Rewinding 4 years of blogging…
Thank you so much for traveling with me, in my leisurely journey of cooking and more.
This is confession time- of a theft…
- no no not something like stealing my husband’s heart many years ago ;
- or my little brother stealing my grandparents’ slippers and preserving in some unknown place, so that they would stay with us longer;
- or quickly finishing as many mangoes as we could from the huge, straw covered mango storage rooms… before my aunts would ask ripe mangoes for lunch (swear I’ve done this);
or might be a few more fun filled, less hinder-some deeds.
But this time it is a lovely theft, a cherishable theft, a heart-touching theft.. where the loser as well as the original owner of the product is anything but happy and delighted and for a moment Proud too!
This theft is from my dearest daughter! What I took from her was Her birthday present. The Present was from the Past…. My Past…my beautiful doll when I was 3 or 4 years of age. One of the well preserved baby things.. It is a Mother-Child doll, mother putting her daughter to sleep. There is a key at the back as in an old model doll. The mother gently sways to the inbuilt music while the baby goes to sleep. Amazing… All intact the doll still works good!
Yes, Still works and the mother does a great job. By preserving such a beautiful thing of the past.. my mother too did a great job, isn’t it?Kudos to my mom. Nanri Amma.
My first post says ‘Generations to Generations’ and this doll ultimately signifies that. My daughter was sensationally delighted to get her mother’s doll from grandma as one of her birthday gifts. When I look back at these four years of blogging… Trying to pass on few treasures to my daughter… This year’s birthday gift that my Amma had preserved for my daughter was very special indeed!
I was delighted too, to see my favorite doll after at least 35 years. Nostalgia struck me..hit me…captured me… Attach any number of verbs.
This was also time for some boastful behavior. Isn’t it a pride to tell my daughter how well I maintained my play things? Also a pride to know how my daughter has taken after me in taking care of her things.
A few samples of how I nurtured my possessions. Of course, a bit of ‘Boast’ can be the secret of our energies too!
almost perfect shoes and sock
gorgeous hair till today
the pretty pink dress, though a tiny bit stained but no doubt beautiful
Oh… after this episode, I’ve started looking at my mom as a Curator. Correct me if I am wrong.
According to wikipedia-
Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (i.e., gallery, museum, library or archive) is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. The object of a traditional curator’s concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort, whether it is artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curator
Moms and Dads who preserve important memorabilia/assets are actually Curators too! Why not??
Now, to the theft thing- I stole my doll from my daughter. To celebrate four years of blogging…. of course cannot say non-stop blogging.
My lovely daughter is a generous soul and she let me take her present with Pride. And the littlle brain is more than delighted that she says- ‘Oh amma, I’m so happy you made me a part of your post’.
Reading more of the draft of this post, she was ultimately happy about my theft and so excited. But only on one condition.. I steal it for a day, for my post, then give it back to her! OK, Accepted.
To improvise my vocabulary, she said.. why don’t you borrow from me… So, for the magnanimity of the little heart, I take away ‘stolen’ and replace ‘borrow’. I borrowed my past for this post, and gave it back to my present!
We, the middle aged parental generation can effectively be catalysts in the transfer and culmination of cultural wealth from the previous to the next generation. ‘Dosaikal’ would be my humble aspiration and endeavour to transfer those mesmerizing memories and treasures from past generations to my next.
After recently reading my friend Oz’s post in her blog – ‘kitchen butterfly.com’ on shifting base from one place to another, I co-related with the pains of leaving friends behind and the agonies related to packing.
This is what I wrote to her- (Sorry Oz, I borrow my own words here)
I know the pains of packing. But I have felt an explorer’s enthusiasm while shifting to a new place but ‘getting your children married’ kind of a tension while leaving the old.
Yet the blankness in mind and heart, having left your near and dear ones until you reach the new destination is quite stressful. Happy Settling!!
But never thought mine was so very close.
So, here I am.. in another packing – having packed – unsettled phase… the only difference from recent previous packings is that we are back home. Home, not meaning home state where I belong, but nearly 2200 kms from home but yet in home country.
One suddenly seems to be squeezed between the never ending packing (which I used to like, not anymore), and telling bye to dear friends, formal associates and those special souls who became close to the heart pals. It is a very difficult phase, where everything seems unsettled till your own things reach back to the new place of livelihood. It is again a tedious process of unpacking, but at least you know you are settling yourself in the new place, in Oz’s words – ‘Unpacking a House to Home’… I like the phrase and want it soon.
While leaving behind people and memories is a pain, the effect is obviously more on the children. We don’t realize what they have left behind in their eyes. The pressure of completing the incomplete school year, leaving friends and teachers and their playmates, landing in a new place, finding new friends, getting accustomed to new environment and getting placed well in a new school, the biggest of all might be being accepted in the new whatever groups they might be sent to…. the list might grow longer.
