Vadaham

My mother made a few dishes that she really likes, and which are specialties of Jaffna cuisine, this weekend so I will be sharing the recipes of those this week.

Today’s recipe is that of vadaham, a sun-dried and fried side dish made of some special ingredients. Vadaham is usually made in bulk during sunny days and preserved to be eaten over a long period. There are a few varieties of vadaham, the more popular ones made of neem flowers (vepampoo) or banana flower (valaipoo). The neem tree is considered one of the most medicinal trees and the flowers particularly good for diabetics.

My mother tells me that she learnt how to make vadaham by observing her aunt (my grand-aunt) making them. My grand-aunt was fond of the neem flower vadaham and she had mats placed around the neem tree at my grandmother’s house to collect the tiny flowers that fell off the tree. The flowers were then rinsed and dried before being used to make the vadaham.

The recipe I am sharing below is my grand-aunt’s recipe that my mother occasionally uses when she feels like making vadaham.

Vadaham

Time taken: 30 mins + the soaking time for the urad dhal + sun-drying of the vadaham

Makes 12 – 15

VadahamIngredients:

  • Banana flower – ½ cup, finely chopped
  • Urad dhal/ black gram – ½ cup
  • Crushed chillies – 1 tsp
  • Crushed onion – 1 tbsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Pepper – ½ tsp
  • Salt, to taste
  • Oil, for deep-frying

Method:

  1. Soak the urad dhal for about 3 hours and then drain and grind the dhal.
  2. Mix the finely chopped banana flowers with the ground urad dhal in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add to the mixing bowl the crushed chillies, onion, cumin powder, turmeric as well as pepper and salt to taste.
  4. Mix well and then make small, circular disks of ‘vadaham’.
  5. Sun-dry the ‘vadaham’ for 2 or 3 days and then bottle them in an air-tight jar. If you do not plan to make in bulk and are preparing the side dish for a meal within that day, you can omit the sun-drying part and directly make instant vadaham by moving on to the next step as my mother did this weekend. Some also prefer to simply use the sun-dried version directly without frying them.
  6. When you wish to serve them, simply deep-fry the required number and serve warm with rice and some curd and pickle.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Ellu Pa

Today’s recipe is a traditional sweet from Jaffna called the “Ellu Pa.” This is a spiced sweet made of sesame seeds and it is one of my mother’s favourite.

The recipe I am sharing today is that of my great-grandmother, as remembered and occasionally made by my mother.

Ellu Pa

Time taken: 15 mins

Makes 4

Ellu PaIngredients:

  • Sesame seeds/ Ellu – ½ cup
  • Urad dhal/ black gram flour – ¼ cup, roasted
  • Sugar – ¼ cup
  • Pepper powder – ½ tsp
  • Cumin powder – ½ tsp

Method:

  1. First, grind the sugar and sesame seeds together in a blender.
  2. Then, add the urad dhal flour and continue grinding the mixture.
  3. Transfer the blended flour mix to a mixing bowl.
  4. Add the pepper and cumin powder to the bowl. Mix well.
  5. Add a little hot water and make the ‘ellu pa’ dough. Divide the dough into 4 balls.
  6. Serve with tea.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Sippi Sohi

Today’s Jaffna specialty snack recipe is that of “sippi sohi” (sea-shells). The snack actually resembles sea-shells if made in the traditional way. However, my mother generally makes her own colourful version of the sweet.

DSC00761Sippi Sohi

Time taken: 45 mins

Serves 6 – 8 persons

Sippi SoyiIngredients:

  • Rice flour – 1 cup, roasted
  • Urad dhal/ black gram flour – ¼ cup, roasted
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup
  • Sugar – ¼ cup
  • Water – 4 tbsp
  • Food colouring – optional
  • Oil, for deep-frying

Method:

  1. Combine the roasted rice flour and the roasted urad dhal flour and keep aside.
  2. Heat 1 cup of coconut milk, with a little salt, over medium heat. Once cooked, remove from stove and cool.
  3. When the milk has cooled slightly but is still warm, stir in the rice flour to make the dough.
  4. Roll out the dough and cut into little pieces. Alternatively, the traditional way of squeezing the dough through the mold can be used.
  5. Heat the oil and deep-fry the little pieces “sippi sohi” and transfer the fried pieces to a tray lined with grease absorbing paper.
  6. Prepare the sugar syrup by heating the sugar with water in a saucepan over medium heat.
  7. Food colouring can be added to the syrup, while heating in the saucepan. My mother used red food colouring here to have a colourful twist on the traditional plain syrup.
  8. Soak the fried “sippi sohi” into the sugar syrup till they are well coated and dry up.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Paruthithurai Vadai

Theepawali Nalvaalthukkal! (Theepawali greetings)

For today’s specialty food, I would like to share a delicacy from my birthplace – the “Paruthithurai Vadai”. This vadai is generally prepared in Jaffna during festival seasons. While I have had the privilege of trying out this vadai in different places across Jaffna as well as at the homes of friends and relatives, the best, crunchiest “Paruthithurai/Thattai Vadai” that I have eaten to date has been that made by my mother. So, here’s the recipe for it.

