Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pazhampuri (pronounced Pa-the-Malayalam-roll-your-tongue‘Ra’m-Pu-Ri)

                                                                            (took this pic from google images -

I’d just turned nineteen. It was my first trip to Kerala and I watched the lush green carpet whizz past me as I sat in the jiggety-jaggety KSRTC bus. With a cup of milky, sweet cardamom tea and a snack that I had never seen before, I got down to savor the heavily-hung morning mist, the gusts of unbelievable fresh air and a visual treat of a countryside swathed in green, with little brown huts tucked into its fold.

I don’t know if it was the circumstances that I first tasted my pazampuri in, or the delicious little snack itself –I was smitten. I mean, think about it, a batter-fried ripe banana?! In my home, we only heard and saw of vegetable slices being batter-fried into bajjis and bondas, and on the occasion of death anniversaries, the cooks dished up something called ‘sukhi untlu’- a coconut jaggery ball, batter-fried. That’s about it. But a ripe banana batter-fried into a golden, crisp snack—it was a moment of discovery. Twelve years later, my crush on this delicacy hasn’t diminished.

My mother-in-law knows my weakness for this snack, and willingly makes them for me when I’m in Cochin. You wake up from your afternoon nap with the aroma of freshly-made pazampuris wafting in the air. She did try them in Bangalore, but was very annoyed with the quality of Kerala pazham you get here! Not nice at all, she whined.

So here is how she makes it: Mix up a nice batter of maida, a bit of rice flour, sugar and cardamom powder with water. You can add a pinch of soda if you please. Take 2 Kerala bananas and cut them at the center, so you have two halves. Now slice each of these halves longitudinally, so you have thin, long slices of banana. Dip these banana slices into the batter and deep fry in sizzling hot oil. Transfer them on to a tissue paper and eat them hot with a cup of milky elaichi tea.

Ok, here’s my twist to the recipe. Although this is eaten as a snack in Kerala, you could serve it for dessert too! Just two simple, extra things to do: Coat the banana strips in honey (or even date syrup) and add some sesame seeds into the batter for a crunchiness that you’ll love. Dip these honey coated banana strips in the sesame batter and deep fry. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

It tastes out-of-the-world!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Herlikayi Anna

I don’t know what this lemony-citrusy fruit is called in English. It is about four times the size of a lemon with a green, leathery, shiny outside and a pulpy inside with seeds. It is seasonal in Bangalore usually making its appearance in Sep-Oct-Nov. Ask for ‘Herlikayi’ in the market, and if you do manage to buy some, grab them as they make way for some lovely recipes.

The most obvious thing to do is to pickle them with salt, chilli powder and asafetida. This pickle has a different, unusual tang as compared to the lemon pickle, and is simultaneously tart and bitter on the tongue. They make you eat truckloads during your post-natal grandma would sternly say, ‘this is the only pickle you’re allowed to eat now’. (who’s complaining!)

The other dish you can use these in is the chitranna. Proceed as you would for lemon rice. Heat some oil, add mustard, plenty of curry leaves, fresh grated coconut (be generous), roasted peanuts if you please, some broken red chillies, salt and chilli powder to taste. Mix this with steamed rice. Cut the Herlikayi into two halves and squeeze the juice generously on to the rice. Check for the taste- it is perfect if the tartness-bitterness, salt and chilli are all in balance. Eat right-away!

I’ve kept the best one for the last. This one’s a very rustic (read cool) way to consume this fruit and I love it. You chop the Herlikayi into two and keep aside. Mix salt and chilli powder and smear generously on both the exposed halves. Now switch on the gas to minimum heat and heat the fruit on the curved side-the exposed side is farther from the flame. You’re basically trying to release the juices and get them to blend in with the salt and chilli powder. Hold the fruit using tongs---requires some bit of deftness, but totally manageable! After about 6-8 minutes on the heat, remove and keep aside.
This is no party dish – this is meant for shameless, I’m-me, eating. You have to heap hot rice on to the plate and squeeze enough of this juice, mix in ghee and eat (remove any seeds that fall into the plate).
Try it and keep me posted, and if anyone has any other Herlikayi recipe tucked in somewhere, don’t forget to post them. Waiting…..

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Senigivithnalu Chutney Pudi

I love the humble peanut. Peanuts take me back to my mom’s native place-Naravalapalli- where beautiful ladies sat in the fields, and bumped groundnuts to the ground cracking them open and separating the peanut from it. They do this so fast that you hear a tap, a crack and a gentle throw amidst giggling and chattering—in a quick sequence. It is a beautiful amalgam of sounds.

The groundnut plant freshly plucked off the wet earth has the most amazing tasting peanuts: soft, crunchy, fleshy and tasty all at once. The wet earth stuck to the shell lends the nut an earthy aroma-an aroma of purity, innocence and a lush countryside.

