Tag Archives: palm jaggery

Cheeni Kizhangu/Sarkkarai Valli Kizhangu-Karuppatti/Sweet Potatoes in Palm Sugar Syrup

 

sweet potato soaked in palm jaggery syrup

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I have very less memories of Sarkkarai Valli Kizhangu or Cheeni Kizhangu – Sweet Potato as a vegetable. But I have evergreen memories of sweet potatoes floating in a tub of Palm syrup in Thoothukudi, my maternal grandmother’s house.

The big chatti or hot vessel filled with sweet aromatic Palm jaggery syrup and the  floating sweet potatoes inside was one of my favorites. Of course, still is. Mildly spiced with dry ginger for balance and added digestion, this delicacy can be had hot, warm or cold.

Cubed or Circled Sweet Potato pieces cooked in Palm Jaggery Syrup is a sweet coated with Divinity. No, it isn’t served for the Gods but the Divinity comes from its soaked flavor. The naturally mildly sweet Sweet Potato dipped in the flavorful Palm Jaggery Syrup offers a unique aroma and taste different from the other well-known sweets of Tamilnadu.

This might be termed as a healthy sweet as there is no frying involved.

 

Why should we stick to Traditional Foods?

 

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Do you believe in  –

 

  • the whole wheat breads of market that offer 50 % refined flour and still take the name ‘whole wheat’?
  • the baked chips with loads of sodium that still claim to be 0% cholesterol?
  • the high sugar/banned low sugar or honey filled granular bars that claim to be health snacks to start the day?
  • the mostly refined ready to eat whole grain cereals that are sent through high heat to be moisture free for longer shelf life?
  • and additionally, do you believe in the never-ending list of hazardous goodies that cheat us in the name of health food?

 

If you don’t believe in the above, then I’d suggest you to try out the traditional recipes of each culture.

Believe me!

These Sweet Potatoes –

  1. cooked in Palm Jaggery
  2. soaked well in the same syrup
  3. not deep-fried
  4. do not possess the minutest droplet of butter, ghee or oil
  5. no added milk or coconut milk
  6. no added cream or coconut cream

– can be claimed fat-free, gluten-free, free from milk and milk products, no allergic nuts involved in making, no soy products and so on.
Fortunately,  there is no claim of traditional sweets to be fat-free – no tagged promises. As there cannot be any food that could be completely fat-free/sugar-free/chemical free/ and to top the list – that is suitable for all. It is for the consumers to identify what suits their family, more importantly what suits their pocket and most importantly what suits their family’s health and well-being. But staying away from products that have higher shelf life and those beautifully arranged in the stores, could definitely be a healthier choice for the family, especially with growing children.

This simple logic has made me believe and rely completely on traditional foods. They don’t stay longer – reason one, we lick the bowls to our heart’s content and then, they have no added preservatives to stay long and tempt us longer. They can be high in calories, high in sugar, high in cholesterol as analyzed by dietitians. But, they are at a comfort kitchen zone where the intolerant levels can be altered.

Hence, while one cannot alter the sugar content of sweet potatoes, feel free to alter the amount of Palm jaggery used in the recipe.

 

Sweet Potatoes and the South East Asian Connection

 

 

I am amazed by the connection of south East Asian cuisine with the cuisine of Tamilnadu. On our visit to Indonesia, I could taste the same Cheeni kizhangu karuppatti in Indonesia, but with the twist of taste with coconut milk. Yummy Treat! The same Sweet Potato in different parts of the world can be used in different ways. But the abundance of Palm and Palm Sugar and Coconut and Coconut Milk has given way to a number of common recipes among the different countries of South-East Asia, Srilanka and Southern India that share sea space. This cuisine connect is also a remarkable proof of the successful maritime trade between Tamilnadu and other South East Asian Countries extending till China, the give and take of several recipes twisted to local tastes.

Here is the name of the delicacies with almost the same preparation. Please correct me for errors.

