Mouth­ful of Mem­o­ries

THE CITY’S CULI­NARY TRA­DI­TIONS ARE AS DI­VERSE AS ITS PEO­PLE. SIM­PLY CHEN­NAI DIGS UP SOME RARE DISHES THAT REP­RE­SENT THE HER­ITAGE FLAVOURS

India Today - - SIMPLY CHENNAI - BY SARANYA CHAKRA­PANI

Ad­hi­rasam

Fes­ti­vals in Tamil Nadu are in­com­plete with­out this dessert, which is said to add pros­per­ity to the tra­di­tion of Karthi­gai Deepam, South In­dia’s own fes­ti­val of lights, which falls be­tween Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. Ad­hi­rasam is also a must have dur­ing Di­wali. Made of raw rice, jag­gery, se­same seeds, elachi and ghee, the Ad­hi­rasam’s legacy goes back to Kr­ish­nade­varaya's pe­riod ( 15091529 CE), from when in­scrip­tions in­di­cat­ing its highly skilled prepa­ra­tion and recipe, have been found. “Tra­di­tion­ally, ad­hi­rasam was pre­pared with a lot of fore­sight. It had jag­gery to make it soft and dry ginger pow­der to add aroma and help with di­ges­tion, as it is high on carbs and fat,” says award- win­ning chef Seetharam Prasad of GRT Grand.

Food blog­ger and Chen­nai Food Guide mem­ber Aarti Kr­ish­naku­mar, grew up watch­ing this snack be­ing pre­pared dur­ing fes­ti­vals. “My grand­mother would soak jag­gery, in wa­ter, heat it and strain it, en­sur­ing that it was grime- free,” she says. It was then added to rice flour dough. The dough is re­frig­er­ated, and fried just be­fore the pooja and of­fered to the gods. Ad­hi­rasam makes a sump­tu­ous snack or a rich dessert.

Cook­ing Tip The trick is to process the flour and the jag­gery well and make sure the tem­per­a­ture of the oil doesn’t ex­ceed 90 de­grees. This will en­sure that your ad­hi­rasams are golden brown,” says the chef.

Avail­able Grand Sweets, Brin­da­van Street, Ra­makr­ishna Pu­ram, West Mam­balam

Tel 8754411653

Vella Kozhukat­tai

Kozhukat­tais are steamed rice dumplings with a sweet fill­ing, hailed as Gan­pathi’s favourite treat. Than­javur es­pe­cially, holds this del­i­cacy sa­cred. “It’s im­por­tant to use fine rice flour and I dry roast it be­fore pound­ing. This gives it bet­ter tex­ture,” says Aarti. The flour is then mixed with wa­ter and heated on a low flame, un­til it be­comes a ball of dough. This is kept aside to cool be­fore be­ing kneaded. Mean­while pre­pare the fill­ing of grated co­conut cooked with strained jag­gery. The dough is made into small balls, flat­tened, stuffed and steamed.

Cook­ingTip: Al­ways make a trial batch to get the kozhukat­tai’s’ tim­ing right.

Avail­able Ad­yar Ananda Bha­van, No. 87 Thiya­garaya Road, Pondy Bazaar, T Na­gar

Tel 23453041

Manoharam

Here’s an­other rice snack that finds rel­e­vance dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tion of Karthi­gai Deepam. Said to have come from Ker­ala, the Manoharam has be­come ev­ery child’s favourite norukku- theeni ( munchies) to­day. Tra­di­tion­ally, Manoharam was pre­pared by grind­ing green gram flour and raw rice in man­ual stone grinders and then fried and added

with some jag­gery syrup. To­day, tech­nol­ogy makes it a lot sim­pler. “There are a num­ber of mix­ers and grinders to­day. I’ve watched my mother and grand­mother pre­pare three dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of manoharam for ev­ery fes­ti­val or fam­ily func­tion,” says Aarti. Manoharam is of­ten kept as a sym­bol of aus­pi­cious­ness in wed­dings, near the man­dap, as an of­fer­ing to the gods. It’s kept in a cone- like shape and later filled into con­tain­ers, to be given away to the fam­i­lies of the new­ly­weds.

Cook­ing tip Manoharam tastes best when it’s squeezed into the fry­ing pan us­ing a tra­di­tional brass mould, with a press­ing model on top and the sten­ciled con­tainer be­low.

Avail­able Suswaad, 3/ 2, Venka­tra­man Street, T. Na­gar Tel 28152678

Chet­ti­nad Meen Varu­val

The most dis­cern­ing food­ies are said to come from Karaikudi, the cap­i­tal of the erst­while Chet­ti­nad prov­ince, they will wax elo­quent but never give away the se­cret to the clas­sic meen varu­val— or fish fry. “The masala, made of whole red chill­ies, dhaniya, ginger- gar­lic paste, ta­marind and salt, are home ground with care and un­der con­stant su­per­vi­sion from the fam­ily’s se­nior cooks,” says chef Seetharam. The Chet­ti­nad legacy goes that in the an­cient days, the women of the house would come to­gether to grind the spices and sing as they did. While this dish can be pre­pared with Vaval ( pom­fret), Van­jaram ( seer fish) or Sheela ( Bar­racuda), the Red Snap­per has a fla­vor that’s unique. “The Chet­ti­nad peo­ple are par­tic­u­lar about us­ing the best fresh- wa­ter fish, over sea fish,” says chef Seetharam.

Cook­ing tip: A fresh blend of spices such as cumin seeds, fennel seeds, co­rian­der seeds, pep­per­corns, dry red chill­ies, turmeric pow­der and salt - is pre­pared, af­ter which fried gar­lic and onions are added to give a fin­ger- lick­ing flavour. “This mari­nade is added to the fish and ide­ally kept aside for some­time. You may even add a lit­tle bit of rice flour to this mix­ture, to help it bind with the fish. It is then grilled to perfection,” says the chef.

Avail­able Karaikudi, No. 84, Rad­hakr­ish­nan Salai, My­la­pore

Tel 28111893

Pal­li­palayam Chicken

The most loved recipes find their way back to small, mod­est towns where they were first cre­ated and the Pal­li­palayam Chicken is no dif­fer­ent. This dish hails from the Pan­chayat town of Pal­li­palayam in Na­makkal dis­trict and the chicken that is used in this dish is the naatu kozhi, as rus­tic as the place. This spicy chicken goes best with hot steamed rice and a freshly fried pap­padam. You get its best vari­ant at Ju­nior Kup­panna, the restau­rant which was first started in a town quite close to this recipe’s home ground, Erode.

Cok­ing tip: It’s best to cut the chicken into small pieces, be­fore they’re added to a sautéed mix­ture of fried onion, gar­lic and red chill­ies, with salt, in a heavy bot­tomed pan. ac­cen­tu­at­ing the flavour of this dish are other in­dis­pen­si­ble spices of coun­try food – gar­lic, turmeric and curry leaves. You can then add co­rian­der pow­der, keep medium heat and driz­zle a lit­tle bit of wa­ter. Keep fry­ing till the chicken is well cooked.

Avail­able Ju­nior Kup­panna, 4, Kan­na­iah Street, North Us­man Road, T Na­gar Tel 28340071

Pho­to­graphs by SEKAR G

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