Peanuts add so much texture and life into a dish. I hate the process of toasting, skinning and halving them before adding them into the puliyogare, pulusu atakulu, or any dish for that matter. Peanuts must be whole, shiny maroon, and lurking around aplenty in the dish!

Move aside peanut butter, I think the most beautiful, gorgeous delicacy that this nut lends itself into is the Senigivithnalu Chutney Pudi, or Kadalekayi Chutney Pudi.

In the Naravalapalli home, we would be greeted by Ramakka and Narayanamma heaving and pounding the roasted and skinned peanuts with tamarind, jaggery, roasted red chillies, rock salt and a truckload of garlic! Their breath is a hum which is in sync with the pounding (thump-hum-thump-hum-thump-hum)-it’s beautiful; I could hug them right now for doing it so well!

And by the end of it, a big bowl of fresh, crackly, crunchy and spicy pudi awaits you at dinner. In my father’s family, eating modestly is the norm-dad and all my uncles being picky, unadventurous eaters-but in the village, it is a different tale altogether. We scooped out huge tablespoons of the pudi on to our dinner leaves (no, no plates please) and mixed it up unabashedly with the rice and ghee and tucked in. And if dinner is served on the terrace under the stars…..ah the joy is unmatched.

While the mixer in our kitchens simply cannot recreate this flavor, it is still a top-of-the-charts recipe. This one is from my maternal aunts and mom: Indira, Shamantha, Manjula and Malathi. A true-blue Naravalapalli original-don’t miss it!!


1 cup peanuts (the larger the nuts, the better)
5 pods of garlic
2-3 medium size red chillies
1 small ball of tamarind
1 small lump of jaggery
1 tsp rock salt
Oil for roasting


Roast the peanuts in a kadai, without using any oil. The skin must be browned, and must separate easily from the nut. Place the roasted nuts on a plate and rub your hand against them, in sweeping movements, so the skin loosens, and you can blow these away.
Heat some oil in the kadai and roast the chillies and garlic in it. Add the tamarind, jaggery and salt and roast it all for another minute. Leave it to cool.

Blend this mix with the peanuts in the mixer. A brief run will do, as the texture must be crunchy. Store in an airtight container. Keeps well for a week, keeps you well for that week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Slice Of Paradise!

A glimpse of fruits and vegetables drooping down tree branches and swaying lazily in the breeze is manna to sore, city eyes. I’m sure you agree. My dear friend Jayashree and I jumped with joy when we when visiting the Parkfield Resotel, off Chintamani main road. We were out on a recce inspecting resorts before we finalized on one for our impending office trip.

With glasses of chilled, fresh mango juice (the juice was fresh and sweet with no added sugar) we walked beside Bindu, the care taker who showed us around the place. A lung-full of this air can do you good-and with wisps of your hair fluttering in the warm breeze, and your feet touching the soft grass-you just can’t help breaking into a song.

The fruit and vegetable orchard did it for us. It is a vast, wildly-growing, mini forest where every tree, shrub and plant had something to offer in terms of its fruit, root or leaf. Huge golden yellow pomegranates touching the earth as the small tree refuses to bear its weight anymore, unripe, green guavas yet to attain adulthood, a wild patch of mint spreading an intoxicating aroma in the garden, huge papaya clusters waiting to be picked….we explored every nook and corner soaking in the ripe scents that enveloped us.

Purple-streaked brinjals; bright orange bitter gourds peeping out of the green foliage; cabbage patches with huge fleshy leaves; bottle gourds, ridge gourds, and lady’s fingers looking ten times healthier than their seniors who sit pretty in the food market shelves; oh, this was a sight to see.

The icing was the mango orchards- Malgova, Totapuri and Neelam varieties mostly, the sweet scents invited everyone from the mooing cows, to the cawing crows and the hissing snakes even…….so we had to watch our step!

We returned to Parkfield for the trip and I ensured that everyone go and see the orchard. Bindu mentioned that we could go and pick the fruits and veggies we wanted and buy them right here. I swear John Verghese bought at least 15 kilos of mango (he says 11), and so did Praveen. Vishal bought some pomegranates as well and said that the gardener threw in a bunch of mint for free, and Lakshmi bought massive looking cucumbers along with the mango-for her mom to make pickles.

I wish Parkfield gives customers charming little wicker baskets for picking this fresh produce, as it would add to the magic of this little orchard experience. Oh and if they ever give it a name, I think it must be called ‘a slice of paradise’.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Onion Sambar is ready for dinner!

