Saturday, 17 September 2011

[www.keralites.net] കുമ്മാട്ടി - Part 2

 

കുമ്മാട്ടിയും കുട്ട്യോളും Mukesh
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[www.keralites.net] The Iyer specialities.

 

 
Pickles are palate-ticklers throughout India, but they make a great combination with the sour-tasting Curd Rice which forms an essential part of the main courses of lunch or dinner in all homes in South India .  Lunch or supper time wouldn't be complete without it being rounded off with the ever-popular dahi rice.  While the West is going ga-ga over the goodness of yoghurt we have been using its desi version since time immemorial.  Kerala Iyers have their own range of speciality pickles.
 
Kadugumangai – Vadumangai as the Tamil Nadu Iyers call it – gets the pride of place and is the most popular, Kadugu - rai in Hindi and mustard seed in English - is allusion to the particular small raw mangoes (kairis) used in the making of the pickle;  Kadugumangai is the hottest pickle there.   Usually, the kairis are bought in bunches – to retain their freshness until they are processed – and the whole kairi (without breaking them into pieces or removing the seeds inside as is usually done in the cases of other pickles) is seasoned in spices.  Once seasoned, the kairis with their seeds inside in tact get shrunk in size with wrinkles all over.
 
Avakkai is another hot, equally mouth-watering pickle.  Again, another special variety of relatively large-sized kairi, cut into relative large pieces, is used in its making adding the spices and left for seasoning.  In Bombay, the hawkers give you this variety in suitably cut pieces.  Avakkai oorugai is more popular among TN Iyers.

Then there is the Kannimangai pickle seasoned in salt and sufficient water; where the kairi used is slightly bigger than the Kadugumangai but smaller than the Avakkai one.  Usually the Kannimangai pickle is made in sufficient quantity to last for a year.  Many a time, the Kannimangais that have started rotting with time are periodically remove and, after their seeds are thrown out, crushed into a paste, and lo, you have the Azhugamangai thogayal/chutny.  Many season the Kannimangai in light buttermilk, too. 
 
Then there is the Maahaani pickle.  Maahani is the edible root of a plant found only in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.  It has a peculiar taste and gives off its own typical smell too.  It is usually seasoned in buttermilk – to mask its odd taste (that many don't like) and make it more agreeable to the palate of the first-time tasters - and the usual spices.  I think maahaani is called sarsaparilla and presumably an import from Spain brought to India by the settlers; it's also the chief ingredient of the English root beer.  Man is of many parts and many quaint hobbies – mine include collecting equivalent terms in other languages for commonly and not-so-commonly used food items like the very many pulses and vegetables,  my compilation also helps when the biwi tries to make exotic dishes reading the recipes or watching the ever-popular cookery shows on TV.

The ubiquitous lemon (narangai in Kerala and elumichai or elumicham pazham in TN) pickle is made in two varieties: the spicy one with red chilly powder and salt, and the salted one added with ginger to give it the requisite tang; I say it is ubiquitous because the spicy variety is a popular pickle all across India.  The lemon is usually cut into four pieces before they are seasoned in chilly powder and salt or salt and finely cut ginger pieces.  The salted variety is advised as grandma's home remedy for indigestion or those down with temperature (called pani in Kerala and joram in TN) where one's diet has to be restricted.

The raw nellikkai and lemon are usually submerged in water in a utensil and heated to a certain degree to quicken the process of seasoning.
 
Then you have a variety of dry pickles, too: for one, the veppilakatti is made out of the leaves of sour lime plant (as distinct from sweet lime, mosambi, both the lime varieties almost look alike from external appearance) and spices.  They are thoroughly pounded into a paste which is then rolled into spherical golas and stored. 
 
The other dry pickle is narthankai: sour lime is cut into fairly large pieces and seasoned just in salt and dried in the sun.  This one is grandma's home cure for those suffering from a bout of diarrhea. 
 
