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Monday, November 30, 2009

Corn and Semolina Biscotti

This was my Sunday's on the spur baking session to coax Srinath from buying a box of rusks from the Indian store. I promised that I would bake something at home. I have made regular wheat based biscotti earlier. This was my first attempt at using corn for a biscotti recipe. I have tried my hand with corn bread and cake.

Ingredients :serves 4
Corn grits (unprocessed, unflavoured) - 1 1/2 cup
Rava (Semolina )- 1/2 cup
whole wheat flour - 1 1/2 cup
sugar - 1 1/4 cup
salt - 1tsp
elaichi (cardamon) powder - 1tsp
cinnamon (dalchini) - 1/4 tsp
milk /whey/curd - 1 cup
raisins and cherries- 1 cup
cooking oil - 2tbsp
baking soda -1 1/2 tsp
baking powder - 2 tsp
Vinegar /orange juice - 2 tbsps

Making it
  • preheat your oven at 350 F
  • Mix in dry ingredients and add oil and mix well in a large bowl
  • Keep adding milk and folding in the dry fruits slowly
  • The consistency - a slightly set in dough unlike cake batter (similar to makkai ki roti)
  • spray some oil onto your baking tray or pan
  • set in the dough and bake it for 25 minutes (check if done in 15 minutes)
  • Corn tends to burn so keep checking
  • once done take it cool the "cake". slice it into long strips and put it back into the oven at 350 for another 5 minutes  
  • and you are done
I use raw sugar (brown) so my desserts come out looking more "chocolaty" 

  • You could use home made roasted almond powder in place of oil. It is a great way to avoid oil in your baked goods. Proportion needs to be - 1 cup almond powder = 1 1/2 cup oil or butter
  • Know your oven and then adjust your timing as per your oven
  • Work on the proportions for baking powder and soda as some brands tend to leave a stale metallic taste in your snack

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saambhaar Powder ? Kuzhambu Powder is the name!

The name"Saambaar" has become synonymous with South Indian Cuisine. It has become a generic name of sorts for any dish made with tamarind, lentils and veggies.

Every region in south India has a version of tamarind-lentil-veggie recipe original to that place. Tamil variety of the lentil-tamarind-veggie dish is called Kuzhambu. Saambaar / sambar is an extended variation of kuzhambu when dry kuzhambu powder and fresh ground coconut, jeera, coriander seeds, red chillies, methi and onion(optional) are fine ground to take a simple paruppu-veggie kuzhambu to another level.Telugu pappu chaaru, and Kannada Huli are slightgly different from Tamil Saambaar and kuzhambu. A slight difference in procedure gives each dish its distinct flavour and texture.

kuzhambu powder- a wholesome spice mix...
Home made kuzhambu powder has a class of its own. Packaged masalas can never come close to the amma-made versions. My amma or my mamiyaar send me home ground ones. Once I run out of this stock, I grind my own kuzhambu and rasam powder in  a mixer-grinder. It is a different feel to have home ground masalas and podis to cook your meal.

Kuzhambu powder made in different homes may have slight variations. This particular powder is my amma's recipe and proportion of ingredients. Sun drying spices before grinding them is the key to making an aromatic powder. I don't have the luxury of sun drying the spices so I switched to oven "roasting" all the ingredients.

You need:
Coriander Seeds - 3 cups
Tur dal- 1 cup
Chana Dal - 1 cup
Urad dal - 1/4 cup (optional)
Methi (fenugreek) seeds - 1/4 cup
Red chillies - 30 or to suit your taste
Black Pepper corns - 1 cup
Mustard seeds - 1/4 cup
Jeera/Cumin - 1/4 cup
turmeric powder - 4 tbsp

  • Oven roast/sun dry / dry roast all the ingredients one by one (all except the turmeric powder and mustard seeds)
  • Let them cool and then grind into a fine powder in mixer/grinder
  • Lay it out on a flat tray for a while (make sure it is away from water source or dust)...This is to cool the powder for storage (griding makes the powder hot/warm)
  • Store in an air tight container

Feta Cheese Roti

Cheese is a pantry staple of sorts in my kitchen. I have experimented with almost all kinds of cheese available in the market. This time around I had some grainy FETA cheese in the freezer. I first started experimenting with  feta cheese while in Cyprus.