So, to simplify, just say ‘IT IS DIFFICULT’.
Now, I do not intend going into what I left behind in Cambodia, the country which had become very much connected to heart and soul, due to the ancient connections with Tamilnadu. But as a foodie, I truly miss the flavors of Khmer Cuisine, which was in an amateur path of exploration.
So, I decided to rekindle those memorable moments of learning Khmer sweets, soups and curries. A true big thanks to my friends ‘D’ and ‘S’, who were wonderful teachers in showing the art of Khmer Cooking… patiently… step by step.
Num Plae Ai
‘Num Plae Ai’ is a very simple yet delicious sweet treat. Again rice based and Palm Sugar, the ingredients are limited, method simple but the end result too good. The sticky rice outer covering is a bit chewy, and the dissolved palm sugar candy inside makes its own path inside leaving a sweet flavor.
After reading a few other blogs, I understand this is also colloquially called ‘kill husband cake’ as it was made by a betrayed wife to revenge her husband. The chewy and slippery outer covering is believed to have stuck in his throat.
But, beyond betrayals and revenges, Num Plae Ai is truly a sugar lover’s delight.
I made this sweet with 500 gms sticky rice flour and I think I got nearly 50 sweet balls. Just decide how much you’d need. By this ratio, 1 cup measuring 200 gms might yield 15-20 approximately. Regrets on any flaws in mathematics.
- sticky rice flour – 1 cup or 200 gms
- palm jaggery – 100 -150 gms
- salt – a pinch
- grated coconut
- boiled water – to cook the sweet Plae Ai
- cold water – to cool the cooked rice balls
- banana leaf for serving
Method of Preparation
1. Mix rice flour with a pinch of salt and water (normal temperature).
3. Grate coconut and keep aside. Can be kept in fridge and taken out in the end as grated coconut is needed only in the end of making the sweet and might stay fresh refrigerated.
4. Make small shells out of rice dough and –
6. Make the same with all the rice flour.
7. Boil water in medium flame, in a big bowl or any big hard bottomed vessel with a pinch of salt.
8. Simmer and gently drop the palm jaggery filled rice balls into it; Keep flame in minimum position.
13. Take the grated coconut and spread in a plate and roll each sweet in grated coconut to make a covering.
14. Serve hot or cold.
This is generally served in a banana leaf cone with a tooth pick in the markets in Phnom Penh.
- The sticky rice balls can be stored in refrigerator for a couple of days or even more.
- If one prefers to freeze, do not add coconut topping. Thaw frozen Plae Ai when needed, steam to make them fresh and roll in grated coconut to serve.
A great topic of research
Vadai is a deep fried snack, generally made with soaked and blended lentil. The most common of the Vadai Varieties are –
1. Ulundhu Vadai or Ulundha Vadai made with dehusked black gram and
2. Aamai Vadai or Paruppu Vadai made with bengal gram.
These two in themselves have different names. Ulundhu Vadai is also called ‘Medhu Vadai’ meaning Soft Vadai; Aamai Vadai is also referred to as Masala Vadai and they also possess many more names. Quite interesting though – that’s why the topic ‘Vadai’ can be a great research title!
One can also hear different versions of the same name – Vadai, Vada, Vade, Bada and I think in Punjab it is called Bhalla as in Dahi Bhalla, Thayir Vadai (Vadai soaked in curd) in Tamil.
Different Kinds of Vadai
ulundhu vadai – dehusked black gram vadai
That is not all! While we make Ulundhu Vadai with dehusked black gram and Aamai Vadai with bengal gram, there can be various kinds of Vadais made with different combinations to these two core ingredients.
- Vazhaipoo Vadai – with Banana Flower
- Keerai Vadai – with Spinach
- Milagu Vadai – with Black Pepper
- Thavalai Vadai – with combination of lentils
and many more innovative crisps by chefs at home. Vadai is served with chutney and/or sambar.
vaazhaipoo vadai – banana flower vadai
Apart from combining ingredients, there can also be other impressive ways of serving Ulundhu Vadais – the softer among the two.
- Sambar Vadai – vadai soaked in Sambar – the lentil curry
- Rasa Vadai – vadai soaked in Rasam – the digestive soup (for easy comprehension)
- Thayir Vadai – vadai soaked in yoghurt with mild spices
Aamai Vadai/Paruppu Vadai made with bengal gram is crispier and enjoys special place in a few curries like-
- More kuzhambu – yoghurt curry that has paruppu vadai in place of veggie
- Vadai Curry – an exotic spicy curry with ground spices, wherein the gravy is thickened by soaking the deep fried vadais. The taste of the spicy curry mixed with the flavour of fried vadais is a great hit with Idli and Dosai.
The Versatile Vadai
Vadai can fit in all places and occasions.
Any traditional festival, celebration or happy occasion would be half done without these for sure.