However, my choice was the nellikkai one – amla/avla or the Indian goose berry;  back in the village, the berry was available in bitter and sour varieties, the bitter variety is much bigger than the sour one.  The bitter variety is seasoned in red chillies and salt, while the sour one is done so in salt alone.  Incidentally, avla contains the highest amount of Vitamin C, much, much higher than in oranges or sweet limes.
 
The pickles were usually stored in large China bharanis or original Chinese porcelain jars which are inure to alkalis and acids; the mouths of the jars were applied with a generous layer of edible oil to prevent fungus and mould formation, and tightly tied with a cloth and left for seasoning for a couple of months.
 
In functions and ceremonies where the chief highlight is the feast, sizeable amount of pickles are required as there would be a large circle of friends and relatives attending them; obviously, which gourmet that all of us are to some degree,  would want to miss out on the scrumptious food!  So, the hosts or the cooks they retain resort to quickfixes that require no seasoning.  These instant varieties are almost always (1) mangacurry where you cut the kairis into fine pieces, mix them with red chilly powder and water as necessary and whip them well, and lo, the pickle is ready to serve and (2) the inji-puli or puli-inji, a blackish ginger-tamarind concoction cooked in just sufficient water to make it a pourable liquid.

Thayir molegai:  It is not exactly a pickle as pickle by definition is ready-to-serve whereas he thayir molagai has to be deep fried.  It is made from a particular variety of a green chilly which is shorter and much thicker than the green chilly usually used in our homes every day, and it derives its name from the finished product (thayir molagai).  The kairi is seasoned in buttermilk to lessen its biting spiciness and then dried in the sun.

The vethals/varuvals (Kondattam in Malayalam).  They very well complement our sambhar/curd rice courses of food.

The usual vethals are: (1) Marthangali, (2) Chundakkai and Kothavarankai (Gawar).  Marthangali and Chundakkai belong to the berry family; the former is very small size and the latter is slightly smaller than the size of marbles kids usually play with.  The chundakkai comes in a two varieties: one with a bitter taste and the other with a bland taste.  The bitter berry is used for the vethal, while the tasteless one is added to a vegetable dish.  Kothavarankai is cut to into pieces of sizes of 1.1/2".  All are seasoned in salt and dried in the sun.  They are stored in containers and the quantities as necessary are taken out and deep-fried as and when needed.  The bitter chundakkai is often added to Vetha Kozhambu.

Thamara kizhangu vethal: it is made out of lotus stem, sliced into pieces like in banana chips, and seasoned in salt and dried.  They are deep fried as and when needed.

Then there are vadams and karuvadams.  The vadams made are made of powdered rice into a paste- like form adding water and salt.  As done in chappatis, they are made into dozen of balls which are subsequently rolled out and dried in the sun.  The karuvadam dough is made also made of rice powder mixed with red chilly powder and salt and then the dough is squeezed out of a domestic press in zigzag form of ribbons onto a piece of cloth and dried in the sun.  The semi-dry vadams and karuvadams are also very tasty.  I remember we as kids used to serve as scarecrows to ward off the large number of crows encircling the items being dried.

To conclude, home-making of these occasion-specific sweetmeats, savouries and pickles and vethals is hardly the norm at homes now-a-days for various reasons: the one-child a family is more a rule than an exception in iyer families, so there is really no need to make these eatables in large quantities as they used to be in the earlier generations with large families; the married women in metro cities are hard-pressed for time having to tend a family and work in an office; double-income families have a lot more disposal surplus cash, so the cost-benefit - labour/efforts needed versus cost of buying them from outside - works in favour of outsourcing (!) the job to a neibhourhood Madras store that have mushroomed wherever there is a large concentration of iyer/South Indian families.  And then, many a time the pickles available in Malls are cheaper than if you were to make them at home (coz. the outfits that make them buy the raw material in bulk and get economies of scale).  The relatively poor Iyers living in far-off suburbs like Dombivli in Mumbai make these in large quantities and supply them to various Madrasi outlets.

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[www.keralites.net] Success Story of an Ex-service Untiring Personality - "

 


"മാതൃഭൂമി"  യോട്  കടപ്പാട്

Nandakumar

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