About FETA
It is a great crumbly cheese with a salty flavour. It is basically a salted goat and sheep milk cheese from Greece. It was taken to Italy and further into Europe later in 1400's. Similar cheeses are made in different countries throughout the Mediterranean. My first stint with Feta (a basic curdled and aged cheese stored in salt water) was with the Cyrpus version of Feta. This cheese is slightly different from the original Feta from Greece. The name Feta is however a corruption of the Italian word Fetta (which means slice).

Feta is a crumbly, salty cheese which is great served fresh in a salad, as a slice with crackers, as a psread o bread/roti, used as an ingredient by pastry chefs.

Interesting facts about Feta Cheese
  • Traditional feta is majorly sheep milk with less than 30% goat milk. We also have cow milk feta though.
  • Since 2005, feta has been a protected designation of origin (PDO) product in the European Union.
  • Popular traditional dishes made with Feta-  spanakopita ("spinach pie") and tyropita ("cheese pie" with olive oil and vegetables). i'll write bout these vegetarian Greek dishes in my future posts.

My Feta cheese roti...
I tried a variation of paneer roti (the add to flour kind and not the stuffed recipe). It has come out really well. We need not add salt to the dough, however a little bit of oregano and chilli flakes make it yummier. The last time I made Feta cheese roti, I used a little garam masala. The combo for today was guacamole and raajma. I did not use oil to make them, so dint call them parata. Try it out and let me know and if you already experimented the combo, then you know what I mean! ;) .

PS: I dint add a picture because the roti dint look anything different from a usual roti in pictures...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nawabi Masala Dosai

Nothing off beat about dish except that it is a usual masala dosai with a twist in the onion raw masala. The twist being, a fine ground "nawabi onion masala" spread on the inside along with the potato peas masala.

What you need...dosai batter, potatoes and peas etc fo the inner masala, and the actual twist to the dish - my special onion paste. 

Ingredients for the Nawabi onion paste - 
Romano / Parmesan cheese
Red chillies

Sounds yummy right, the dosai really did taste great. My husband went crazy with the camera.

Dosai anyone! Served with coconut chutney and guacamole

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Beetroot Dhum Biryani

This recipe is from one of the Chefs in the family, Usha Manni (my mami). (We have real wonderful cooks in the family, and two members who have a professional degree in Hotel Management and Catering technology and I take pride in that!). I really look forward to anything and everything she dishes out. She is a real bubbly lady with a never ending enthusiasm to walk, talk and breath anything to do with food. I admire her for her dedication to the family. She gave up her very promising career to be a home maker. (She is a wonderful one at that.) 

Now coming to the recipe, I am sure she too must be shocked that, I learnt this from her while she made it for me during one of my visits to Chennai.The recipe is fairly simple and I hope I am doing a decent job of explaining it here. :-).

All you need:
Beetroot - 3 (small) or 2 (large)
Basmati/sona masoori/ long grain rice - 1 cup
Onion  - chopped - 1/2cup
Red chillies - 2
Green Chillies - 2
Bay leaf, Jeera, Elaichi, Dal chini, Clove - (say a tsp of all together)
Garlic - 2 or 3 cloves
Ginger - 1" piece
Salt - to taste
Oil(very little) - 2tsp
Garam Masala Powder- 1/2 tsp or less(a little)
Corriander leaves - to garnish

How I cooked it...
  • Soak the rice for about half an hour annd then par boil it with a clove, drop of oil and a pinch of salt (use an open container)
  • strain out the rice (al-dante) and let it cool
  • Wash and grate your beetroot (in the raw)
  • follow a simple process to make your beetroot masala base (similar to making a dry masala sabzi with half of the onion )
  • I went "hyderabadi" way from here; I used the oven at 375 for 30 minutes
  • Take a baking dish and rub in a little oil
  • Layer rice and beetroot masala (alternate layers)

  • close the dish with an aluminum foil
  • leave it in the oven at 375 for 30 minutes
  • Before you serve caramelize an onion (slender long slices)  and vertically slit green chillies to garnish
  • And you are done. 

    I made chepankazhangu moorkuzhambu and some vadaam to go with this yummy biryani...Chalo, khana khaathe` hai!

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Gone Semiya Crazy today!