It often happens that you find a song so catchy that the tune just settles in your head refusing to budge. I’m presently latched on to one. This song is not only catchy, but extremely cute.
Why am I talking music in a food blog? Well, because the song in the spotlight is actually a recipe. Imagine that.
I bought my son the Karadi Rhymes CD this January- and yeah, we’re so in love with it, the both of us: 2 ½ year old Samit, and __ year old me!
This CD (it is a must-buy!) has songs rendered by the adorable and spunky Usha Uthup and covers various contextual ‘Indian’ situations: trains, kites, monkeys, temples, monsoons, onion sambar and more.
Yeah, Onion Sambar!

The rhyme goes something like this:

Peel the Onion, Dice them small
Soak tamarind in water that’s warm
Cook some dal and mash it soft
Add some salt and turmeric strong…………..

Coconut and red chillies
Roast and grind them ever so fine
Add the paste to the dal to simmer…..

Onion Sambar is ready for dinner!
Ready for dinner, ready for dinner………

(I didn’t take help from the CD at all; told you I’ve been humming this!)

So while we hum this day and night, it got me thinking about the perfect onion sambar recipe.
Bubbling hot, thick, and bursting with the fragrance of onions, this sambar makes a riotous combination with rice, idlis, or even better, with ragi mudde.
And the best onions are the small ones. These little warriors so endorse the old saying, ‘good things come in small packages’. They are pungent, sharp in flavor and a perfect fit for South Indian cuisine. My mother-in-law chops them fine, fries them in coconut oil with mustard, garlic and bay leaves, and uses them as tadka (or seasoning) in most of her curries. It is a dash of super flavor!

Ok, here’s a version pulled out from my mom’s kitchen!


1 cup toor dal
200 gm small onions peeled
1tsp turmeric
Water for boiling the dal
A small ball of tamarind soaked in warm water
Salt to taste
Two pinches of asafetida
½ teaspoon jaggery
A spring of curry leaves
Mustard for seasoning
Ghee for seasoning

Roast and grind into a paste:
2 tbps fresh coconut (grated)
½ teaspoon jeera
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
4 red chillies


Pressure-cook the dal. Steam the onions till they are soft (don’t pressure cook, as they will simply disintegrate into the dal. Add the turmeric, salt, jaggery, and tamarind into the dal and simmer on open medium heat. Add the coconut paste and continue to simmer for another 6 minutes. By this time the sambar would bubble on the surface and give out a lovely aroma.
In a separate pan, heat the ghee (clarified butter) till it melts, add the mustard seeds and when it splutters, add the asafetida and the curry leaves. Turn off the heat.

Transfer the dal into the serving bowl and pour the ghee seasoning over it. Onion Sambar is ready for dinner!

Gorge on it. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chutney Tricks

For me (and I presume for most south Indians) a good meal must have: rice, ghee, one nice chutney, one vegetable maybe, spicy and piping hot rasam, well-set curd and a tangy pickle. The pickle definitely adds zing to the meal, but a good chutney is like a magic wand – SWOOSH and it sets your meal chugging merrily on the right track.

My mom’s treasure chest of chutneys is pretty deep. She can create chutney with the regular tomato; the unyielding ridge gourd; the acerbic radish; the quirky, piquant gongura; and why even with the plain old cucumber. Oh these chutneys are intrinsic to an Andhra meal-can do without sambar and rasam, but chutney, no way! These chutneys, with hot rice and ghee, catalyze the entire meal making it that much more exciting!

The one chutney that I absolutely vouch for is the coarse, raw tomato chutney. It leaves you absolutely delighted! And for this, the slippery, shiny green tomato is a must. So just head to your local vegetable bazaar and ask the vendor for these fresh, little things, they come with stalks intact and look absolutely wonderful!
Bring them home and dish up this chutney like zip, zap zoom–it won’t take you more than 15-20 min.

The flip side: This is fresh chutney that must be consumed preferably, the same day—maximum 2-3 days if you refrigerate it.

Go-on, this one in particular is fun to do!


½ kg green tomatoes, remove the stalks, wash, clean and quarter
2 onions (medium-sized), chopped
4 red chillies broken into pieces
½ teaspoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon jaggery
Salt to taste
2 pinches of asafetida
½ teaspoon mustard
A sprig of bay leaves
2 teaspoons chopped coriander
1 tbps oil


Heat oil in a kadhai. Add the mustard seeds and when they hiss and splutter add the broken red chillies, the chopped ginger, the bay leaves and stir well. Now add the chopped onions and stir again until it is pink and soft.
Throw in the chopped green tomatoes and mix well. Add the asafetida, jaggery and the salt and mix until it spreads well. Keep the heat on till the tomatoes wilt and turn soft.

Transfer this entire mixture into a blender, and send it whirring not more than 5 seconds. This chutney is meant to be coarse (if you like it fine instead of chunky, blend it for another 5 seconds). Add the chopped coriander, mix well and transfer into a serving bowl.

I can’t help but repeat myself like a parrot; but this tastes its absolute best with rice and ghee. Enjoy…