Blog post by Shivaram Viswanathan
Being born and raised in a “Prouper” Palakkad Tambrahm Agraharam, how can I not relish the savor of an awe inspiring cuisine of Palakkad Iyer aathu chamayal, perfected by a generation of Iyers from Tamil Nadu, settling in Palakkattusseri in one of the interesting migrations in TamBrahm history! Every Palakkattu Iyer aathu ponnu will carry the legacy of this delicious cuisine in her madisaar’s irukkai when she travels to pukkaam, taking the responsibility to pass on all the former paattis secret recipes to be served in the plates (with lots of love ofcourse!) of the new generation TamBrahms!
My Appa and Ammai, both are amazing cooks and are experts in almost all the authentic Palakkad Iyer aathu kitchen dishes for which I am very lucky I should say 🙂 Such a progeny can’t be without the basic cooking skills or at-least, the eating skills right?
A Palakkad Iyer thrives in the variety of food available to him/ her because of the extensive forte of menus from both Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and being the creative people we are, never stopped us from inventing new authentic dishes confluencing the tastes of the Tamil naadu and Malayala naadu.
One of the major differences from the Tamil Nadu Iyer cuisine, special for the Palakkad Iyers, is the extensive use of cocounut in the recipes. Also, being in the lap of the western ghats, Palakkad is a highly agricultural oriented district, the initial migrant Iyer community relied on farming as a profession. Also, they grew a lot of root crops like chenai (elephant yam) and other climbing or trailing plantcrops like mathan (pumpkin), elavan (ash gourd), padavalangai (snake gourd), paarikkai (bitter gourd), vellarikkai (cucumber), chembuthandu (root of colocasia) apart from paddy and rice. Also the use of onion (ulli) and garlic (vell-ulli) are not seen in Palakkad Iyer cuisine but can be seen extensively in Kerala food types. The main fruits which are part of the speciality Palakkad Iyer cuisine are chakkai (jackfruit), maambazham (mango fruit) and vazhakkai (raw banana)
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This is one of the must eat easy to make, mom friendly, kozhandhaigal’s favourite dish of Palakkad Iyer aathu kitchen! Aparently my grandfather was an avid molagootal priyan and I followed traits and in my family I am always termed “Molagootal Paatavodu perane thaan ivan”! The dish is so simple to make as it invovles fast cooking Mathan/ Elavan (Pumpkin/ ashgourd) with turmeric, fried mustard obviously topped with fried and stirred coconut flake paste with spices. My mom also adds carrot and/or cabbage to the molagootal to make it bit more rich!! My favourite variety being Keerai Molagootal (Spinach) accompanying with Chenai Masiyal! (see bottom) Yet even in the simple form, it will give you goosebumps to gulp the chaatham with molagootal, with a must have “thottukarathukku” oorgai (fried polla molagai or mahaani kezhangu!) -> curious? Check further in the list
- Moru Koottan
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This is infact the birthchild of the subtle influence of Kerala’s paachakam with our brahmin chamayal, where the TamBrahm Superman’s kryptonite aka THAYIR 😛 comes to picture along with the molagootal’s similar ingredients of elavan (Ash gourd) coconut, chillies and spices! The paradigm shift of the bitter tasting curd particles floating around the spicy liquid mix of elavan and cocounut will tickle all your taste buds ending up in a must must have burping experience and a sound sleep typical to Tambrahms after chaapadu routine! 😉
- Maambazha Pulisseri
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If you wake up any Palakkad Iyer aathu person even in sound sleep and ask him what is his favourite side dish, the unanimous answer would be “Athela enna samshayam nokku, Mambazha Pulisseri dhaan eppozhum A ONE” Pulissery is just a minor modification of Morukoottan where the vegetables are replaced with fruits! There are various versions of Pulissery with Maambazham (Mango), Vaazhapazham (Banana), Pineapple (Pineapple Pachadi is a strong competitor too!
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Kurukku Kaalan is the King of all the main dishes in a Palakkad Iyer cuisine, if you have never had it in your life, now is the time to call your Palakkad Iyer friend to make it and go to his/ her home and try it! I am sure you will not be disappointment, in real sense you would be excited to the core as the dish is super super amazing! It consists of highly fibrous Nendhrakai/ Vazhakkai (raw banana) and Chenai (Elephant yam) fried and cooked in pepper and chillies with a mix of coconut, mustard, cumin seeds and oil along with thick milk curd to top it off! Soaking in the aroma of freshly cooked puzhungal arisi (boiled rice) and the Avial in the middle can get you gastric salvation!
- Idi Chakka Poduthuval
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Poduthuval is the abridged version of Podi thooval, which means sprinkling some powdered vegetables. Poduthuval is a close cousin of Kerala recipe of Thoran, though with an Iyer’s touch! As the name says, Idi chakka poduthuval is made by smashing the idichakkai (tender jackfruit) and chakka kottai (jackfruit seeds) cooked and garnished with curry leaves, coconut and spices. Some add jaggery also to it to make it a bit sweeter! I like the spicy and coconuty one!! It tastes bliss with kaalan and chaatham and poricha pappadam!! (not appalam!)