Indonesian – 

Biji Salak – Sweet Potato Dumplings cooked in Palm Sugar Syrup and flavoured with coconut milk and Pandan (screw pine) leaves and thickened with tapioca flour

Kolak Biji Salak – The above mentioned sweet with the addition of Bananas

Malaysian – 

Bubur Cha Cha – Sweet porridge made with 3 kinds of differently coloured sweet potatoes, yam, tapioca pearls (sago),  bananas and black eyed beans, thickened with tapioca flour and added flavor with coconut milk and Pandan leaves

Singaporean – 

BoBo Cha Cha – Bubur Cha Cha is also called BoBo Cha Cha and made with a mixture of different colored tapioca pearls. http://www.singaporelocalfavourites.com/2010/08/easy-bo-bo-cha-cha-recipe.html

 

Now, to the Tamil Recipe –

Cheeni Kizhangu Karuppatti/ Sweet Potatoes in Palm Jaggery Syrup

 

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Ingredients

  • cheeni kizhangu/sweet potatoes – 1/2 kg
  • karuppatti/palm jaggery – 1/4 kg
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • water – 250 ml and little more for potatoes to float

 

Method of Preparation
1. Wash and peel sweet potatoes

2. Cut them into circles preferably or cubes as per the size of potatoes

 

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3. In a pan, place Palm jaggery and water and heat slightly till jaggery completely dissolves

4. Filter the liquid as Cane or Palm jaggery always consist impurities/mud

5. Take this liquid in a wide and hard bottomed pan and add dry ginger powder and cardamom powder

 

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6. Add the cut sweet potatoes and add little more water if potatoes don’t have enough syrup to float

 

7. Slow cook sweet potatoes in the Palm syrup till done

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8. Pressure cooking would result in mashed potatoes; Slow cooking the pieces in the syrup not only enhances the flavor but also helps in perfectly soft and spoon-able pieces

9. By the time the potatoes are cooked, the syrup would have thickened a bit

10. Yet there would be enough syrup for the sweet potatoes to float in

11. Enjoy this delicious sweet hot or cold.

 

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Note:

  1. If you have access to different colored sweet potatoes, just indulge – do not worry about the color.
  2. If there is no Palm jaggery available, try using powdered Palm sugar available in Thai markets, or use any unrefined cane sugar or jaggery.  No white sugar here please.
  3. If the potatoes are huge in size – slice in halves, if the circles turn out to be too big
  4. If preferred, this sweet can also be converted into a Payasam/Kheer, with the addition of coconut milk (like the Indonesian Biji Sala)

Ulundhankali/Black Gram Pudding – To my daughter with Love

 

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Ulundhankali/Ulundhu kali/Ulundhamkali – these are different ways of spelling out a super healthy sweet. It translates as Black Gram Pudding. It is a black gram-palm jaggery sweet from Tamilnadu, made especially for young girls during those special days of the menstrual cycle.
Ulundhu or Uluntham-paruppu means Black Gram
Kali is the word for a thick/sticky pudding. Take note not to pronounce it as ‘Kaali’ with a double ‘a’, which denotes the Hindu Goddess or Shakti of India.

Kali is pronounced as –

‘Ka’ as in Kabab or Kanji with ‘a’ as short vowel and

‘Li as in muesli or vermicelli.

As gentle as its name, this pudding is also very soft in consistency. But, the soft yet thick pudding can play different roles in the healthy life of a girl as a tasty sweet as well as a medicine.

Girls grow up to play several roles in the society… Of course that stands good for boys too. No gender bias here. But, as tradition goes and in reality, the healthy balance of the different roles played by women is directly related not only to their own well-being and sound health, but to the well-being of their families too.

When a girl says good-bye to childhood and is ready for the next phase, the organs responsible for her ability to continue the beautiful process of Procreation need additional focus. That responsibility of making her healthy to be part of branching the family tree, lies in the hands of mothers and grand-mothers, who were little girls long long ago.

 

pudding or sweet ball, as preferred

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One of the key elements to sound reproductive health has been transferred from generation to generation through a few kitchen tricks. Ulundhankali or Black gram Pudding is one element of those handing-over strategies. One doesn’t know when this started. Hence, a tiny bit of imagination to understand… When my great grand mother became a big girl, her mother gave her ulundhamkali, taught by her grandmother in order to –

a. keep the hip bones strong,
b. completely cleanse the uterus after every menstrual cycle,
c. thereby develop her uterus without fibroid and cysts.

That is why, when the monthly cycle is done, we are given Black Gram Rice with Sesame Seed Chutney (refer – dosaikal.com/blackgramrice-sesame seed chutney) and this Kali/Black Gram Pudding. These foods are believed to act as uterus cleansers.

