Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chakkara Vellam- A simple drink from the olden days, sprinkled with tales from Kannur.

A simple unpretentious drink by description yet the moment you gulp down that first sip the suspicious glance hidden at the corner of the eyes earlier, turns into one of a pleasant surprise followed by nodding of head in agreement. And if such a down to earth blend is accompanied with some vivid tales and imagery from the past, that’s a recipe to win your hearts. Such recipes come with a soul and character of its own.

Here’s one such treasure that came in my mailbox last Monday. I let you all have a glance at some parts of that mail where the daughter, Prathibha captures her dad’s tales from the past in a very engaging mail which took me to a bygone era I ve watched only in movies. Let’s extend a warm welcome for this dad-daughter duo.

Hi Shn,
Long time since I mailed you. How have you been?
Warning : Long Mail!! Read when you have time :)

I just checked your blog and saw the kinnathappam post. Used to love it when achamma used to make it. But hate the one you get in bakeries these days, esply that raw taste. Did you know bakeries used to be called appakoodu? Dad tells me people rarely used to buy stuff from appakoodu and usually snacks are made at home in bulk. Dad's younger bro used to clean up all kinnathapam kept at home and when guests come, it will be just the dabba which they keep snacks. And achamma used to make achan run to the appakoodu to get snacks.

Since you have been collecting long-lost recipes, I thought I will send you this one. Chakkara-Vellam(water). According to my dad, this drink used to be popular in his youth. If I quote him "eppozhokkeya ee pilleru oru koopiyum thurannu thanniyadichirikkunne, pandokke, aval kozhachathum chakkara vellavumayirunnu. Kaikku nalla bhalamulla oruthan aval kozhakkum. Innathe pole machine-il idicha aval alla.. atha kozhakkan menakkeda..." He fondly remembers the time when people used to gather around/below some bridge in Kannur and have aval and chakkara-vellam.

I tried this out and so thought will send you the recipe.

By Chakkara , it means karipetti or pananchakkara (and not sharkkara). They used to be wrapped up in coconut/palm leaves made into a kotta. We get Karipetti here, small blocks of it. ……………..

Chop 2 shallots finely. Add a small block of mashed karipetti to it and mix with water. Salt is optional. It can be used instead of moru-vellam. I am attaching the pics, they dont look all that great and shallot pieces look quite big in it. Frankly, it took a moment to adjust to the taste. But I liked biting into the kutty shallot peices when you drink it. It is different from all the other drinks I have tasted. So I'd recommend you try it out once. After all, there is absolutely no effort in making it. ……………

Dad has a background story for it also.

Pandokke aalkaar marichal, relatives-ne okke ariyikkaan othiri dooram nadannu ponam. So the neighbours and friends start out to different directions immediately after the death is announced. They might have to walk for hours or sometimes days(Talking about the days when even telegram was pretty rare). This drink is simple that it can be made easily and the karipetti gives a lot of energy they need to walk. The neighbours only do every arrangement for the funerals including cutting the trees(esply maavu) and chopping it up into logs. So on the 16th day after death, the family of the deceased give food/sadhya to the neighbours and others who helped out in order to thank them for helping. Though these days the same tradition goes on of giving feast on 16th or 48th day after the death.

Take care

He fondly remembers the time when people used to gather around/below some bridge in Kannur and have aval and chakkara-vellam”. Well, reading that line, I was tempted to give it a try and I did. I must admit, it is a lovely pair. Considering the fact that both Aval Nanachathu and Chakkara Vellam do not require any cooking, I could very well see her dad’s point of having it not only as a simple snack and drink but also as an energy drink to those people who walked miles and hours together to pass the message to the relatives of the deceased.

Prathibha has asked to mix finely chopped shallots/small pearl onions/Kunjulli and crushed Karipetti or Panamchakkara ( a variety of palm sugar), with water and written that adding salt is optional. But I added salt and noticed that it brings out the distinct flavours of palm sugar very prominently. I didn’t have Karipetti or Panamchakkara at home, but had a block of Thenginchakkara which is similar but made from the sap of coconut palm, I guess. While sipping it , I was having a strange thought it could very well be converted to an exotic mocktail/refreshing drink if you serve it chilled in a stylish martini glass and baptize with a fashionable catchy name!! :)

Prathibha , Thanks a ton for sharing such an interesting read and also letting me publish it here. Hope you and your dad will have more tales and recipes of the past, to share with all of us. I extend my whole-hearted gratefulness to both of you :)

