with smelt fish...Though it was not near in taste, lookwise it was very close...:)
    avalosu podi+pazham... chakka ada in edana ila(Kumbil appam)..
    then ari varuthu podichathu sharkkarayum thengayum cherthu nanchathu...This is one of my mom's special item... she fries matta rice(kuthari) till brown and puffy...then powder it and later mix with jaggery and lot of shreaded coconut... and she will make it into the shape of big balls..One will be filling for each..

    I would love to see if u blog any of above items... Also can u blog masala dosa sometime? though there are 100 other recipe, would love to see ur version as well as those tempting photos...:)

  20. am just wondering how i can suscribe to ur blogs....my hubby is from kerala and your recipes are just what i need to satisfy his taste buds

    the recipes are absolutely wonderful....and ur post are a walk into kerala for me, who has not had the joy of visiting any part of the state except kannur and kakkayam

  21. dear shn,
    today i came across another interesting post - in the blog, kariveppila. its a malayalam blog, by Su. the post is about 'Ilappathiri,' or Leaf Pathiri. This might add to your query into the 'Ottada' family of 'palaharam-s' ! check it out. here's the link -

  22. daivamey..We used to make this at home. We used to call it Ball and ethakka dost.
    Im so happy to find out that there is some nadan peru to it.By the way Im sending you a mail, check ok..:)

  23. Hi Mishmash, I found a recipe of kaipathiri which I thought might be interesting to you.

  24. OMG, I made that Orotti/Rotti a while back but never posted about it. I first saw the recipe on Maya's blog! Wow.

    You will be hearing from me soon :)

    Sending lots of love and hugs.

  25. Sharmilee, Thanks :)

    Jisha, oh...u re one lucky child for sure :) Thanks for dropping by and leaving some encouraging words.

    Small Talk,I have a friend from thrissur who thinks making sambar without adding roasting coconut is a sacrilege :) and u re so right about making a feast with this combo....!

    Sunshinemom, hmm..weekend project :)

    Srivalli, thanks :)

    Happy Cook, I have some company then :)

    Bindu, heheh...yeah alien is the word :)) and the variation with wheat flour, am sure i would love it too...should try that sometime. thx for that note :)

    Priyanka, thank you...

    Dhanya, yeah all those three things are there in the kaipathiri link given by the anon towards the end...so much of vairations right ?

    Poornima, Thanks a lot and quite happy to know that you enjoyed the post, though it was quite lengthy :) pinne...yeah try with fish curry, hope ur family doesnt think u ve gone crazy :D

    Jaya, you said it! so much of differences m uniqueness even in a day today or common recipes....thanks for dropping by...:)

    Anon, yeah,sometime back I was told that this is known as kaipathiri in some places but still was not sure of it...thanks a lot for confirming :)

    S, u sure can :)

    Suji, I think i ve heard of Poi thru some of my friends....puttu with meat curry is popular with many Keralites too....thanks for dropping by and contributing to the discussion...really appreciate it :)

    Ria, nice to see TV personalities and celebrities in this humble place of mine :P Thanks :)

    Prajusha, yeah,,elayil parathi is so colloquial right.....pinne, it's not just in malabar side, though from central part of kerala, our breakfast for last saturday was puttu and egg roast :P

    Renu, i think some made a conscious effort in the beginning to market our cuisine to western palettes as well by choosing the most exotic and palette friendly dishes( to westerners) of our cuisine but problem started when others continued to focus on the same set of dishes, without really making an attempt to showcase the other stars of our cuisine...it's really a sad situation..glad to know you enjoyed the post ..means a lot :)

    VS, Thank you :)

    Shankupushpam, Thanks a ton for such encouraging and morale boosting words :) and will sure blog atleast some of them ...infact meen peera and kumbil appam sans edana ela is already in my drafts folder....need to put together a post when time permits....pinne the last one, are u referring to ariyunda, if yes, i ve already blogged that one...pidi with kozhi curry, i ve heard it's awesome but never tried it....unda and ulli chammanthi, I ve never tasted it , i first saw it on annita's blog....if u have a different version,share it with me, i will try to blog ...also teach me that koon thoran, pls as it is the first time i m reading about such a preparation...pls mail me at shncjj@gmail.com,. if u re willing to share the recipe...and the chutta pazham, well, i must wait till my next vacation as kanal is not an option here :)

    Priyadarshini, Happy to know that u re enjoying this blog :) have been thinking of adding the subscribe option but never get around to it coz of lack of time...will do it soon.

    Renu, this ela pathiri and kaipathiri , orotti, ottada, poruthal ada, all seem to be coming from the same family.....it 's so much interesting to come across such recipes right :)

    Jina, ball and ethakka dost...pls tell me how u guys reached at that name :D Have replied to ur mail...

    Anon, thanks a lot for that link...though I visit her blog regularly, i had missed this post...thanks again :)

    Cynthia, wow...so did u like it..? i would love to see how u made it and those gorgeous pics :)


  26. Hi shn...U r addictive...I mean ur blog.....I wanted to post a recipe before leaving to india (oct 16, ie this friday) and saw ur new post....and im stuck in ur blog....everytime u post something, i go over the other posts again and again and again!!!
    I even read almost all the comments!!!

    In one the comments i read about the kozhi pidi stuff.....I had posted one in my blog with the colloquial name aanapathal...U can find it under malabar recipes...
    I think that is one dish that u need to try atleast once.....u will really enjoy it...You can put it here as well,I mean u can blog about it....I have no problem....

  27. I am from Kannur, I thought I will jot a few words just to add to your confusion- even though I don't know what is authentic. From what I know, ottada is the one with the sweet filling and orotta/ orotti is the plain thing.
    The rice covering is made in each case using the rice flour immersed in boiling water technique that you mentioned in this post. The batter is then either filled for ottada and steamed. For orotta it is mixed with some grated coconut and steamed plain in layered circles in banana leaves. :)

  28. This TV personality is very glad to be friends with you :)


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