Monday, August 26, 2013

Puttu: A Peek into Traditional Kerala Cuisine

I love the 'puttu-kadala curry combination, a Malayalee staple, and my husband does not…which means that it is not made very often at our home. When I was in India, earlier this summer, I had decided to fill up on all the foods that I don’t make here. My mother had mentioned a street vendor near our home, who sold fresh puttu every morning. My father went one day, but the guy had sold out completely, by around 7.30 A.M. Imagine how good his business must be..and his puttu too! Finally, towards the end of my stay, I got to taste his puttu and kadala curry. They were really good, a little too spicy, but tasty!
Back home after my vacation, I realized that Square Meals did not have a post on puttu…how embarrassing even for a half-mallu blog!!! I had to rectify the situation immediately, so I decided to make it over the weekend. My very reluctant husband also agreed and I was thrilled.
Puttu (Serves 1)
Note: I make mine in a coconut shell, so the proportions will vary for those who use the cylindrical puttu pot/steamer.
Rice flour – 1 cup
Salt – ½ tsp
Grated coconut as required
Water as required
Coconut shell
Mix the rice flour and salt. Now sprinkle water with one hand while you mix the flour with your finger tips. Continue until the flour takes on a slightly crumbly texture.The test is to take some of the flour mixture and squeeze it in your hand. When released, it should hold its form and not fall apart.
As the rice flour is being prepped, fill the pressure cooker or puttu pot with about 2-21/2 cups of water and place on the stove. This way, the steam will have formed by the time you place the puttu for cooking. When choosing a coconut shell, pick one that is stable when placed on the cooker.
Place a tablespoon of coconut at the bottom (coconut shell/puttu cylinder), top with half of the flour mixture. Place another tablespoon of coconut and top off with the remaining flour. You can add more coconut as the last layer if you please. Carefully place the coconut shell on the nozzle of the cooker (where you would usually put the weight), cover and let it cook.

Depending on the size of the coconut, the puttu will take about 10-12 minutes to cook. Once done, remove the coconut shell, carefully, place a plate on it and gently turn upside down. Voila, your steamed rice cake is ready to be devoured.
Puttu is traditionally eaten with kadala curry (black channa), payar curry (green gram), banana and papad. Another combination, to satisfy your sweet tooth, is puttu with sugar and banana.
Since the kadala curry was the bait to get my husband to eat puttu, I had no other option.
KadalaCurry (Serves 2)
Black channa – ½ cup
Coriander seeds (dhania) – ½ tbsp
Cumin seeds (jeera) – 1 tsp
Red chilies – 2-3 (more or less according to taste)
Pearl onion (sambar onion) – 3-4 (for grinding) and 2-3 tbsps finely chopped for seasoning
Coconut oil – 1-2 tbsps
Grated coconut – ¼ cup
Salt to taste
Curry leaves for garnish
Soak the channa for 6-7 hours or overnight and cook. Even after a 7 hour soak, the channa took 8 whistles in the pressure cooker. So, you'll just have to re-cook it if it is not done the first time around.
Heat 2 tsps of oil in a small pan and add the coriander seeds, cumin, small onions and red chillies. Sauté until the coriander seeds pop when pressed. Turn off the heat and add the grated coconut. Grind into a smooth mixture and keep aside. Meanwhile, place the channa back on the stove. If there is too much water, remove drain and keep aside for later use. Add the ground mixture to the channa, add salt to taste and mix well. Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes. If the gravy feels too thick, add some of the liquid that you removed earlier. As it simmers, sauté the chopped pearl onions in coconut oil until dark brown. Keep ready.
Once the gravy comes together well, take it off the heat, add the curry leaves and the sautéed onions and serve with your puttu.
Note: This kadala curry can be paired with Idiyappam (string hoppers) and Aappam (an Indian pancake).
     Puttu can also be made with ragi flour, wheat flour and maize.


  1. Puttu with ragi flour sounds like a nice idea. But wonder if it'd go well with kadala curry.

  2. To be honest, I have not tired the combination. The ragi puttu has a flavor of its own..and I ended up having it as is with just a banana.