Breakfast – with Idli, Dosai or Pongal, Vadai makes the breakfast a complete ‘Platter’
Lunch – served with the three course Vaazhai Ilai Sappadu (traditional meal served on banana leaf) -the phrase actually is – ‘Vadai-Payasam’ – vadai and payasam/pudding to make the traditional meal a respectful finish
Dinner – who would say no to Vadai soaked in the lunch sambar or rasam, which is now a converted sambar vadai or rasa vadai for dinner..
Evening Snack – any guests for coffee/tea? – this snack can be simple and exotic, traditional and trendy – served with coconut chutney or any other chutney
Starter/Finger food – a grand dinner party – made smaller in bite size shapes, vadai can be an ideal starter or finger food
Street Food – it can be a sort after street food at any tea joint, or in bus or train stations
Live Kitchen – it could also be an eye-catchy as well as an appealing live display snack in Restaurants
The Balancing Factor
In addition to these impressive qualities, I find the essence of Vadai might be a culinary balance in festive occasions. For any festival, event or celebration, the quintessential flavor is sweet. Different kinds of or atleast one sweet dish is prepared for any special occasion. When enjoying food forms part and parcel of the day to day activities of an Indian household, the place of food in festivals is ultimate. The concept of making an occasion happy by distribution and consumption of sweets can sometimes be a painful practice for the self proclaimed ‘sweet toothers by birth’ too.
Here is where the role of Vadai stands appealing. When there is heavy downpour of sweets that smoothly glides into one’s tummy, there is always the quite bland and crispy/semi crispy salted vadai which is served with spicy chutney to give relief from the overdose of sweets. It certianly does great justice in soothing one’s palate during those essential times.
Hence, Vadai always forms part of festive food, to ensure a Balance might be.
Vadai-like ‘Akara’ in Nigerian Cuisine
While reading the recent article posted by dear fried Oz of ‘kitchen butterfly’, she had mentioned she tasted Vadai in Dubai and it tasted like ‘Akara’. I was anxious to know about akara.
Akara is a deep fried Nigerian Snack and breakfast meal made with ground de-hulled(peeled) brown or black-eyed beans and spices.
It is a very popular snack that can be eaten anytime of the day. Although Akara is popular as a breakfast meal, it can also be eaten as a snack or taken with Pap(ogi), custard or Agidi(eko) as a light dinner
Akara is also known as Acarajé, Fried Bean Cakes, Koose or Fried Bean Balls.
Almost the same, with the different lentil. Black Eyed Pea is called Karamani in Tamil. I also found ‘Karamani Vadai’ recipe posted by fellow south indian bloggers. Learnt many things here. Akara and Karamani sound similar too!
Thanks Oz for aiding me know about akara and nigerian cuisine through that comparison.
Ulundhu Vadai is made with dehusked black gram. The lentil is soaked and blended to a thick foamy consistency. For binding, rice flour is added while mixing with salt and other ingredients like onions, green chillies, black pepper and curry leaves. I prefer to soak little rice with black gram and blend together. This I feel gives a better texture to the batter.
The speciality of this type of Vadai also lies in its shape. This is a doughnut shaped snack. Hence, little extra effort is needed in bringing in the exclusive shape.
One can also make basic vadai with three ingredients – lentil, rice or rice flour and salt blended with water and deep fried. Adding onions, chillies and curry leaves enhances the flavor of this snack.
Ingredients (makes appr. 15-20 vadais)
dehusked black gram
batter with chopped ingredients
- ulundham paruppu/dehusked black gram – 1 cup
- arisi/rice (any non-sticky variety) -2 tsp
- uppu/salt – as needed
- vengayam/onions – 1 medium chopped or 4-5 shallots chopped
- pachai milagai/green chilli – 2 no.s coarsely cut
- kariveppilai/curry leaves – 7-8 leaves randomly split
- inji/ginger – chopped or grated – small piece
- perungayam/asafoetida – 1/4 tsp
- yennai/oil – for deep frying
place batter on wet palm or banana leaf
make a hole in middle
Method of Preparation
- Wash and soak black gram and rice for a minimum of 2 hours
- Remove water and grind into a thick yet foamy batter by sprinkling very little water
- Add salt and all other chopped ingredients and mix well
- Place hard bottomed pan on stove and heat oil for deep frying
- For the doughnut shape of the vadai – keep water in a small bowl
- Wipe palm of your hand or banana leaf with little water, take little batter, place on palm and make small hole in middle
- Gently slide the vadai in oil and fry till golden brown
- Take out and place the vadais on kitchen tissue to absorb excess oil
- Serve hot with spicy chutney
fry in hot oil
Maa, Palaa and Vaazhai – Mango, Jackfruit and Banana are the most celebrated fruits of Tamilnadu – the trio can be called the ‘vif’ – very important fruits of the state of Tamilnadu in India. They are called ‘Mukkani’ or the three main fruits in Tamil Literature. Hence, Jackfruit – Palaa Pazham in Tamil, takes a special place among the various fruits of Tamilnadu.
