It is a shame if I don’t write about Puttu and Kadala. It is like bread and butter in Kerala. I have eaten it all throughout my life and can connect it with many stories, old sayings, humorous and real incidents that evoke laughter. In every Malayalee household morning revolved around making, eating and enjoying puttu in good old days. With changing times, it has been pushed aside due to the work involved but it is a beloved food even today. It is now simplified and considered a quick food when ready-to-use rice flour is used.
Puttu is rice flour filled in cylindrical tubes and cooked by steam. Grainy rice flour rather than fine powder is used in this preparation. In olden days, villagers used to pound moist rice in a huge stone grinder using a wooden pounder that has an iron tip. This rice flour is sieved, gently roasted and cooled. I have seen my grandma get the flour ready the previous evening to make breakfast the next morning. It was a pure labour of love!
In the morning, rice flour is made moist by sprinkling salted water. It should be a moist mixture that cling together but not wet. There is a special utensil to prepare Puttu, called Puttu kutti. It has two parts, a bottom pot that boils water and produces steam. There is a detachable top cylinder. A small sieve is placed at the bottom of the cylinder letting steam pass through and cook the flour but stopping the flour from falling down. Some people use bamboo cylinders giving it an organic touch.
I use a pressure cooker to steam and insert the kutti on the top steam vent. Puttu is assembled for cooking by placing a bottom layer of coconut grating and a portion of rice flour filled loosely. Then there is coconut layer to separate, then flour and coconut on top. When closed with its lid the cylinder goes on top of the cooker with water boiling. It is to be steamed for 10-15 minuted on medium heat.
Puttu is normally accompanied by Kadala curry, a classic side dish. Kadala is dark brown Channa/Chick peas. This curry is made with a roasted coconut paste gravy.
Kadala curry Masala
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- few curry leaves
- 3 dried red chillies
- 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
- Take oil in a frying pan and add all the ingredients and fry until coconut browns.
- Grind it to a fine paste after it cools down.
(Frying masala has to be done on a medium to low heat with utmost care. So play some soothing music or your favourite song because it take time. Wait till every coconut bit turns brown. Some tiny bits may turn deep brown but that doesn’t matter because that imparts a deep brown colour to the gravy. This is why cooking is an art! I totally admire it! Take care not to burn it as that will spoil the taste. Hang around stirring. Don’t take yours eyes off it, like watching a toddler.)
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1/2 tomato chopped
- 1½ cup cooked black chick peas/Kadala
- 3 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- few curry leaves
- 2 dried red chillies
- few coriander leaves
- Soak brown chick peas (Kadala) overnight and cook until it is tender. (I use a pressure cooker to get this done.)
- Heat coconut oil in a pan and add mustard seeds to splutter.
- Add curry leaves and red chillies.
- Fry chopped onions until it is golden brown.
- Add chopped tomato and fry till it is cooked.
- Pour the masala paste with little water and cook.
- Add cooked chick peas and some water from it.
- Boil this well until all flavours combine.
- Simmer for about ten minutes on reduced heat.
- Turn off heat and add chopped coriander leaves.
This is a country style preparation. You can enhance it by adding ginger, garlic paste and pepper powder. My mother-in-law used to fry some onion till it browns and add a little cooked chick peas and grind it. This is added to thicken the gravy.
Puttu and Kadala curry combination is a popular breakfast item in Kerala. You can find it served in most restaurants and food stalls in the morning. Green beans (mung beans) curry or just sugar and banana can also be paired with Puttu.
Puttu can also be made using millet flour, wheat flour and tapioca flour. Sweet puttu can be made when jaggery is added with coconut.
If you do not have a steamer that cannot stop you from enjoying this simple dish. Moist rice flour can be spread out on a clean cloth placed inside a steamer tray to make puttu. Sprinkle some grated coconut and allow steam to pass through the flour to cook it. Soft puttu will be read in 10-15 minutes.
Pour curry over Puttu, mix well and dig in for enough energy to start a day! It is a wholesome, simple food that is easy to digest.