Related Posts:
Sambharam Puttu Uppumavu Chukku Kaapi Chukku Kaapi Chukku Kaapi Chukku Kaapi


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  1. Woow....Desi Martini !!!!
    I think add a dash of Pannakallu to Chakkara Vellam and u hv sincilating cocktail...
    Good to see a wave of Kannur recipes on ur blog...I hope u gt insipired by only the gud things Kannur is associated with...and dnt go on a sudden hartal in a very Kannur style :)

  2. I am really enjoying these forgotten recipes of the olden days.

  3. Such little effort needed...a recipe meant for the likes of me :)
    Never heard of this one before...infact the existence of karipetti itself was revealed to me only in the recent past. I've heard that it in the days before sugar was commonly used, kattan chaaya was usually drunk interspersed with bites of this very karipetti as the tea was unsweetened.

  4. I am not sure I have ever tried this... I am sure it tastes yum ... by the look I would like to taste some right now ... sigh :( ....

  5. Its a new recipe to meeeee.... sounds great.

  6. Hi!

    Was in india for three weeks and urs was one of the blogs i checked often to see the beauty of the pics...

    Even though a Kannurian,dint hear about this drink.....not made in our homes....or probably it is an old drink!....An one more thing as u told, we call 'chakkara' for karippetty that is the dark brown one either in the shape of 'Chiratta' or wrapped in palm leaves and 'Vellam' ('lla' not as in vellam meaning water but as in velluvili) for sharkkara that comes in smaller blocks and is light brown coloured one...:)..Just for ur info,need not publish...

  7. We call this "Panakam" here in Chennai..a drink associated with Vishnu Temples..(minus shallots)..and tastes so good!..

    Chakkara vellam is new to me...should taste heaven!!

  8. Are you planning to settle down in kannur? :P So many rare kannur recipes :) Again a new dish to me..

  9. Small Talk, hehehhe....adding panankallu sounds exotic and cool :P and LOL @ that hartal thing...hmm.....lets see :)

    Jayasree, thanks!

    Mini, yeah i ve heard the same thing from my father....and he prefers karipetti in his chukku kappi.it's easily available back home but not for us :(

    Priya,u can make it at home...no effort at all...

    Tina, for me the name itself was new...:)

    Shabs, though chakkara and karipetti ( palm sugar) is same in our place, we call sharkkara for the dark brown jaggery and vellam for the light brown jaggery...must be a very mild regional difference.hope u had a great vacation

    Bharathy, Isn't panakam/panagam made with jaggery ? and i thought it's a drink popular in all southern states..

    Dhanya, heheh...it just happened as chain posts :)) and cant resist posting 'em when such rare ones come from a bunch of lovely readers, especially when the recipe is so simple to make...no cooking :P


  10. I haven't heard of this combination of shallots and chakkara. I might try with jaggery. I like this series where you talk about all old and almost forgotten recipes.

  11. wow... looks very tasty... and it was nice reading that story...i will give it a try....

  12. My search for chakkara has started. :)

  13. Hi Shn,

    Now thats what you call lightning speed! Karthave! I mailed you and the same evening you made it and next I see your blog post! :)

    I am glad you liked it. Like Shabs said, nt many kannuarians knw abt it now. My cousins blink and assure me there is no such drink! haha! I hope it is not forgotten for ever, now that its in one of the most famous blogs of blogosphere. :)

    But I really appreciate your efforts to treasure the good ole world's recipes! will keep u posted if i find any other interesting stuff.

  14. You have got a very nice space.You recipe is new to me .Sounds interesting.Do visit http://padhuskitchen.blogspot.com/

  15. No offense, but seriously what happened to this blog?? So much blah blah! I used to visit often earlier, but lately there are so many interesting cooking blogs around, that seriously, step it up! Know where to draw the line girl! So much unnecessary talk about a simple drink??!!

  16. Hb, thank you...happy to know that u re enjoying these posts :)

    SV, thank you...

    Bindhu, good luck :)

    Prathibha, thanks a ton....share more stories and such treasures...u can even think of doing a guest post here....i love such simple ones...especially from the old world....hope ur father amd aunts will have more to share with us...and the second one, hopefully i will get to it at the earliest and publish too...thanks a lot :)

    Padhu, thank you...i loved all ur veg carvings...beautiful page u got :)



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