    This is the simplest version of full meal loaded with starch and cucumber being the only veggie in the menu today. I did not want to eat rice so went ahead with boiling a lot of semiya/ Vermicelli for three different versions of semiya for lunch. These are a take on sevai varieties made in our kitchens (expect for the thayir/curd variety). Nothing innovative about these!

    Base ingredient:

    Boiled required amount of semiya (preferably whole wheat) with a drop of oil and salt until half done (al-dante)

    Now the variations...

    Lemon (Elmichampazham) Semiya:
    just put in the same south Indian tempering you would have for lemon rice. Just mix in semiya instead of rice. I went low on turmeric this time.

    Coconut (Thenga) semiya
    same with this, use the thenga sadam (cocout rice) tempering to mix in semiya

    Cucumber Thayir (curd) semiya:
    Make a basic cucumber thayir pacchadi and add the semiya to it.

    Thats it my lunch for the day is done!

    One great tip from my Mangala Chitthi's  kitchen: (lol....she doesn't know I picked this from her)
    Use a little moong dal along with chana dal and urad dal in your tempering for poha, or any semiya/ rice variety for that extra crunch.

    Next iron chef - Features Indian Cuisine!

    Indians are proud of their "culture", "traditions" and of course their food. We get touchy when anything with "curry powder" is called Indian. Coming to think of it, the word curry powder is too generic and has been corrupted over the years since it was initially taken to Europe as a Condiment from India.

    Indian cuisine is definitely beyond pAlak paneer, aloo gobi and chicken tikka. A small pointer here, a trial to patent chicken tikka masala by some one in the UK and being called the national dish of Britain. There are more ridiculous things happening to anything and everything Indian around the world. Cant blame them, everything Indian is over 3000 years old but we don't take pride in claiming to have invented or discovered anything. No wonder others take a lead in doing it. Remember the US patent awarded for discovering the medicinal properties of turmeric in 1995. It was revoked later. Then came neem and basmati. There was an uproar by Indian across the world and matters were taken seriously. We are waking up now, better late than never... right.

    Coming to the topic, November 1st 2009 episode of Next Iron Chef was based on Indian Cuisine. For people who are not aware of this show; Next Iron Chef is a series on Food Network which basically was to choose an iron chef who later becomes a part of another series- Iron Chef America.

    Image courtesy: Food network

     Looked like except for Chef Jehangir Mehta,
     image source: food network

    None of the other chefs had exposure to Indian cuisine. Two things stuck me here, one that, for being taken in as a base for an episode, Indian Cuisine has come a long way, the other, that top chefs of this country said they hardly knew anything about Indian cuisine.

    I was a bit disappointed to see Chef Mehta not winning the challenge despite hailing from India. This episode saw a chefs lining up thorans, aloo gobi, etc. It was really a great episode but the judges fell short of being "judges" as they knew very little about the cuisine. Their comments had me rolling over with laughter. Not to mention any names but saying one of the judges said that serving plain curd was not good (did she know that Indian do have plain curd to cool their palate), and the other judge said that lentils are always over cooked in Indian Cuisine. Such things doesnt speak well for judges on a major show on National Television.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Bagaara Celery and Mathaan (yellow pumpkin)

    I am from HyderabAd, a city known for its Biryani, Mirchi ka Saalan and Bagaara Baingan. My inspiration for this particular recipe is the famous Bagaara Baingan (Brinjal). I have never been able to find information on the origin of this word Bagaara but have concluded that it simply means to spice things up!

    There may be different versions of the same dish and each one had its own pros and cons. My procedure is thanks to my health or lack of it(I am a bit low on energy levels and stamina, so have short cuts for standard methods).

    You need: serves 2
    Pumpkin - cubed - 1 cup
    Celery - chopped - 1 cup
    water 2 or 3 Tbsp
    oil - 1 tsp ( optional as I skipped it)
    bay leaf - 1
    cumin- 1/4 tsp
    curry leaves -2 or 3

    onion - 1/4 cup
    Coriander seeds - 1 1/2 T
    Cumin - 1  1/2 tsp
    Ginger - 1" piece
    Garlic - 2 cloves
    cardamon - 2
    cinnamon - 1/2" piece
    clove - 2
    Coconut (preferably dry) - 1/4 cup
    Tamarind - size of a small lime
    Ground nuts and/or almonds - 2 T
    salt to taste
    oil - 1 tsp
    turmeric powder
    til / sesame seeds - 1 tsp

