‘Panaattu’ is considered to have high levels of vitamins A and E. As far as my mother is concerned, it is something she has been fond of ever since she was a toddler. She bought a slab of ‘panaattu’ from the Katpaham outlet here so that I could take a photograph but she finds that it does not have the colour or consistency that her grandmother’s used to have. It is the first time that I have tasted ‘panaattu’ so I can’t compare.
Here’s the method my great-grandmother used to make panaattu, as remembered by my mother from her childhood days. I am sharing it for those who are interested in knowing what or how ‘panaattu’ is made and for those who happen to have some palmyrah fruit and wish to try making some panaattu. For more ways that the palmyrah is used in the north of Sri Lanka, check out my earlier post on its background.
Palmyrah fruit – 6, very ripe
Coconut oil, for coating the ‘panaattu’ layer.
- Peel the very ripe palmyrah fruit and then mix repeatedly with just enough water to be able to make the fruit pulp. Strain the pulp through a clean cloth.
- Spread the collected pulp as a thin layer over a woven palm mat and let it dry under the sun.
- Cover the mat during night.
- The next day, add another thin layer of palmyrah fruit pulp extract over the dried layer and continue to sun-dry. Repeat this process for 10 days, adding new thin layers each day till the thickness of the ‘panaattu’ is around ½ inch.
- Let the ‘panaattu’ dry under the sun till it reaches a maroonish-orange colour and can be cut through with a knife without it sticking to the knife.
- Slice the long panaattu roll into manageable pieces. Apply a little coconut oil and fold the cut pieces.
- Taking a woven palmyrah leaf container/ box, stock up the cut and oiled panaattu pieces.
- This can be then stored for a long time. My great-grandmother used to store the box of panaattu on a shelf above her cooking stove.
- Serve a piece of panaattu with tea or make some paani panaattu from it.
Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.