Paruthithurai/ Thattai Vadai

Time taken: 1 ½ hours + 6 hours (soaking time)

Makes 50 – 60

DSC00782Ingredients:

  • Split urad dhal – 1 cup
  • Wheat flour – 1 cup, steamed
  • Wheat flour – 1 cup, regular not steamed
  • Crushed chillies – 1 or 2 tbsp
  • Onion – 1, ground
  • Curry leaves – chopped
  • Fennel seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Salt, to taste
  • Water, as required
  • Oil, for deep-frying

Method:

  1. Soak the split urad dhal for around 6 hours. Drain and peel the skin.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add the drained and peeled split urad dhal, wheat flour both steamed and regular, crushed chillies, ground onion, chopped curry leaves, fennel seeds, salt, bringing them together using a little water to make the ‘vadai’ dough.
  3. Divide the dough into 50 – 60 balls. Flatten each ball on a flat surface that will not stick. Alternatively, the dough can be rolled out and cut into thin circles using a cutter;
  4. Heat the oil for deep-frying. Do not let the ‘vadai’ dough sit out too long and transfer to the frying pan as soon as the dough has been made and the balls have been flattened into the thin ‘vadai’ shape.
  5. Deep-fry the vadai in batches until they are golden brown.
  6. Transfer the vadai to a tray lined with grease absorbing paper. The vadai can be stored, for many days, in an air-tight jar.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Radish curry

I have never really liked radish as I do not like its smell. However, occasionally, it is cooked at home and this is a recipe of my mother’s that makes eating radish tolerable for even those who dislike it. Radish is supposedly good for lowering cholesterol and fighting cancer.

Radish curry

Time taken: 15 – 20 mins

Serves 4

Radish curryIngredients:

  • Radish/ Mullangi – 1
  • Onion – ¼, chopped
  • Green chilli – 1, chopped
  • Urad dhal – 1 tsp, roasted and ground
  • Pepper – ½ tsp
  • Turmeric powder (optional)
  • Low fat oil – 1 tbsp

Method

  1. Wash and peel the radish before chopping it into smaller pieces.
  2. Heat a tbsp. oil in a pan and sauté lightly the chopped onion and chilli.
  3. Then, add the chopped radish to the pan and mix well.
  4. Add 1 ½ cups of water to the pan and cook the radish for about 10 mins.
  5. If the water dries up, add another ½ cup of water.
  6. Add 1 tsp roasted and ground urad dhal and stir.
  7. Add pepper and optional turmeric powder. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes before removing from stove.
  8. Serve with rice.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Paal Puttu

The other breakfast treat that my mother’s friend had brought this morning was paal puttu. I have actually had a few different versions of this over the past decade. Surprisingly, this is the first dish from the northern region of Sri Lanka that I have had which my mother hadn’t either heard of or tried until I described it to her.

Paal puttu

Time taken: 30 mins

Serves 2 or 3

Paal puttu

Ingredients:

  • Urad dal/ ulunthu flour – ¼ cup + 2 tbsp
  • Rice flour – ¼ cup
  • Coconut milk – ¾ cup
  • Sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Mix ¼ cup urad dal flour and ¼ cup rice flour with salt and hot water and make them into tiny balls.
  2. Steam the balls and keep aside.
  3. Heat the coconut milk, with the sugar and salt seasoning, in a pan.
  4. Add  2 tbsp urad dal flour to the coconut milk as it starts to boil. Stir well.
  5. As the sauce thickens, add the steamed balls and mix well. Remove pan from stove after a minute or two.
  6. Serve warm.

Recipe source: Ithayarani Jeyabalasingham.

Kundu Thosai with Coconut Tamarind Sambal

A friend of my mother dropped by this morning with some breakfast treats that she had made so I decided to post the recipes for those two dishes. The first is kundu thosai with a coconut-tamarind sambal.