No written records here…. Only stories of information passed on by word of mouth from mothers to daughters. The making and consuming of ‘Kali’ starts with early teenage and goes on till menopausal stage of every woman.

The long generational chain hasn’t been cut till now and so the information thread is well intact.  So, this recipe of Ulundhankali is in honour of mothers, grand mothers and great grand mothers who have passed on the torch of good health to the daughters of their home.

So, here it is…. KALI – an exceptional recipe for the most precious princess and angel of my life. A mother’s contribution in making a Princess transform into a Majestic Queen!
The goodness of ingredients
The goodness of Kali lies in the most important three ingredients that go in the making. Each of the ingredients is rich in nutrient value and what impresses me the most, is the thought process that went into making such a balanced food, that aids in the core well being of the core member of each household. Especially, starting it off at an early age to proceed smoothly into the consecutive phases of adulthood in the journey of life.

 

black gram – whole or split but with skin

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Ulundham Paruppu/Black Gram: The health notes on Black gram, which is the main ingredient of this simple 3 ingredient pudding, has already been discussed in – dosaikal.com/black gram rice with sesame chutney

 

karuppatti/palm jaggery

 

Health benefits of palm jaggery –

 

  1. high in energy and low in calories compared to white sugar
  2. rich in iron and helps fight anemia
  3. regulates liver functions
  4. symptoms of PMS like fatigue, irritability, weakness and muscle spasms can all be regulated with jaggery
  5. can boost the immune system and fight germs and infections. Regular intake can increase the resistance power of the body
  6. the potassium present in jaggery is vital for healthy nervous system functions and helps in smooth functioning http://www.diyhealthremedy.com/14-great-health-benefits-of-palm-jaggery/

 

nallennai/gingelly oil or sesame oil

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Wellness aspects of sesame seeds have been posted in dosaikal.com/black gram rice with sesame chutney.

In the making of Kali,  sesame seed oil, which is called Nallennai in Tamil and Gingelly Oil or cold pressed Sesame Seed oil acts as a binding agent of the sticky pudding. The gingelly oil used for cooking and cosmetic purposes in the southern part of India, was cold pressed oil. Not very sure whether today’s store bought, packaged Nallennai/Gingelly oil still uses traditional ways of low heat extraction. But, a satisfying sight is the ‘Chekku’ or traditional oil extracting machines newly cropping up in the cities of Tamilnadu.
 Cold Pressed Sesame Oil

Cold-pressed sesame oil is a good source of vitamin E, containing 11.8 mg of the vitamin for every 100 g of the oil. Vitamin E gives sesame oil its antioxidant property. It also has a high concentration of fatty acids, including polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids and monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids. Other constituents of cold-pressed sesame oil include zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium and iron as well as vitamin B-6. Zinc contributes to healthy bones; copper is good for the management of rheumatoid arthritis; calcium is essential for the prevention of osteoporosis, migraine and colon cancer; and magnesium contributes to respiratory health. http://www.livestrong.com/article/498331-cold-pressed-sesame-oil-benefits/

 

The ‘Chekku Yennai’ or grinding sesame seeds with a pestle and extracting oil with no high temperature setting is the traditional-goodness filled oil extracting method.
Alarming fact of present day refined oils –

The modern method of oil extraction involves supplying a lot of heat. The oilseed is first crushed, and the pulp is heated under pressure. As a result, almost all the oil is extracted.

The downside is that the oil is heated up to temperatures of 230 degree centigrade. Heating it to such high temperatures alters the properties of the oil molecules in unfavourable ways (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons  are formed at high temperatures which are carcinogenic) – and strips it off of its nutritional value.

For optimum extraction of oil, a solvent is added, in this case, hexane. The hazards of exposure to hexane are many – including dermatitis and CNS depression – depending upon the quantity of hexane inhaled or ingested. http://www.thealternative.in/lifestyle/cold-pressed-oil-switch-refined-oil-much-healthier-alternative/

 

KALI – Research and Development

red rice and black gram

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The first step in making Kali is making a powder out of Black Gram. Roasted Black gram is milled to a fine powder.