Palaa Pazham – Jackfruit – the Fruit
Jackfruit apart from its consumption as a fruit, enjoys its place in Payasam (Kheer, pudding) where the slices are cooked with jaggery and coconut milk, in home made Jams mixed with other fruits , in marriage feasts, served as fruit or as special jam, in the form of sweet chips and many more uses that I miss to mention.
‘Thenil Thilaitha Palaa’ is a phrase used in literary tamil, which means jackfruit soaked in honey. This phrase is handled by many writers to compare ‘sweetness’ in many contexts. Jackfruit in honey might be considered the ultimate sweetness material – the phrase in itself signifies the speciality sweetness of the fruit.
The huge fruit with a hard, bit thorny outer covering but with very sweet inner slices is also often used an example for people who look serious but are very soft at heart.
Palaakkai – Raw Jackfruit – the Vegetable
I had not tasted the raw jackfruit curry in my younger days. One of our friends served me and my husband a few years ago. Those were the days I was a vegetarian but used to cook non-vegetarian food. Not too familiar with the taste of chicken yet used to the flavour and aroma of non-vegetarian curries, I found the raw jackfruit curry a perfect substitute to chicken curry.
Raw Jackfruit again has a few more usages. Apart from the spicy curry, Palaakkai Poriyal or the dry vegetable curry (poriyaldry-vegetable-curries), Palaakkai Kootu or the vegetable stew in coconut gravy are common. Palaakkai Vatral or Raw Jackfruit Chips is certainly one of the most sort after chips.
Palaa Kottai – Jack fruit Seed – the other Vegetable
After consuming the sweet slices, the left over seeds are not left overs. They are transformed into dry vegetable curries or poriyals. They are indeed very versatile-
1. can be pressure cooked with salt, with grated coconut, cooked jackfruit seeds make a perfect snack
2. can be pressure cooked and stir-fried with spices to have with rice and curry
3. can be cooked and mixed in coconut gravy to make kootu or stew
4. cooked and mixed with other vegetables while making avial (kootu-and-avial)
and so on.
In Cambodia, with the same mukkani – Mango, Jackfruit and Banana available in plenty, Jack fruit is an important weekly fruit at home. It is a happy family affair to remove the fruit slices out of the fibrous protective layers. Of course, added work comes with the removal of seeds.
Though I have tried cooking the raw curry, I haven’t been able to achieve the same aromatic flavor of the first few experiences of the curry served to me years back. I hope to achieve it in the near future.
The easier among the two – vegetable and seed – is cooking Palaa Kottai – Jack fruit Seed. The seed in this version is made as a spicy dry vegetable to be served with rice and any kuzhambu/curry (kuzhambugal-gravy-dishes).
Palaa Kottai Poriyal
Ingredients (serves 4)
- palaa kottai/jackfruit seed -15-20
- yennai/oil – 2 tsp
- kadugu/mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- ulundhamparuppu/dehusked black gram – 1/2 tsp
- kariveppilai/curry leaves – 8 leaves
- poondu/garlic cloves – 6 no.s chopped
- vengayam/onions – 1 medium – chopped
- manjal podi/turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- milagai podi/red chilly powder – 1 tsp
- kothumalli thool/coriander powder – 1 tsp
- milagu podi/pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
- uppu/salt – to taste
- perungayam/asafoetida- 1/4 tsp
Method of Preparation
- Wash and pressure cook the jack fruit seeds – After the first whistle in full flame, slow down the flame and cook for 10 mins. (this might differ with different cookers and seeds too)
- Strain the water away and keep the seeds
- Remove the skin and cut each seed into two or four pieces
- In a Pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds; when they splutter add black gram
- When black gram becomes golden brown, fry the washed curry leaves
- Next, add onions and garlic and fry well
- Add the dry powders and fry
- After all ingredients are incorporated well, mix the cooked and strained seeds
- Stir fry well till the raw smell of the spices are gone and the seeds are well coated with the spices
- The vegetable is ready when it gets a golden brown color or rich yellowy color depending upon the color of the combined spices.
- Sprinkle asafoetida and serve with rice an curry.
- Do not over cook as they would be become mushy while frying with spices.
- Onions are optional, but garlic is a must as the seeds tend to create flatulence.
- Same with asafoetida, it is a necessary for easy digestion and controlling flatulence.
- The spices can be altered according to family preference.
- Ginger can also be added while frying onion and garlic.
I have always been fascinated by the name of this sweet. Whoever named it Mundhiri Kothu – which translates as ‘Bunch of Cashews’- has been a keen observer of the making of this sweet. This deep fried snack/sweet comes out like a bunch when taken out of oil.
