A League of Thayir Own by SA

The article originally appeared on The Hindu

Article by stand-up comedian S. Aravind

“Delicate, slow-cooked sticky Oryza sativa seeds with rich, cold, fermented milk and exotic spices such as mustard, curry leaves, asafoetida, seri-dhaan-poda” is how a MasterChef Australia contestant might refer to it. Back home in Madras, we just call it curd rice, a traditional dish with simple ingredients, bland taste, but cherished like a king’s meal. Often considered the M.S. Dhoni of eating order due to its capacity to arrive late and finish in style, curd rice is a South Indian treasure.

Curd rice is revered in various avatars, much like lord Vishnu. It is fondly known as thayir soru, thachchu mammam, moru saadham, dhadhyonnam, dahi baath, dahi chawal, bagalabath and more. The last three names are still sub-judice in the supreme court of Narada Gana Sabha. The cult of curd rice is confirmed by the existence of names such as ‘Rice Bagala-Bath’ in posh Chennai clubs. Clearly taking a leaf out of famous noms de plume like ‘Bond, James Bond’ and ‘Baasha, Manick Baasha’.

Unfortunately, curd rice suffers from years of stereotyping. Traditionally known to be for the homely and God-fearing, it has, over the years, embraced non-conformity (all thanks to hungry software engineer bachelors #botharesame & fussy kids). Today, curd rice has broken barriers and evolved into hipster variations. It has found new friends in tomato ketchup, jam, and Horlicks (you know who you are!), laddoo, parsley-sage-rosemary-and-thyme, gouda cheese and beef. Okay, the last one was just a joke. Calm down Mylapore.

Since time immemorial, school kids have used dry curd rice from upturned, round tiffin boxes as ad-hoc birthday cakes, with pomegranates replacing the cherry on top. Besides such aesthetic value, the dish has many superpowers. For instance, the best thayir saadham is the one made from yesterday’s leftover rice. It has medicinal properties: it is a patent-pending sedative. But intake of huge amounts can end in mobility worse than Inzamam-ul-Haq. Even the most bourgeois caviar-eating, champagne-drinking Madrasi, who just attended a high tea in Hilton, will come back home and find his peace only after eating a bowl of curd rice. In the event of not complying with the aforementioned stipulation, that night’s sleep and next morning’s ablutions will be severely affected.

Even though yogurt is available all over the world, as is rice, many may wonder why a westerner’s yogurt risotto can never taste as wonderful as our very own curd rice. One need not look too far; the answer is in our own hands. Literally. The art of pesanjifying (mixing) curd rice is indigenous South Indian wisdom passed down over several generations. Many years ago, we made a tryst with destiny when the rice and curd were mixed by hand till they were mashed not in full measure, but substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, south India will awake to life and freedom (aka curd rice).

The writer can be contacted via Twitter @_satired

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9 thoughts on “A League of Thayir Own by SA

  1. I am a proper palakkad thamizh speaking, kovil going, gramathodu theru loving, filter coffee fanatic tambrahm. But I hate curd rice! Even though I love curd. If you see a young guy getting up half way through the sadi after eating kutan chadam and having rejected rasam chaam and theiyrunchadam, it’s probably me! I’ve faced much ridicule for the same! I remember the years of childhood in which my mom tried all possible things to make me like thayirunchaam and boy did she fail! I have been lectured by all my relatives in length about the awesomeness of thayirunchaam! But no, I just can’t seem to like it! Oh before you hyperventilate let me tell you I don’t like oorgai and papadam either! Now you can hyperventilate about all of these abominations together 😛
    Now you might think I’m a spoilt brat , but no! I even eat parikya pitalai without mokham chulikifying or in other words creating a fuss. Molaghutal, arachuvita kutan, podipota sambhar, moru kutan, vethakozhambu , name it! I eat it all. Even all the thorans, poduthuval, uperis, mezhukuperatis, everything. Just not theiyrunchadam! All the other peshanjachadams are so yummy, but theryunchaam has to be the travel food :/ why oh why? Why did umachi make tambrahms like theiyrunchadam so much?
    I have never understood the craze for curd rice either, even though I’ve made all possible efforts to understand it. Isnt it better to just drink the curd? You will save a lot of calories! Sigh !!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember one jetlagged landing for a vacation from USA at namma Madras. Baggage delayed and after all the hustle reaching home at 3.30 am. Amma asks – ‘Konde enna sapadra’ and I was like ‘Anything aathu saapadu’. So there comes amma with a bowl of Thacchi mammu and Vethakozhambhu. Deivaamritham! Never in all the world cuisines can an equivalent be found :o)

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  3. A 10 day trip to North India made me feel that there’s no greater food than our own thachi mammu…… Even though we got dahi everywhere,the rice which the restaurants gave us was half cooked, which choked me to death every time I had some…… N after returning from that trip, I was literally feasting on curd rice for days

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  4. Love the article; what would a tambrahm do without good ol’ curd- rice?

    I remember a 3-day road trip through South African grasslands. We ate at nifty restaurants that served some requisite ghaas- phoos to hungry vegetarians. My daughter loaded her plate with white goat cheese, olives and some green- purple shrubbery. Could not finish the damn thing. I ate my hummus, pizza, whatever was on the menu. And thus we dined through seventy two hours. Then returned home; cooked rice — and through next 24 hours, ate satisfying meals of curd rice and garlic pickle. Ah, heaven.

    Lalitha S

    Liked by 1 person

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