Saturday, April 13, 2013

The magic of puttu

amma's puttu
If you are connected to Jaffna in someway and if you are not addicted to puttu, I am sorry, but I have to tell you that something is wrong with you! For most of the people from there, technically puttu is the staple food. When questioned most people tell me that staple food is rice, but when people from Jaffna tell me that answer I would argue that calling rice as the staple food is technically flawed in their context. They eat it for breakfast and dinner at least 5 times a week and then not calling it the staple food is a cardinal sin.

I always thought that my amma made the best puttu in the world and then kind of realized that most of the other guys also thought that their own mother's made the best puttu, seemingly its a common recurring syndrome found in a lot of people.

For those who do not know what pittu is,

Usually its made out of rice flour, either white or red rice flour can be used. Its not unusual for you  to come across variants of this made with kurakkan flour too.  Creation of puttu is a systematic process where water is added in to the flour, little by  little until the right texture is achieved.  After which the prepared flour is placed layer after layer separated by grated coconut in a cylinder, either made out of bamboo or stainless steel, and then steamed.

Puttu can be consumed with some seemingly weird but very tasty combinations. My childhood favorite was to eat puttu with banana. Growing up, I started to add a bit of sambar to the puttu and banana mix. I have had friends who would almost throw up at the thought of it, but to judge they should try it - I am serious! It really works well with milk too. The trick is to put it to soak it in milk with a little bit of sugar for a few minutes and then eat.

Other good combinations are eating with fried brinjals, drumstick curry, badji and sambar and even bitter gourd curry.

Puttu is mythical and international: The legend says the god who came down to lend a hand to an old lady to help sort out her quota of sand in return asked for puttu. I have heard many people explain to me that puttu originated from Kerala. Hence I had always known that puttu was popular in some parts of India.  never expected it to be found anywhere outside of the Indian sub continent.

Few days back I was speaking to an Indonesian and when asked what was my favorite food, I replied puttu. Then realized that I need to explain what puttu was and was about to start my explanation, when I was asked "did you say puttu?" I replied yes, and then I was told, we too have puttu! To my surprise I was explained that puttu is common in Indonesia, its the same thing steamed in bambo cylinders but from what I understand that its always the sweetened version available. Its supposedly found even in the way side make shift eating joints in Jakarta. Next time I am there I intend to take a picture! Little bit of googling made me understand its common in the Malay Archipelago.

By writing all of this if I managed to bring the craving in you to go and find puttu. My job is all done!