Mundhiri Kothu is a popular sweet from the Kanyakumari region of Tamilnadu.It can be called the healthier cousin of Susiyam which is also known by the names Soyyam/Sugiyan. For recipe refer- (http://dosaikal.com/2011/10/18/susiyam-deep-fried-lentil-jaggery-sweet-balls/).
Susiyam is made with kadalai paruppu/bengal gram; and the outer dip is prepared with maida/all purpose flour. Whereas, Mundhiri Kothu is made with paasi payaru/green gram and the outer dip is with rice flour. This is a sweet with the best choice of ingredients, except that it is a deep fried snack. The pleasing aroma of roasted green gram combined with other ingredients would surely make one’s kitchen a favorite place to work more!
Mundhiri Kothu is a popular sweet in the Yaazhpanam or Jaffna Area of Srilanka too. With slight variations, people call this as ‘Payatham Paniyaram’. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munthiri_Kothu
Now to the making of Mundhiri Kothu –
Ingredients (makes approx. 30 mundhiri kothu)
- paasi payaru/whole green gram – 1 cup/150 gms
- grated coconut – 1 cup – 75-80gms
- ellu/sesame seeds (i used white) – 3 tblsp
- elakkai/cardamom pods – 20
- chukku/dry ginger – 3 gms
- vellam/jaggery – 250 gms
- rice flour – 2 cups
- salt – 1/4 tsp
- water – to mix rice flour and to dissolve jaggery
- oil – for frying
Method of Preparation
1. In a pan, dry roast whole green gram till nice aroma comes out of the grain, along with cardomom pods
2. Dry grind green gram and cardamom, with dry ginger into a coarse powder (not too coarse)
3. Dry roast grated coconut and sesame seeds
4. Mix green gram powder, roasted coconut and sesame seeds
5. In a separate pan, dissolve jaggery in water and strain well
6. Boil jaggery in water to make a syrup – little sticky consistency, to make a tight ball with the powdered ingredients; Be careful not to make it stringy consistency
7. Mix jaggery to the powdered ingredients and make marble sized urundai/ball
9. Dip each urundai/ball in rice batter and deep fry till well cooked
10. As the cooked mundhiri kothu would be in a bunch, separate each ball after it cools a bit.
- Cardamom is added for flavor and I have added dry ginger for easier digestion; for me – addition of dry ginger makes any jaggery based sweet taste divine.
- The above can be omitted too.
- The quantity of grated coconut and sesame seeds can be altered/reduced according to taste preferences.
Few Other Variations of Mundhiri Kothu
- Traditionally, the batter is made by soaking raw rice and grinding it wet into a dosai consistency; But, I have used rice powder.
- In the above mentioned, soak and grind method, dehusked black gram is also soaked and ground together with rice (50 gms ulundham paruppu/dehusked black gram for 200 gms pachia arisi/raw rice).
- Turmeric powder is mixed to the batter and hence mundhiri kothu looks yellow.
Cambodia has a long list of traditional festivals. The major festivals seem to be influenced by both Hinduism and Buddhism. Apart from the influence of religions, Cambodians still preserve many cultural celebrations like the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May and Water Festival in November.
Pchum Ben is celebrated from late September to early October for 15 days. It is a festival in honour of ancestors. It is also called the Festival of Souls and the All Soul Day. I couldn’t witness the festival this year. But I had already tried making the special Rice Cake called ‘NUM ANSOM CHEK’ with the help of friend ‘D’ for posting during the period. So, better late than never or wait till next Pchum Ben next year, thought I should share it now.
Offering of food is a meritorious act and is one of the oldest and most common rituals of Buddhism. During the Pchum Ben festival, people bring food to the temple for the monks and to feed hungry ghosts who could be their late ancestors, relatives or friends. Pagodas are usually crowded with people taking their turn to make offerings and to beg the monks to pray for their late ancestors and loved ones. Many remain behind at the temple to listen to Buddhist sermons. http://www.tourismcambodia.org/contents/festival/index.php?view=detail&id=35#comp
food offered in pagoda
photo courtesy ‘D’.
The people here, wake up very early and get ready to go to Pagodas or Buddhist Temples. They wear their traditional clothes and walk around the Pagoda chanting Buddhist hymns. One of the most important ritual of Pchum Ben is taking food for their loved relatives who are no more part of this world. It is believed that the dead parents and relatives come on this day to see their dear ones and also accept the food offered by them. So, in order to not disappoint any of their lost relatives and ancestors, the Khmers prepare various delicacies and give it in the Pagodas.
