Beauty Spots

In tra­di­tional In­dian cui­sine.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Snehlatha Baliga

Satta Povu", is a tasty, pop­u­lar tra­di­tional sweet dish that the Gowd Saraswat Brah­mins (GSBS) of Ker­ala make. It is a sticky prepa­ra­tion that takes its name from the six (Satta) ingredients – coarsely pow­dered, roasted moong dal, Ben­gal gram dal, se­same seeds, grated co­conut and beaten rice (pova) blended with jag­gery syrup. A story goes that a na­tive once shared a bowl of this sweet with a for­eigner friend of his. The friend not only rel­ished it but to the amuse­ment of the na­tive ex­claimed "I re­ally mar­vel at the way each flake of beaten rice is stuck with pieces of pulses and se­same seeds!" The sim­ple fact is the mix­ture is well blended to give it uni­for­mity by dis­tribut­ing the ingredients evenly.

Some­one has rightly re­marked that food should ap­peal to more than one sense, (the tongue), to be palat­able! Even when food colours, ex­ot­i­cally shaped bak­ing trays, bis­cuit cut­ters and blow torches to caramelise sugar sprin­kled on dishes were alien to the In­dian kitchen, the home­maker de­vised her own ways to lend aes­thet­ics and va­ri­ety to her dishes with leaves, hol­lows of bam­boos and co­conut shells, etc to cook food in and her own fin­gers, palms and moulds to shape it.

Two of the items, the tiny sugar balls called 'til guls 'and the sugar moulds, the 'Sakkare achus', ex­changed dur­ing Makara Sankranti are as fas­ci­nat­ing as the fes­ti­val of amity and friend­ship it­self! Many home­mak­ers pre­pare th­ese items at home. A few se­same seeds or Ben­gal gram are scat­tered on a plate and spoons of sugar syrup of the cor­rect con­sis­tency are dropped on them. The plate is then ro­tated, as the solidifying syrup gath­ers around the grains giv­ing the balls shapes and tiny pro­jec­tions. Sugar syrup of the de­sired con­sis­tency, clar­i­fied sev­eral times with curds and milk to give it white­ness is poured into wooden moulds to turn out the "achus" which are then cooled and taken out as 'sugar' birds, an­i­mals, flow­ers, gods and god­desses!

South Kar­nataka has its own meth­ods of mak­ing mun­dane dishes in­ter­est­ing. "Khotto" (jack fruit leaves held to­gether with bits of dried sticks), 'moodo' (long leaves weaved into rolls) to steam the down-to-earth idli bat­ter in, give them dif­fer­ent shapes and flavours. So too are "patho­lis" (jack fruit­based sweet dish or in the ab­sence of the fruit, jag­gery- co­conut mix­ture to sweeten it), that are steamed in turmeric or ba­nana leaves to lend them half-moon shapes and the good­ness and flavour of the leaves they are cooked in.

Though "Chak­lis" are mould­based crispier, the Ta­mil­ians have a flair to shape them into per­fect rounds us­ing fin­gers. So too, their rice-based fried cousins of Kar­nataka, the "Kod­bale", that are tear-shaped crispier made man­u­ally. "Jalebis" di­rectly squeezed into siz­zling oil in right-sized coils is an­other ex­am­ple of the sim­ple beauty of In­dian culi­nary cul­ture.

"Mo­daks" are bun­dle-shaped, us­ing fin­gers to seal the up­per edges and the shal­low grooves, thus formed them­selves serve as a de­sign on them! So too the bead­ings to seal the rims of samosas.

COLOURS AND MORE

Sumi was sur­prised to find coins em­bed­ded in the laddo she got as prasad from her neigh­bour. It was lat­ter's way of adding an ele­ment of nov­elty to the sim­ple sweet. (Isn't it a good idea for a party game too – the finder of the coin be­ing the win­ner! eh!) Ritu had her own dec­o­ra­tions for her chil­dren's fussy lunch boxes to add va­ri­ety and nu­tri­tion, viz spoon­fuls of sweet­ened or spiced beaten egg dropped into boil­ing water which turn into dif­fer­ent shapes which she called 'egg flow­ers'. Fas­ci­nat­ing dou­ble – coloured pa­pad, rolled fus­ing lumps of the kneaded red chilli dough with the white one was a re­cent in­no­va­tion I en­coun­tered at a mar­riage feast. We

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