    cilantro leaves / coriander leaves



    • Dry roast all of masala ingredients (except the tamarind)
    •  Grind roasted spices into a fine paste with pre soaked tamarind
    • Saute one bay leaf, a little cumin, add the Celery and pumpkin (diced).
    • Add salt and turmeric, add a little water
    • Once the veggies look translucent, add the paste and cook with curry leaves and coriander/cilantro leaves until the gravy has a nice aroma
    • Garnish with coriander/cilantro leaves before serving
    This is works well as is or as a side dish for roti or rice. Call me crazy, but I have tried combining this curry (minus the ginger) with penne and also spaghetti. I loved it. I definitely don't like a layer of oil floating over food. Trick to skip oil completely for this recipe is to dry roast all your spices with coconut going in last. Oil layer left behind works just lke your cooking spray. If you think food doesn't taste "good" without oil, I' d say, have an open mind, try something new and you'll love it. 

    Before I sign off, herez the picture.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Onion Chutney with Red Apples

    As I already told you, I experiment a lot with ingredients and flavours. My husband is my only taster and reviewer.

    Now coming to what I actually wanted to write for this post, dinner menu for today: Idli, arachuvitta vengayam saambhaar, dosai molaga podi drenched in til oil, coconut and groundnut chutney, and the star of the day - Onion and tomato chutney with the sweet twist ;-).

    Nothing out of the world about this recipe, I just added a red apple to the usual onion tomato chutney I make. Onion tomato chutney requires you to saute diced onions and tomatoes in a tadka (tempering) of mustard seeds, jeera, the dals (moong, chana, urad), red chilli, curry leaves, hing (asafoetida), turmeric (haldi). Add a little salt to suit your taste. Here is how it looks when it is done sauteing.

    Now add a few cilantro/coriander leaves (I add a few mint leaves at times). Then let the mixture cool and grind them into yummy chutney for dosai, idli or oothappam. This time around I chopped an apple and sauted it with the standard list of ingredients. The chutney tastes good and looks great. I also make a green apple chutney with til, will post more on that later. Before I go here is what the chutney/thuvayal looks like.

    If you dont eat/like onion chutney, try a version of cabbage-tomato thuvayal with the apple twist. It tastes equally yummy I use this thuvayal as a sauce for pasta on a "down with pain" day.

    Come, lets have dinner.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009


    Pesto Sauce, this garlicy, creamy green base for pasta, must have been on our menu a million times this year; Thanks to the abundant harvest in my super cool balcony garden. I remember making at least five different variations of the sauce for different whole grain pasta in my pantry. Here is a picture of my home grown basil...Ah! I am so proud!

    Pesto means "to pound" in Italian. The sauce basically derives its name as the recipe called for use of a mortar and a pestle to crush the basil, parsley, garlic and cheese crumbs to make a creamy spread. I getting too good with my food etymology? lol...It shows that I am hooked to the food network, right?


    Basic ingredient being sweet Basil or any other variety of "sauce" basil, green chillies, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, roasted nuts ( say pine nuts), salt, lemon juice and salt. Now that is your traditional pesto. We could add any of the following: cilantro/ coriander, parsley, curry leaves, and mint. It is nice to experiment with other green leafy vegetables,  and that includes chard, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, beet root leaves, radish and even carrot leaves. Possibilities are endless so let your imagination run wild. Adding a handful of dry roasted nuts (almonds, peanut or pine nuts) makes the pesto sauce taste really good. Another combination which could work well is adding a handful of boiled peas into the pesto.

    Curry leaves are my weakness, my ammama and amma put in me that eating curry leaves made your hair grow beautiful, black, and really long. And now I am ok with anything vegetarian put on my plate. If Italians have their pesto, we have our coriander and/or mint chutney to give our food that "green kick". A interesting fact about these green sidies is that they are really great to improve your appetite and bless you with a cool glowing skin. Whatever the recipe or the name, they are all...Awesome!