The Monks in the Pagodas are worshipped and given food on this special occasion. There is also another reason for this ‘food from every home’ to the Pagodas –
According to venerable Um Sum, long ago Buddhist monks had to walk everywhere to ask for alms no matter how bad the weather was. Later during his reign, King Jayavarman, a strong advocate of Buddhism supported and provided Buddhist monks with the four requisite: clothing, food, shelter and medicine. The king realized that when the monks walked to ask for alms during the rainy season, they encountered heavy rain, thunderstorms, lightning and violent winds. The monks could not walk and fell down on the muddy paths. The king felt great sympathy for them and asked them not to go for alms for three months every rainy season. And he appealed to all his compatriots to offer food, and other basic needs to the monks for this period. Also, Buddhist followers explained that there was much merit in offering alms to the monks. As a result, more and more people offered the four requisites to the monks. http://www.bodhikaram.com/Pchum%20Ben.html
With so much food offered every day during the festivity, there is also chance of food getting wasted. Hence came the idea of making Rice Cakes which could be kept for days together without being spoilt. People make Steamed Rice Cakes filled with Bananas, Jack fruit or Pork. They are wrapped in Banana Leaves and steamed well. The speciality not only lies in the filling, but in the intricately crafted shape of the banana leaf cover.
Bananas of Cambodia
Chek, is the Khmer word for Banana. There are many varieties of Banana in Cambodia. Being a tropical region, Banana enjoys the status of ‘King of Fruits’. Fruits are available in abundance, but the usage of bananas is extensive. Like the southern part of India, here too Bananas enjoy the status of a ritual fruit as well as ritual tree – We can see houses with banana trees tied in front on special occasions. The main varieties are Chek Namva, Chek Pong Morn, Chek Amboung, Chek Snab Muk. http://www.cambodia-picturetour.com/tag/banana-in-cambodia/
There needs to be a special post on bananas of cambodia and their value in rituals and traditions. But now we shall proceed with Num Ansom Chek – the delicacy.
The Banana Variety used in this sweet is Chek Namva.
Beside eaten fresh, Check Namva also be used in creating many Khmer simple delicious snack, cake, sweet such as Chek Khtis (banana coconut milk dessert), Chek Chheung (Banana cooked with sugar paste), Chek Chean (Fried banana), Chek Ang (Grilled banana), Chek Chhab (Sliced banana deep fried), Num Chek Bok (pounded banana cake), Num Ansom Chek (banana sticky rice cake). http://www.cambodia-picturetour.com/tag/banana-in-cambodia/
The Recipe – Num Ansom Chek – Steamed Sticky Rice Cakes with Banana Filling
Note: I regret for any faults in making or explaining the recipe. I have just tried to do my best. Please feel free to write about any changes and/or corrections.
Ingredients (makes approximately 20 to 25 num ansom cheks)
- sticky rice – 3 cups
- well ripe bananas – appr. 6
- grated coconut – 1 cup
- salt – 1/4 tsp
for covering and steaming
- banana leaves
- strings from banana fibre
About Cambodian Sticky Rice pelase refer – num-kom-sticky-rice-cakes-with-coconut-fillingkhmer-kozhukkattai/
Method of Preparation
1. Soak sticky rice over night; In the morning, filter water away and keep rice in a siever to drain extra water. The soaked rice need not be fully dry
2. Mix grated coconut with rice
5. Place the small leaf (rectangle) over the bigger one(square)
8. Cover with rice
Folding the Rice Cake in Banana Leaf
This is an extensive process. I have tried my best to do justice. I think it is time to post a video for this purpose. But, I go with my photos.
1. After the leaf is filled with rice and banana, fold the leaf
2. Cover with a fold in the middle
5. After the cake has been folded by this exquisite technique, now it is time to tie it well;
First, tie on top, around the cake – leaving the string long after tightening the string.
3rd knot –
7. Now, this is time for some imagination in making your desired plaits, to complete the string
9. Fill the steamer with enough water and place the steaming bowl. The steaming bowl should be covered with banana leaves. Place the prepared cakes and close with more banana leaves. Then close the lid of the steamer. Steam for nearly 20 mins.
10. The num ansoms are tied together and also hung on roof edges. It seems, during the Pchum Ben days while the family members, friends and relatives are chatting day and night, when one feels hungry he/she can pull out a cake and enjoy.
- This Cake doesn’t need any kind of sugar as banana is a sweetener here. Still, palm sugar can be used as preferred.
- Num Ansom Chek is also made by mixing soaked red bean to rice.
- We have made smaller cakes. Larger ones are made with whole banana placed inside. The amount of rice kept would be increased accordingly.
- Salt in the banana adds to the perfect balance of the cake.
- No doubt a healthy, low fat dessert which is worth the effort certainly!
A very big THANKS to my friend ‘D’ who guided me and helped me learn the nuances of this special Khmer Dessert/Delicacy.
Awkoon Chran! – Thank you very much in Khmer.