The traditional method of making Kali is by cooking the powder directly with Palm Jaggery water and Gingelly oil with constant stirring. This might take hours and result in a beautifully darkened, glossy Kali, with the addition of sore fingers and aching elbows and shoulders.

Aachis and Ammas (grandmothers and mothers) never bothered about their aches those days. And after all, making this pudding is all about that – reducing muscular, joint aches and strengthening bones. Might be they had an extra bowl of the strengthening KALI, to treat the after-effects – their aches.

After thorough analysis of the condition of our already very strong bones and muscles (so many stories of chiropractors and physio-therapists that we visit these days before 40), the elders of our households have devised an easier version of the extensive process of Kali Making.

The new found result after research comprises two main changes –

1. Mixing red rice to the black gram while making a powder – to aid in a ‘not so sticky’ paste;
2. Pressure cooking the three main ingredients – which drastically reduces the time involved in the making of kali.

After this simplified process, the Kali mixture (red rice-black gram powder cooked in palm jaggery water) is again cooked well in a pan with oil but with reduced stirring and brought to the right consistency. No complaints of joint aches and muscle pulls while making Kali anymore.

The introduction of red rice has reduced the trouble further. As mentioned previously, Ulundhamkali is usually made with ulundhu/black gram alone. But the sticky texture might be hard to handle sometimes. And might result in a burnt or lumpy semi-solid in the cooker. The addition of red rice (better than processed white rice) blends the mixture into a sticky cake in the cooker. This would be easily removable from the pressure cooker and transferred into the hard bottomed chatti/pan. Lastly, the sticky pudding is cooked well with gingelly oil.

The last ingredient which is the gingelly oil, helps bringing the sticky paste to a beautifully glowing glossy pudding. The end product ‘Kali’ can also be made into ‘urundai’ or sweet balls, easy for children.

 

Ulundhankali/Black Gram Kali – Palm Jaggery Pudding

 

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Step I

Making the Kali Powder

 

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  • muzhu ulundhu/black gram (split or whole but with skin intact) – 1 cup – 100gms
  • Sivapparisi/Red rice – 1/2 cup – 50 gms

 

  1. Dry roast black gram and red rice separately till a beautiful roasted aroma comes out
  2. Milling is the best as a fine powder yields better pudding. When there are no chances of milling, powder both together in a mixer and filter to remove coarse lentil-rice particles
  3. Use the fine powder alone for making kali; No compromises here
  4. The left over coarse powder can be used for any other dosais

 

Step II

Making Kali

Ingredients

  • ulundhu-arisi maavu combo/black gram-red rice powder combo – 1 cup or 100gms
  • karuppatti/palm jaggery – 150 gms
  • thanneer/water – 2 cups
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp (my optional inclusion)
  • nallennai/gingelly oil – 1/2 cup (little more or little less, but more the better)

 

Method of Preparation
1. Let 150 gms palm jaggery dissolve in 2 cups of water; Strain it
2. Mix 1 cup of Kali powder in strained Palm jaggery water
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3. Pour the mixture into a cooking utensil with 2 tsp nallennai/gingelly oil
4. Pressure cook in the separate cooking utensil inside the cooker – After the first whistle, reduce flame and let cook for 5 minutes
Note: Never cook the mixture in direct pressure cooker as the palm jaggery would burn and kali would stick to the cooker. Pressure cook in a separate utensil inside the cooker base with water to avoid burning. Yet, the mixture would be sticky but no burnt jaggery here

 

5. When done, remove from the cooker and transfer the cooked mixture into a hard bottomed pan with gingelly oil

sticky mixture from the cooker

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6. Keep stirring well till the sticky mixture reaches a non-sticky consistency
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7. The beauty of the glowing Kali after addition of oil is certainly a remarkable feat

oil needs to get incorporated well to lose its sticky texture

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8. It is just right to serve when the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom and scoops out well in a ladle .

hurray!

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Enjoy Kali feeding your young ones. Additionally, Kali is also suitable for all, as it aids in keeping our bones stronger.

So, I mention again… this was it…. KALI – an exceptional recipe for the most precious princess and angel of my life. A mother’s contribution in making a Princess transform into a Majestic Queen!

Home made Healthy Caramel Popcorn (with palm jaggery) – A Promise Kept!