    A little girl and a Raw Papaya

    One season in a tiny backyard garden in the city of Hyderabad, was an abundant harvest of papaya. It all started  one sunny afternoon, when the paati (grandmother) of the house, planted a small rotten seedless papaya  and then ten weeks later, there was papaya everywhere. Amma (mother) of the house distributed succulent green papayas and red ripe fruity papayas among friends and family. When the entire neighbourhood got bored of eating jams, halwas, preserves, kootu, curries and everything esle made of papaya, Amma had to use the rest of the harvest in her own kitchen. Amma convinced the little girl that papaya was good for her and the girl was more than convinced. Amma's creative and innovative use of this tropical vegetable/fruit amazed the little girl. That little girl has been a concious foodie ever since!!

    That little girl was me. I grew up to love veggies and anything and everything to do with them. My amma is a true genius and I am going to share her grated raw papaya thoran in this post. I am not sure if this is a common recipe but dint want to miss an opportunity to present payapa in a whole new way. Papaya and chana dal poricha kootu or molagootal are fairly common in PI (palakkad iyer) kitchens. Grated raw papaya thoran looks like a cabbage poriyal/thoran. Is it not an amazing trick to get picky eaters gobble up at least two servings of the dish.

    Grated papaya thoran/poriyal is a simple recipe. Start with the conventional south Indian tadka (tempering) ingredients namely, mustard seeds, jeera (optionl), urad dal, chana dal and red chillies. Put in the grated papaya into your kadai as soon as you hear the mustards popping. Put in salt, hing, haldi, and my staple kuzhambu/rasam powder (I love them in thoran) and let it cook in a just a little amount of water. keep stirring and add curry leaves and grated coconut (optional). I skipped coconut this time as I made mysore rasam and papaya thoran together for lunch today.

    I love to use kuzhambu or rasam powder in thorans as they are wholesome and bring in all the essential spices in a single spoon. Or should I call it magic in a spoon!

    Your bowl of thoran could be great as a salad or a side dish. Super yummy.....Here is a pic...

    I need to make a special mention of a great raw papaya Thai salad you have to try. It is very simple and really nutritious. Saw this on a food show a few years ago in India. This is called Som Tam in Thai. (Click on the name for an update from wiki) ..Lazy me!

    Grated papaya seasoned with fresh crushed red and green chillies, basil, garlic (optional), coconut oil, lemon juice, salt and a little sugar (honey works like magic). If you like to play around with ingredients, you may add tomatoes and shredded carrots or everything else imaginable to this recipe. But it wont be called Som Tam then....chuckle

    Ending this post with the famous words of the Bag Lady - Ms Paula Deen - "with lots of love from my kitchen to yours". Take care and see you soon.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    I Love Rasam

    It is funny that I din't think of posting this earlier...more so because I named my blog "Avial and Rasam", and I never wrote about my love for "rasam". Better late than never!

    Does anyone remember the erstwhile Anant Mahadeven starer "Ghar Jamai" on TV. The series was revamped with actor Madhavan in the lead for Zee TV in the early 2000's. Anant Mahadevan used to wear a T shirt which said " I love Rasam". I could actually relate to the t-shirt. A simple and easy to make dish like Rasam is an exemplary trademark of a decent Tamil saapadu.

    I make 11 different permutations of rasam. Most common ones being, paruppu potta tomato rasam, poondu rasam, arachu vitta rasam, vepamboo rasam, lemon rasam, and killu milagai rasam etc. One of my favorties is the mysore rasam, which is a slight variation of the arachu vitta rasam (or vice versa). I learnt this recipe from a friend's mother while in class 8. I used to have my "box" lunch in their house and invariably ate something from their kitchen in the bargain.(chuckle)...

    The recipe is fairly simple. This is exactly aunty's version of the mysore rasam. Before we jump to the recipe, here is a peak at my bowl of mysore rasam.

    Instead of cooking tur dal in a pressure cooker, pre soak it for an hour or so and fine grind it with dry roasted coriander seeds, coconut, jeera, milagu, dry chilli, a tsp of til and curry leaves. Add this to required amount of tamarind water, salt, haldi and tomatoes (optional). The rest of the recipe is to just boil the yummy mix and temper it with mustard seeds, red chilli, jeera and hing.  A special bonus would be to use ghee for tempering any rasam. YUMMY.... It is a food for your soul...Hey, I am not exaggerating. Try it to believe me!

    Food and I

    My physical well being has been out of sync with me for the last ten years, that is all through my twenties. Most allopathic and ayurvedic treatments have no cure for bringing me back to being functional. It is tough to deal with an over active mind but an equally limited physical disposition. It is a battle each day. I am not here to give my health report. lol, but to jot down my persistent search for food that heals and cures ailments. I have not been successful yet. I have not give up.