Puli Kuzhambu is a tamarind curry where a vegetable like drum stick, ladies finger or brinjal is cooked in a tamarind gravy with specially ground spices. This is a semi-thick curry to be mixed with piping hot rice! For a balance of vegetables and lentils, puli Kuzhambu is preferably served with kootu- stew of veggies cooked with lentil. The lentil stew also aids in easy digestion of the tangy spicy Kuzhambu! Plain cooked and seasoned lentil (thaalicha paruppu) is also served alongside.
Puli Kuzhambu – Tamarind Curry
The most exclusive among the tamarind based curries is PULI KUZHAMBU- which translates as Tamarind Curry! It is a thick gravy with tamarind pulp. It has a tangy flavour combined with the special spices. The ‘Podi or the powder is as usual supplied my Amma! I have not grown up still to make my own ‘Puli Kuzhambu Podi’ – the special curry powder.
Amma’s Podi/Home made Puli Kuzhambu Podi
- kothumalli vithai/coriander seeds – 1/2 kg
- milagai vatral/red chillies – 1/2 kg
- kadalai paruppu/bengal gram – 100 gms
- thuvaram paruppu/split pigeon peas – 100 gms
- uluntham paruppu/dehusked black gram – 100 gms
- seeragam/cumin seeds – 4 tsp
- venthayam/fenugreek seeds – 2 tsp
- raw rice – 1oo gms
- black pepper – 100 gms
Method of Preparation
- In a hard bottomed vessel, dry roast all the ingredients with 1/2 tsp oil, except rice
- Separately roast rice – after a while the rice would puff up – 100 gms of rice would become nearly 200 gms, after roasted
- Spread in a plate and cool it for a short while
- The difference between sambaar and this curry powder is that the red chillies are roasted till darker brown in colour to get the dark colour of the kuzhambu
- Dry grind into a smooth powder
- Kuzhambu Powder is ready.
Now, when I needed to post my favourite curry and my daughter’s favourite side dish for her thayir saadham (curd rice), my rescue came from Chennai – my Amma! She gave me an easier solution rather than making one’s own curry powder in a blender – mixing sambaar powder with more pepper powder would be a timely, handy substitute. But making the spice powder at home is highly recommended to obtain the heavenly flavour of the south!
Though I have made the kuzhambu with amma’s podi, I suggest those enthusiasts who cannot receive amma’s powder to use a blend of sambaar powder with pepper powder.
Fresh vegetables like drum stick, egg plant, okra are used separately in making of the Kuzhambu. Shallots and Garlic are inseparable ingredients used with any vegetable.
This curry tastes best with gingelly oil – or to be precise the only means of getting the original flavour is by using Gingelly Oil.
Gingelly Oil is the south Indian sesame seeds oil – other sesame oils are different – Gingelly oil can be bought from any Indian departmental stores selling south indian stuff, if you live abroad.
Today, India is the largest producer of tamarind. The consumption of tamarind is widespread due to its central role in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia and South America, particularly in Mexico.
Usage of Tamarind
- Puliyodharai- tamarind rice
- Thuvayal – Chutney with tamarind
- Sambaar- lentil curry
- Rasam- the digestive soup
- Kozhi Kuzhambu- chicken curry with ground ingredients and tamarind pulp
- Meen Kuzhambu- fish curry where fish pieces are cooked in tamarind gravy with powdered spices……..
The list is no doubt a longer one. The list of different kinds of chutneys with tamarind alone can be quite extensive.
Hailing from Thirunelveli and Thoothukudi – the list has more curries – simple and exotic. A few that I know from a vegetarian household are-
- Keerai Chaaru – spinach cooked in tamarind curry – almost like Sambaar;
- Puli milagai – spicy green chillies cooked in a simple tamarind gravy, which is a mouth watering dish with idli or dosai;
- Puli thanni- a very mild and light gravy or in fact it is a ‘curry in soup consistency’ to have with cooked rice and roasted gram chutney;
- Kara Kuzhambu – which translates as spicy gravy with veggies cooked in diluted tamarind pulp;
- Milagu Kuzhambu – pepper curry made with diluted tamarind pulp;
- Vendhaya Kuzhambu – fenugreek curry made with diluted tamarind pulp;
- Vattral Kuzhambu – curry made with dried vegetables – dried and preserved vegetables like sundaikkai (turkey berry), manathakkali (black night shade), pavakkai (bitter guard) are fried and used in this kuzhambu. These all have anti oxidental and anti inflammatory properties.
The above mentioned Milagu Kuzhambu – pepper curry, Vendhaya Kuzhambu – fenugreek curry or Vatral Kuzhambu – dried veg. tamarind curry may be cousins to Puli Kuzhambu! These three curries are almost made the same way with slightest differences in ingredients.
There are also candies made with tamarind and local healing spices that aid in digestion.
The usage of tamarind is almost on a daily basis for the afternoon meal, so much so – to skip the most sort after ingredient in the kitchen shelf for a day, a curry without tamarind – ‘Puli Illa Kuzhambu’ (literally translates as curry without tamarind) is made in regular intervals.