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While on our recent flight, when my daughter asked for a caramel popcorn snack, I obviously restricted her not only due to the white sugar caramel.. but I could imagine a long list of unnecessary components dancing their way into the box. I was and am truly scared of the butter… too much salt… baking soda…. corn syrup… preserving agents and other unknown ingredients in the pack. I know I sound quite obsessed with healthy food. And as always, I promised her to make a healthier version of Caramel Popcorn at home.
Though in a while relaxing my obsession, I bought her a pack of caramel popcorn and tasted to find the original taste and texture of it. Crispy, buttery, salty, perfectly sweetened with caramelized sugar –  it definitely tasted good. Reading the ingredients, I couldn’t control the guilt of having those unwanted preservatives and unknown elements included in the pack to increase its shelf life.
Now, to keep up the promise..(by the way, I am approximately 75% good at keeping up my healthy promises in the kitchen), I decided to try a healthy caramel popcorn version not altering the taste of the packed junk that we had.
Off late, I have been quite successful in making peanut and sesame candies with jaggery syrup. With that confidence of getting the right syrup consistency, I went to fetch cane jaggery from my storage. In a corner, I saw the ‘chukku karuppatti’ specially bought from Thiruchendur Temple.

 

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Chukku Karuppatti is a flavourful/healthy combination of palm jaggery and dry ginger, moulded for storage in a hand-made palm leaf box. It is a household remedy for cold, cough and indigestion. So, you guessed right… caramel would be made from ‘chukku karuppatti’ – ‘dry ginger palm jaggery’ – that would aid in digestion too!
Here’s how I made it .. from scratch… with dry corn and no added ingredients. I prefer the taste of popped corn made from the humble pressure cooker than one made in a microwave.
Palm Sugar Caramel Popcorn – flavoured with dry ginger

 

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Ingredients

for pop-corn

  • dried corn (to pop-up) – 1 cup
  • oil – 1 tsp
  • salt – 1/2 tsp

 

pressure cooker popcorn

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for caramel

  • chukku karuppatti/palm jaggery with dry ginger – 1/2 cup

Cane Jaggery can also be substituted for Palm Jaggery

healthy brown syrup

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Method of Preparation

coating popcorn in palm syrup

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  1. Melt 1/2 cup palm sugar in 1/4 cup water either in minimum heat or by just stirring
  2. Keep the palm sugar aside at this melted level
  3. Before making caramel, it is better to make popcorn as the thickened syrup would harden quickly
  4. In a pressure cooker, take 1 tsp oil and salt; add dry corn and mix well
  5. Close the lid without the whistle and let the corn pop up in a few minutes
  6. Pop corn is ready
  7. Open the lid and keep aside and start making caramel
  8. For caramel, in a wide bottomed pan, take the already melted palm sugar and make a two string consistency syrup
  9. If one feels the quantity of syrup is too much for the quantity of popped corn, take the extra syrup and store for any other candy next time
  10. Immediately add the popcorn in the syrup and mix well
  11. Crispy Caramel Popcorn is ready
  12. Cool and store in an airtight container.

 

 

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It is truly a great feeling of satisfaction and pride to have fulfilled a promise given to your young one!

 

Khmer Memories – Num Plae Ai/Sticky Rice Sweet Balls

 

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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

 

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‘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.

Ingredients

 

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  • 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).

 

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2. Cut the Palm Jaggery into small pieces to fill one piece into each ball.

 

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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 –

 

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5. Fill each ball with one piece of cut jaggery and close.

 

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6. Make the same with all the rice flour.

 

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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.

 

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9. The sweet balls which are at the bottom of the vessel when dropped, rise up to the water level after cooked. This cooking process might take 5 to 10 minutes.

 

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10. Take a bowl of room temperature water or cold water and drop the cooked sweet balls inside.

 

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11. Cook them in batches.

12. After a minute, remove them and place in a plate.

 

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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.

 

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Tip:

  1. The sticky rice balls can be stored in refrigerator for a couple of days or even more.
  2. 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.

Paanakam – The Energy Drink of South India

The word Paanakam always reminds me of Sashti. Sashti is the sixth day of new moon and the sixth day of the full moon. Lord Murugan, the God of the Tamils is worshipped specially on Sashti day. Every month has its Sashti days. Lord Murugan is worshipped with special poojais in temples and people fast on those days. Skandha Sashti is the one of the biggest worship days of Lord Murugan, which falls in the month of Aippasi (October-November). It is Murugan defeating the demon Surapadhman or in simple terms – victory of good over evil. Murugan is also called Skandan, so this is skanda sashti!