- Kathirikkai Mezhukkuvaratti and Kathirikkai Rasavaangi !
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Kathirikkai Mezhukkuvaratti is the abode for the lovers of oil cooked food lovers! Where brinjal is cut and fried in oil to get the mezhukku (oily) texture. Normal Kerala cuisine has potato mezhukkupuratti with onion but Kathirikkai is our forte to it! Iyer cuisine don’t generally add onion or garlic, when compared to the Kerala style of mezhukkupuratti. Rasavaangi will have some cooked dhaal added to it to get the rich texture but the basics remain the same as of mezhukkuvaratti.
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For the pumpkin lovers out there!! For all the USA TamBrahms, this should be our recipe every Halloween with the Halloween pumpkin, as that’s what I do! A combination of Pumpkin, black eyed peas and grated coconut, its taste can get you into ecstasy! No kidding 🙂
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This is the healthiest easy to make and tongue tickling dish inspired by keralites and perfected by palakkad tambrahms. It is a simple mix of all the gourds (chenai, elavan, padavalangai, vazhakkai, raw mango, pumpkin, chakkai seeds etc) cooked in a watery syrup of arachuvitta thengai and Curd! To get the authentic taste, everything should be fried and cooked in coconut oil! (Enakku 40 kulla cholestrol nischayam aayachu!)
- Chenai Masiyal
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Is a very simple elephant yam curry savored with grated coconut and spices mixed with cooked dhal. Its taste amazing as a side dish for molagootal and kaalan
- Puli Inji
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This is the finger licking must try thottukarathukku for the curd loving human clad called Tambrahms! Its made from a mix of ginger, tamarind, jaggery and asafoetida !! yes you read it right! Its taste metrics can go to all the levels that your tongue buds can capture and in the end taking you to a mouthwatering curd rice gulping experience of a lifetime!
- Mahani kezhangu oorgai (mahali root pickles)
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Another must must accompany for the curd rice, this is made from the roots of Maahaani (mahali root) which can be a competitor for any spice dish around the world! Its tingy taste when you bite the root soaked in chilly powder and oil is enough to solace the part of the tongue craving for the spice among the bitter tasty curd that floats all around your mouth! The marriage of both these tastes always ends up in a perfect love story ! burrp
- Polla Molaga bajji / Thayir molagai
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If you ever happen to visit your cousin or relatives in palakkad agraharams in the Monsoon molaga bajji season, you will surely hear the molaga bajji maama travelling in his bicycle shouting the slogan “Molagaai bajji, vazhakkai bajji, Bonda ”…My dad would sit patiently during weekends and wait for the molagai bajji mama to order the “Polla molagai bajji” which goes very well with the monsoon chills and hot tea/coffee !! Kerala monsoons are the best!! 🙂 The same Molagai savored with curd is served as thayir molagai!
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After all the mouth watering ecstatical journey through the main and side dishes, it is time to head face to face with the King of all the desserts, a palakkad raised kid can consume the drooling chathachathayam in the double ended Banana leaf with his five fingers and palm flowing in synchronizing fashion ending up in the mouth and can repeat it faster than you could imagine without spilling outside or on the clothes!! “Chathakkarathu” means smashing, this payasam is made by smashing the coconut flakes and making into a milk. There are three types of coconut milk, the first milk, the primary output of the chathakkal (smashing) process without any water and then the second and thrid lighter version made by adding some water and repeating the process! Jaggery is another major ingredient which is boiled with water to make a syrup. Cooked rice is added with jaggery syrup and then mixed with the milk in the descending order of third, second and first along with constant mixing and steaming. The end product is one of the best desserts which is available in the whole world!! Chocolate lava cake is not even close! Believe me!
- Chakka Pradhaman / Paruppu pradhaman
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Pradhaman is a very similar payasam to chathachathayam, replacing the rice with Chakka Varatti! (yes, jackfruit !! 🙂 🙂 ) This is the must have dish during Vishu season (yes Kerala Iyers celebrate vishu:) ) as jackfruits are available in plenty. Follow the same process of jaggery syrup, coconut milk and jackfruit and you get another amazing dessert that can give you the kick after the sumptuous meal!
Image Courtesy: chitra-ammas-kitchen.blogspot.com
Last but not the least, my favourite Elayadai! Again a mix of jaggery, rice flour, jackfruit, coconut, the ultimate mixture cooked in the traditional way is wrapped in banana leaf and steam cooked to make what I call a generation’s most creative dessert ! My heart beats at-least 2 times faster when I open the Elai to take a bite of the cooked sweet Adai!
This is not at all an exhaustive list, the Palakkad Pattar chamayal runs through the veins of each and every households in the 18+ Agraharams of Palakkad still relishing the tamil heritage and welcoming the Kerala’s culture of Sastha Preethi, Vishu vilakku, Navarathri, Panchavadyam Seeveli along with Pongal and Deepavali, the unique version of unity resulting in the most authentic variety of food, culture and people 🙂
So, Enna Kondhey, Chaapda polama?
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