    I wanted to tackle thyriod dysfunction for starters. I am constantly looking for material on what helps and what needs to be avoided by a hypo-thyroid patient. "Hypo" translates to an under active thyroid gland (king of the endrocrine system).Under active or an over active thyroid throws the entire body clock out of sync. An early morning dose of the oral thyroid supplement is our life saver. It is really tough to explain the entire trauma we go through, specially to someone who does not have a dysfunction. Rather, same thing applies to any ailment, healthy mind needs a healthy body and vice versa. It is rather a curse to be dealing with some ailment during the most productive years of one's life. Let me get to the list of food before I make this post rather rantings of a confused foodie. :)

    A picture of my typical lunch menu minus the brown rice. 

    What works for a hypo gland doenst work for the hyper, so the diet is exactly the opposite for each of these patients. Hypo thyroid calls for avoidance of any cruciferous food including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, soya etc. Low fat food works well this is majorly because the lack of (TSH)Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. Lack of this hormone leads to a low metabolism in patients and a resulting fat accumulation. Artificially preserved or pre processed food is a complete no no in my food list. I try to cook every meal from scratch and bake my own whole meal bread, cookies and snacks. Caffeine is another strict don't the diet. Fresh fruits and veggies properly washed see their way into my meal. I specialize in low fat or no fat cooking. All said and done, I am not sure where I am going wrong...So the explorations continue.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Interesting observations - Of course about food!

    I came across this collection of explanations by Paramacharya of Kanchi...Many have samskrit base....Thought that I would quote it in my blog.

    To the awe and amazement of his devotees, Paramacharya often discussed about down-to-earth laukika matters with keen interest, deep understanding and knowledge. In this lecture, he explains the origin and meaning of the names of common Indian dishes and their connection to spirituality. In these explanations, I have mostly used the translated words of what Paramacharya actually spoke, extracted from the Tamil publication titled Sollin Selvar (The Expert of Words), Sri Kanchi Munivar by Sri Ra. Ganapathy.

    A South Indian Meal

    A typical South Indian meal is served in three main courses: sambar sAdam, rasam sAdam and more (buttermilk) sAdam. Sambar is also known as kuzhambu in Tamil, a term that literally translates to 'get confused'. Paramacharya explains how these three courses are related to the three gunas of spirituality: the confusion of sambar is tamo guna, the clarified and rarified flow of rasam is rajo guna and the all-white buttermilk is satva guna. Our meal reminds us of our spiritual path from confused inaction to a clear flow of action and finally to the realized bliss of unity.


    Cooked rice, the main dish of a South Indian meal is called sAdam. That which has sat is sAdam, in the same way we call those who are full of sat, sadhus. We can give another explanation for the term: that which is born out of prasannam is prasAdam. What we offer to Swami (God) as nivedanam is given back to us as parasAdam. Since we should not add the root 'pra' to the rice we cook for ourselves, we call it sAdam.


    Rasam means juice, which is also the name of filtered ruchi. We say 'it was full of rasa' when a speech or song was tasteful. Vaishnavas, because of their Tamil abhimAnam, refer to rasam as saatthamudhu. It does not mean the amudhu (amrita) mixed with sAdam. It was actually saatramudhu (saaru or rasam + amudhu), which became saatthamudhu.

    Vaishnavas also have a term thirukkann amudhu that refers to our pAyasam. What is that thirukkann? If rudrAksham means Rudra's eye, does 'thirukkann' mean Lakshmi's eye? Or does the term refer to some vastu (article) added to pAyasam? No such things. Thiru kannal amudhu has become thirukkann amudhu. Kannal means sugercane, the base crop of suger and jaggery used in pAyasam.

