January 29, 2007
Puttu/ Steamed Rice Cakes
Puttu is rice soaked and powdered coarsely and then layered with coconut into a bamboo or any other kind of tube and steamed to form long tubes of a soft crumbly texture.The coconut layers impart flavor as well as help in breaking up the tubes into serving sizes. So what is the fascination with puttu that we have? Is it the fresh flavor of steamed rice and coconut in a hollow bamboo or is it its versatility that it can be eaten as a staple instead of rice with any combination of curries?
While growing up, I disliked it immensely (yes, even though I am a Keralite!) and its only marrying a puttu fanatic that I started appreciating it.
It is a staple at my grandmothers and aunts' houses for breakfast. The kids eat it with milk and sugar, with plantains boiled with coconut(my favorite), fried plantains, or with the any of the plethora of tropical tiny bananas such as the Mysore Pazham, Poovan Pazham, Njavali Poovan etc. I remember one of my cousins eating it with milk tea! Then there is also meat puttu (Erachi puttu) and Fish Puttu (Meen Puttu) which is not as common but has meat or fish layered inbetween the rice powder instead of coconut.
The spicier accomapaniments to puttu are fish or Mutton curry, Beef fry, Kadala curry, Cherupayar curry, Vegetable Stew or Egg curry. As kids, we used to call the puttu-kadala breakfast as reinforced concrete with its coarse-soft texture as it would sit solidly in the stomach till late noon.
In Calicut, I couldn't understand how anybody could eat fish curry and puttu for breakfast! But it is in fact a way to use up the previous day's fish curry and start cooking anew with the day's fresh caught fish. The taste of fresh puttu squished into the claypot(chatti)with the remnants of the previous day's fish curry and the flavor of the claypot has us all fighting for it over dinner though. My mother mixes the previous day's Yellow Fish curry (with coconut)and the Red Fish Masala (Moliyar without coconut) to make a unique tasting curry. Some crushed papadams and it is perfect.
There are lots of Puttu recipes already in the blogging world and I thought I should my own recipe also to it. I am not going into the details of the vessel and flour as that has already been covered here and here.
A few pointers that might help..
1. The rice flour should be wet enough to hold together when you try making a fist with it and dry enough to break apart at a simple knock with the thumb. It shouldn't be clumpy or too powdery. Keep breaking it with the hand as you mix. The amount of water varies with the kind of rice flour used. So keep adding in small quantities.
2. The rice flour from the grocery stores use up more water and after leaving it wet for 15 minutes, you may need to sprinkle a bit more water.
3. Grated raw Tapioca or Cassava (1/4 cup or so per cup of rice flour) added to the rice powder while mixing makes the puttu moister as the tapioca cooks inside the puttu.
4. The puttu is cooked when the steam comes out at the top steadily.
5. While reheating the puttu use a steamer to make it soft again.
This is a ragi puttu that is made alongside the white rice puttu.
Ragi or Finger Millet is rich in B vitamins, especially niacin, B6, and folacin and offers calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. It is only grain that retains its alkaline nature when cooked, millet is ideal for those who are allergic to wheat and gluten. Depending on the variety, millet's protein content is very close to that of wheat, with a half-cup serving, cooked, providing 4.2 grams. One-half cup raw millet contains 11 grams of protein. Millet's use is diverse, including in cereals (including porridge), soups, breads and stuffings, fermented beverages, and baby food.
Ragi is full of fiber and vitamins and hence healthier for you. The taste is rougher and more chewy but if you get used to it,it is a healthier version of the traditional one. It is made in the same way as the regular puttu using preroasted ragi flour.