The defeat of Suran by Lord Murugan is commonly known as Surasamharam – ofcourse a Sanskrit word. In Tamil, we call it Suran Thalai Vettu – colloquially. It actually means Chopping Suran’s Head.

The war is re-enacted in all six major Murugan temples – arupadai veedu- in tamil. Tiruchendhur, near my home towns Tirunelveli and Thoothukkudi is the shore temple where the battle is believed to have happened in pre-historic times. This temple and sashti are therefore very close to my heart. It is in Tiruchendhur that the fierce battle of the demon in various forms and Lord Murugan is re-enacted in a very big scale. http://murugan.org/temples/tiruchendur2.htm

Skanda Sashti Day falls on 31st October 2011.

Not getting into too many religious notes, Skanda Sashti Viradham or Fast always ends with Paanakam – the Lemon and Jaggery energy drink. The fast lasts for six days, starting from the first day of the new moon in the tamil month of Aippasi – starting mostly on the day after Deepavali. Having just one meal of rice and coconut chutney and fruits as breakfast and banana and milk for dinner, I used to very religiously observe viradham/fast when in school. The elders would have a stricter fasting rule. Paanakam also used to be my thirst quencher at school. The sixth day would go without any meal and just fruits and liquids with jaggery – coffee with jaggery and no sugar allowed.  At night, the time when ‘surasamharan – the defeat’ is completed at Tiruchendhur temple, we would do special poojai for Murugan at home in Chennai, and have a cold shower – a compulsory hair wash – then open the fast with Paanakam. The hair wash symbolises getting rid of all evil physically and mentally – with the defeat of the demon. The Paanakam specially at that moment, would taste like real amutham – the nectar of the Gods – running down cool into the starving tummy! This is supposed to be an instant energy drink specially after a fast.

It doesn’t mean we start having our meal after Paanakam. It is only Paanakam and fruits for the night. After defeating the demon, Lord Murugan marries Devayanai the next day – it is called the Thirukkalyanam – or the sacred marriage. After six days of fasting, every family has a feast on Lord Murugan’s marriage – with six kinds of mixed rice delicacies – Kalavai Saadham or Viragina Saatham which literally means mixed rice. Some also call it Chitrannam. Lemon Rice, Tamarind Rice, Coconut Rice, Ven Pongal (salted rice and lentil), Sarkkarai Pongal (sweetened jaggery rice) and seasoned yoghurt rice are the six varieties – some might also substitute with other mixed rice varieties (would be posted shortly). We wait for the morning to come, have a hair wash – the auspicious day being the wedding day – stand in for the poojai – and just get ready to have the special wedding feast meal on Banana leaf! (For more on Banana Leaf Meal read – https://dosaikal.com/2011/10/14/thamizhar-virundhu-feast-of-the-tamils/)

Belief in God or No belief in God – doesn’t matter..   The culture of accepting Gods to be one in the family and feeling oneself part of HIS family just fascinates me!

Now to Paanakam! Not only on special occasions, this drink can be had anytime, anywhere.

Paanakam

 

the south indian lemonade!

 

Ingredients (makes 2 glasses) 

  • vellam- powdered/grated jaggery – 1/2 cup
  • elumicham pazham/juice of one lemon
  • Elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • salt – a pinch
  • water – as required

 

 

Method of Preparation

  1. Dissolve jaggery in water
  2. Strain the liquid for mud in jaggery
  3. Mix cardamom powder and dry ginger powder
  4. Add the lemon juice
  5. Add a pinch of salt
  6. Check for taste and add water if required
  7. Add more jaggery or lemon juice as preferred
  8. Paanakam is ready.

Note:

  1. Jaggery provides glucose and therefore the body gets instant energy
  2. Cardamom powder re-vitalises the taste buds
  3. Dry ginger induces hunger; It also helps in digestion, especially after a fast
  4. I have used palm jaggery instead of sugarcane jaggery
  5. More on sugarcane jaggery and palm jaggery – read https://dosaikal.com/2011/08/26/aval-sarkkarai-pongal-rice-flakes-jaggery-pongal/.