    I was talking about rasam. If something is an extraction of juice, then would it not be clear, diluted and free of sediments? Such is the nature of our rasam, which is clear and dilute. The other one, served earlier to rasam in a meal, is the kuzhambu. Kuzhambu contains dissolved tamarind and cut vegetable pieces, so it looks unclear, its ingredients not easily seen.

    buttermilk as our dessert

    A western meal normally ends with a dessert. In a South Indian meal, desserts such as pAyasam are served after the rasam sAdam. Any sweets that were served at the beginning are also taken at this time. After that we take buttermilk rice as our final course. Paramacharya explains that since sweets are harmful to teeth, our sour and salty buttermilk actually strengthens our teeth, and this has been observed and praised by an American dietician. We gargle warm salt water when we get toothache. The buttermilk is the reason for our having strong teeth until the end of our life, unlike the westerners who resort to dentures quite early in their life.

    vegetable curry

    Although cut vegetable pieces are used in sambar, kootoo and pacchadi, in curry they are fried to such an extent that they become dark in color (the term curry also means blackness or darkness in Tamil). May be this is the origin of the name curry.

    uppuma (kitchadi)

    If the term uppuma is derived from the fact that we add uppu or salt, then we also add salt to iddly, dosa and pongal! Actually, it is not uppuma but ubbuma! The rava used for this dish expands in size to the full vessel where heated up with water and salt. The action of rava getting expanded is the reason for the term ubbuma.


    The term iduthal (in Tamil) refers to keeping something set and untouched. We call the cremation ground idukaadu (in Tamil). There we keep the mrita sarira (mortal body) set on the burning pyre and then come away. The term iduthal also refers to refining gold with fire. The (Tamil) term idu marunthu has a similar connotation: a drug given once without any repetition of dosage. In the same way, we keep the iddly wet flour on the oven and do nothing to it until it is cooked by steam.


    (This is rice noodles cooked in steam). Brahmins call it seva while others call it idiyaappam. But unlike an appam which is a cake, this dish is in strands. The term appam is derived from the Sanskrit ApUpam meaning cake. The flour of that cake is called ApUpayam. This word is the origin of the Tamil word appam.

    appalaam (papad)

    The grammatical Tamil term is appalam. This dish is also made by kneading (urad dhal) flour, making globules out of it and then flattening them. So it is also a kind of appam. Because of its taste a 'la' is added as a particle of endearment!


    ladanam (in Sanskrit) means to play, to throw. ladakam is the sports goods used to play with. Since the ball games are the most popular, ladakam came to mean a ball. The dish laddu is like a ball, and this term is a shortened form of laddukam, which derived from ladakam.

    Laddu is also known as kunjaa laadu. This should actually be gunjaa laadu, because the Sanskrit term gunjA refers to the gunjA-berry, used as a measure of weight, specially for gold. Since a laddu is a packed ball of gunjA like berries cooked out of flour and sugar, it got this name.

    The singer of mUka panca sati on Ambal Kamakshi describes her as Matangi and in that description praises her as 'gunjA bhUsha', that is, wearing chains and bangles made of gunjA-berries of gold.

    pori vilangaa laddu

    Made of jaggery, rice flour and dried ginger without any ghee added to it, this laddu is as hard as a wood apple, though very tasty, and hence got its name from that fruit and the original pori (puffed rice) flour used to make it.

    Indian Dishes of Turkish Origin

    Our halwa is a dish that came from the Turkish invasion. bahU kalam (long ago) before that we had a dish called paishtikam, made of flour, ghee and sugar. But then the Arabian term halwa has stuck in usage for such preparation.


    sUji is another name from the Turkish. It has become sojji now. It is mostly referred to these days as kesari. In Sanskrit, kesaram means mane, so kesari is a lion with kesaram. It was a practice to add the title 'kesari' to people who are on the top in any field. Thus we have Veera Kesari, Hari Kesari as titles of kings in Tamilnadu. The German Keisar, Roman Caesar and the Russian Czar -- all these titles came from only from this term kesari.

    What is the color the lion? A sort of brownish red, right? A shade that is not orange nor red. That is the kesar varnam. The powder of that stone is called kesari powder, which became the name of the dish to which it is added for color.


    A Tamil pundit told me that the name vada(i) could have originated from the Sanskrit mAshApUpam, which is an appam made of mAsham or the urad dhal. He also said that in ancient Tamilnadu, vada and appam were prepared like chapati, baking the flour cake using dry heat.

    dadhya araadhana

    Someone asked me about the meaning of this term. He was under the impression that dadhi was curd, so dadhiyaaradhana( i) was the curd rice offered to Perumal. Actually, the correct term is tadeeya AradhanA, meaning the samaaradhana( i) (grand dinner) hosted to the bhagavatas of Perumal. It got shortened in the habitual Vaishnava way.