Health Benefits of Tamarind
Tamarind juice is a mild laxative.
Tamarind is used to treat bile disorders
Tamarind lowers cholesterol
Tamarind promotes a healthy heart
The pulp, leaves and flowers, in various combinations, are applied on painful and swollen joints.
Tamarind is use as a gargle for sore throats, and as a drink to bring relief from sunstroke.
The heated juice is used to cure conjunctivitis. Eye drops made from tamarind seeds may be a treatment for dry eye syndrome.
Tamarind seed polysaccharide is adhesive, enabling it to stick to the surface of the eye longer than other eye preparations.
Tamarind is used as a diuretic remedy for bilious disorders, jaundice and catarrh.
Tamarind is a good source of antioxidants that fight against cancer.
Tamarind reduces fevers and provides protection against colds. Make an infusion by taking one ounce of pulp, pour one quart of boiling water over this and allow to steep for one hour. Strain and drink tepid with little honey to sweeten. This will bring down temperature by several degrees.
Tamarind helps the body digest food
Tamarind applied to the skin to heal inflammation
The red outer covering of the seed is an effective remedy against diarrhea and dysentery.
Juice extracted from the flowers is given internally for bleeding piles.
Here, Puli Kuzhambu is prepared with ladies finger or okra.
Tamarind is still a source of carbohydrates, and it must be limited and factored into a well-balanced diet. It is best eaten plain in small amounts or used as a condiment to spruce up the flavor of food and beverages.
This food is an excellent source of vitamin B, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, thiamine, phosphorus, riboflavin, and fiber.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- puli/soaked tamarind – lemon size or thick tamarind extract- 1 cup
- vendaikkai/ladies finger or okra – cut to medium sized pieces – 1 to 1 1/2 cup
- chinna vengayam/shallots – 6 no.s whole or thinly sliced as preferred
- poondu/garlic – 10 cloves – i have thinly sliced
- sambar powder – 2 heaped tsp
- dry roasted pepper powder – ½ tsp
- uppu/salt – as per taste
with dried black tamarind
- nallennai/gingelly oil – 3 tsp
- kadugu/mustard seeds – 1 tsp
- vendhayam/fenugreek seeds – ½ tsp
- kariveppilai/curry leaves – a few
Method of Preparation
- Soak tamarind in warm water for 10 minutes and filter the juice – keep aside
- Dry roast black pepper and dry grind to fine powder
- Add sambar powder and pepper powder (Using non-roasted pepper powder might be too spicy and might change the taste of the kuzhambu)
- Cut shallots, garlic and okra in required sizes
- Heat 3 tsp oil in a kadai and add mustard seeds
- When mustard splutters, add fenugreek seeds and curry leaves
- Add whole or thinly sliced deskinned shallots and garlic cloves and fry a bit
- Add the okra and fry a while
- Add the sambaar powder-pepper powder mixed spice and stir well; adding the spice powder at this point makes the curry darker in colour
- Dilute the tamarind extract with 1 cup water and add to the vegetable-spice dry mix
- Add salt to taste and bring the curry to boil and simmer
- Let the vegetables cook in tamarind and spice mixture in open kadai – closed chatti/kadai might make the curry thinner
- When the vegetables are cooked and the gravy thickened, kuzhambu is done
- Heat 2 tbsp oil and pour over the curry
- Puli Kuzhambu is served with hot rice, kootu (vegetable-lentil stew) and appalam (south Indian plain pappad).
- Generally, shallots are not cut or halved, but depending upon preference one can also thinly slice.. this helps when you do not want your little ones to place aside shallots or garlic but enjoy their goodness
- When the curry powder is added while frying the vegetable, it gives a darker brown colour to the kuzhambu or else the curry would have a reddish colour – as we have always seen puli kuzhambu as a darker coloured curry, for a undoubtful colour this method works
- As mentioned earlier, if one is making the curry powder at home, roast the red chillies to a darker brown colour to get the colour in the curry
- Tamarind used should be the dried one. Fresh tamarind is not used in cooking curries. The dried tamarind which is black in colour also aids in the brown colour of the end product
- More pepper powder can be added according to spice preference
- The last step mentioned above – to add heated gingelly oil on top of the curry, gives a distinctive, wonderful flavour and beautiful glow to the kuzhambu.. so do not miss this step
- The ulundham paruppu/dehusked black gram shown in the seasoning list picture is purely out of practice – any seasoning is inclusive of black gram … here it is not added as the inclusion of lentil is believed to reduce the storage value of the curry.
In hens, tamarind has been found to lower cholesterol in their serum, but not in the yolks of the eggs they laid. Due to a lack of available human clinical trials, there is insufficient evidence to recommend tamarind for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia or diabetes.