Kattu Saada Koodai (Packed Rice Basket)


Today, I want to eat a South Indian wedding meal. The craving was triggered by a lovely aroma that wafted from my neighbour’s home earlier today.

Many types of dishes are served in a typical South Indian wedding. The wedding festivities are spread over 2 to 3 days, and each meal offers something special. The most important meal is the one that is served immediately after the wedding. This is the grandest meal of them all.

However, I want to eat the meal that is served on the third day, when people are preparing to go home after the wedding.

Many, many decades ago, when there was no motorized transport available, guests and family members had to walk many kilometers (sometimes even for a few days) to attend weddings. Sometimes they arrived in bullock carts!

So, on the day after the wedding, when these people had to go back home, the bride’s family usually packed baskets filled with food packets; food that would ‘keep’ till they reached home. This food was also light on the stomach, to neutralize the effect of all the rich wedding food that people had consumed!

Each group of people who left after the wedding carried this basket with them. It was called the ‘kattu saada koodai‘, which translates to basket with food packets!

Though people do not have to travel for many days or walk to get home after weddings these days, the kattu saada koodai is still in vogue, but has taken on a new avatar.

Rather than packing the food in baskets, all items that were traditionally packed in a kattu saada koodai are now served as a meal on the day people are going back home.

These meals are my favourite. Served on fresh banana leaves, the kattu saada koodai menu has rice mixed in a special, spicy gravy with a tamarind base containing many small berries, which are known for their digestive properties. Papadams are included. There is curd rice with a small serving of pickle too!

Picture courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

A simple meal, light on the stomach, but totally yummy!

There’s no wedding in the family anytime soon, so maybe I should just prepare the meal myself. Hmmmm!

Mom’s cooking


Indian cooking is elaborate. Every dish requires time to perfect. Most dishes involve multiple processes such as wet grinding, pounding, roasting, seasoning etc.

We Indians celebrate many, many festivals each year, and the high point of these celebrations is the food. Every festival has specific dishes to celebrate it.

Most Indian women, atleast the one’s from my mom’s generation, are walking recipe books.

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       Courtesy – http://www.wikihow.com

My cooking skills took shape only after marriage, and rather than consult any recipe book, I would just pick up the phone to call my mom.  Our conversations went something like this.

Me: Hi Amma

Mom: Hi…How are you?

Me: All good. Can you tell me the recipe for this sweet dish (some name)?

Mom: Sure…it’s very simple. It is 1:1:2.

Me: Wait..what’s 1:1:2

Mom: It’s the ratio of the ingredients.

Me: Mom, can we start with the ingredients?

Mom: Aha…of course…

And she gave me the recipe, baby step by baby step.

Over the years, I have become quite an accomplished cook, and know all my ratios.

But I am still trying to achieve that finesse in my dishes, which my mom seemed to achieve with ease; and that perfect aroma when all the ingredients have blended just right. 

Even yesterday, I called my mom to ask for her Vegetable Biriyani recipe. Just listening to the recipe brought back memories of cousins and happy Sundays, uncles and aunts and afternoons of play.

I could remember the smell of my mom’s Biriyani wafting through the house – chillies and ginger and mint and garlic and coriander and onions….and cloves and cinnamon and bay leaves…and many more lovely ingredients.

Mom’s cooking…always the best!

My grandmother’s gym


I grew up in a joint family, and all of us at home have great memories of the fun times we had with our grand mom. She usually sat up late with us, when we tried to conquer our books, and crammed for tests.  She was very active right into her eighties.

The concept of working out and exercising were alien to her.  For their generation, there was enough equipment in the kitchen to help burn those extra calories.

Indian women in those times did all their dry and wet grinding, pounding and crushing of grains and other food items and masalas at home, using a few devices – in our language these are called ‘Aatukkal‘ (grinding stone), Ammikkal (loosely means rolling/crushing stone), ‘Ural & Ulakai‘ (pounding stone and rod) and ‘Sevai Naazhi‘ (rice vermicelli maker).

Indian cooking involves a lot of blending, and grinding of spices and ingredients for nearly every dish, so my grand mom’s and to a certain extent, my mom’s generation, used these devices.  I still remember the ones we had at home.

The Aatukkal and Ammikkal were made of solid granite stone, polished and carved to the shape required.  The pestles weighed around 2 or 3 kg each.  So, working these for an hour for wet grinding and 20 minutes for the blending of spices, took care of their daily strength training requirements.

Image courtesy - www.indianfoodguides.com

The Aattukal or Grinding Stone used for preparing wet rice batter for salted pancakes

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    The Ammikkal used for crushing and blending. Picture courtesy – http://www.dsource.in

The Naazhi (rice vermicelli maker), required a twisting movement and force to turn the handle, to squeeze the steamed rice dough into beautiful vermicelli string hoppers.  They did this multiple times to make enough for all of us at home.

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          The Sevai Naazhi or the rice vermicelli maker – picture courtesy http://www.subbuskitchen.com

The Ural and Ulakai (the pounding rod and vessel) were usually used to pound wheat and other grains to prepare whole-grain flour.  Two women stood at opposite ends and pounded in a rhythmic manner, passing the rod to the other in turns, chit chatting and singing at times.

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       The Ural and Ulakai – the pounding rod and the vessel – image courtesy – http://www.olx.in

Now we have mixer-grinders, wet grinders, ready-made vermicelli and flour.  And then, we go work out in the gym.

Our ancestors were wiser, they got their work and workout done in one shot.  After all, they had the luxury of a home-gym.