    Vaishnavas offer the nivedanam of pongal with other things to Perumal in their dhanur mAsa ushad kala puja (early morning puja of the Dhanur month). They call it tiruppakshi. The original term was actually tiruppalli ezhuchi, the term used to wake of Perumal. It became 'tiruppazhuchi' , then 'tiruppazhachi' and finally 'tiruppakshi' today, using the Sanskrit kshakara akshram, in the habitual Vaishnava way. It is only vegetarian offering, nothing to do with pakshi (bird)!

    The term dhanur mAsam automatically brings up thoughts of Andaal and her paavai (friends). In the 27th song (of Tiruppaavai) , she describes her wake up puja and nivedanam with milk and sweet pongal to Bhagavan, which culminates in her having a joint dinner with her friends. Vaishnavas celebrate that day as the festival koodaara valli, following the same sampradhAyam (tradition). The name of this festival is from the phrase koodaarai vellum seer Govinda, (Govinda who conquers those who don't reach Him) which begins the 27th song. It was this 'koodaarai vellum' that took on the vichitra vEsham (strange form) of 'koodaara valli'.


    payas (in Sanskrit) means milk. So pAyasam literally means 'a delicacy made of milk'. This term does not refer to the rice and jaggery used to make pAyasam. They go with the term without saying. Actually pAyasam is to be made by boiling rice in milk (not water) and adding jaggery. These days we have dhal pAyasam, ravA pAyasam, sEmia pAyasam and so on, using other things in the place of rice.

    Vaishanavas have a beautiful Tamil term akkaara adisil for pAyasam. The 'akkaar' in this term is a corruption of the Sanskrit sharkara. The English term 'sugar' is from the Arabian 'sukkar', which in turn is from this Sanskrit term. The same term also took the forms 'saccharine' and 'jaggery'. And the name of the dish jangiri is from the term jaggery.

    kanji (porridge)

    Before we become satiated with madhuram (sweetness), let us turn our attention to a food that is sour. As an alternative to sweetness, our Acharyal (Adi Sankara) has spoken about sourness in his Soundarya Lahiri.

    Poets describe a bird called cakora pakshi that feeds on moon-beams. Sankara says in Soundarya Lahiri that the cakora pakshi were originally feeding on the kArunya lAvaNyAmruta (the nectar of compassion and beauty) flowing from Ambal's mukha chanran (moon like face). They got satiated with that nectar and were looking for somthing sour, and spotted the full moon, which being only a reflection, issued only sour beams!

    Acharyal has used the term kAnjika diya, which gives an evidence of his origin in the Malayala Desam. He said that since the cakora pakshis were convinced that the nectar from the moon was only sour kanji, they chose to feed on it as an alternative.

    The term kAnjika means relating to kanji, but the word kanji is not found in Sanskrit. It is a word current only in the Dakshinam (south). There too, kanji is special in Malayala Desam where even the rich lords used to drink kanji in the morning. This was the variety came to be known as the 'Mayalayam Kanji'.

    Kanji is good for deham as well as chittam. And less expensive. You just add a handful of cooked rice rava (broken rice), add buttermilk, salt and dry ginger, which would be enough for four people.

    The buttermilk added must be a bit more sour. The salt too must be a bit more in quantity. With the slight burning taste of dry ginger, the combination would be tasty and healthy.


    It is customary to have tAmbUlam at the end of a South Indian dinner. In the North, tAambUlam is popularly known as paan, which is usually a wrap of betel nut and other allied items in a calcium-laced pair of betel leaves. In the South, tAmbUlam is usually an elaborate and leisurely after-dinner activity. People sit around a plate of tAmbUlam items, drop a few cut or sliced betel nut pieces in their month, take the betel leaves one by one leisurely, draw a daub of pasty calcium on their back and then stuff them in their month, chatting happily all the while.

    The betel leaf is known by the name vetrilai in Tamil, literally an empty leaf. Paramacharya once asked the people sitting around him the reason for calling it an empty leaf. When none could give the answer, he said that the usually edible plants don't just stop with leaf; they proceed to blossom, and bear fruits or vegetables. Even in the case of spinach or lettuce, we have to cook them before we can take them. Only in the case of the betel leaf, we take it raw, and this plant just stops with its leaves, hence the name vetrilai or empty leaf.



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