Kundu thosai with sambal

(a) Kundu thosai

Cooking time: 15 mins + preparation time: nearly 8 hours

Makes 24

Gundu thosai

Ingredients:

  • Black gram/ Urad dal/ Ulunthu – ½ cup
  • Raw rice – 1 cup
  • Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
  • Pepper – ¼ tsp
  • Cumin seeds – ¼ tsp
  • Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
  • Wheat flour – 2 tbsp
  • Oil, as required

Method:

  1. Soak ulunthu and rice for about 3 to 4 hours.
  2. Grind the soaked ulunthu and rice together with the fenugreek seeds, pepper, cumin seeds and turmeric powder.
  3. Mix the wheat flour in the blended mixture. The batter should be thick.
  4. Let the batter rest for about 3 to 4 hours.
  5. Place the special ‘kundu thosai’ pan on the stove on low heat.
  6. Pour a little oil in each of the 8 holes of the pan. Then, pour a tablespoon of batter in each.
  7. Cook the thosai for about 1 ½ to 2 mins each side. Flip to the other side so that both sides are browned.
  8. Serve hot with the coconut-tamarind sambal.

(b) Coconut-Tamarind Sambal

Time taken: 10 mins

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Freshly scraped coconut – ½ cup
  • Dried red chillies – 4 + 1
  • Onion – ¼ + ¼ , chopped
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Fennel seeds – ½ tsp
  • Tamarind extract – ¼ cup
  • Salt, to taste
  • Oil, as required

Method:

  1. Soak four of the dried red chillies for a few minutes and then chop them up.
  2. Grind the soaked dried red chillies with the coconut and 1/4 onion and keep aside.
  3. Heat a tbsp or two of oil in a pan and fry the fennel seeds.
  4. When the seeds start spluttering, add the chopped ¼ onion and chopped dried red chilli and curry leaves.
  5. Add ¼ cup of tamarind extract to the pan and let it simmer.
  6. When the tamarind juice starts bubbling, add the ground chilli-onion-coconut mix and salt, to taste.
  7. Mix well and remove from heat.
  8. Serve with ‘Kundu’ thosai.

Recipe source: Ithayarani Jeyabalasingham.

Thosai with Sambhar

Today’s recipe is a meal that my mother often makes at home for dinner – Thosai with sambhar and sambal. This is a meal that can also be eaten at breakfast or lunch.

Thosai with Sambhar

(a) Thosai

Cooking time: 30 mins + soaking and fermenting time: 12 hours

Makes 20

Ingredients:

  • Raw rice – 1 cup
  • Ulunthu/ urad dal – 1 cup
  • Fenugreek – ¼ tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Onion – small piece, chopped
  • Cumin – 1 tsp
  • Pepper – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric – ½ tsp

Method:

  1. Soak the rice, dal and fenugreek for 6 hours.
  2. Drain the soaked mixture and wash it lightly.
  3. Put the mix in the blender together with the curry leaves, chopped onion and cumin, pepper and turmeric. Blend until the thosai batter has a consistency similar to that of pancake batter consistency.
  4. Transfer the batter to a bowl. Cover and let it ferment for another 6 hours.
  5. Add salt and mix before heating up the thosai pan or flat pan.
  6. Pour a large spoonful of batter and spread it out. Flip to the other side after a minute or two so that both sides are cooked well and have brownish tinges.
  7. Serve the thosai hot with sambhar and dried red chilli sambal.

(b) Sambhar

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves 5 or 6

Ingredients:

  • Mysore dal – ½ cup
  • Brinjal – ½ cup, chopped
  • Beans – ½ cup, chopped
  • Carrot – ½ cup, chopped
  • Potato – 1 medium-sized, chopped
  • Pumpkin – ½ cup, chopped
  • Murungai Kai – ½ cup, chopped (optional)
  • Onion – ½, chopped
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Tamarind extract – ¼ cup
  • Crushed chillies – 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Pepper – ½ tsp
  • Garlic cloves – 2 or 3, crushed
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Coconut milk – ¼ cup
  • Salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Cook the vegetables, in a pan with 3 cups of water, for about 15 – 20 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat and if water had dried up, add another ½ cup water.  Add the tamarind juice, mix well and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the crushed chillies, cumin, coriander and pepper powder, crushed garlic and turmeric powder to the pan. Mix well and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Towards the end, add ¼ cup coconut milk. Cook for a few minutes before removing from heat.
  5. Serve sambhar with thosai or idli.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Prawn vadai

My mother remembers having this prawn snack from her childhood days and even better, the way her mother used to make it.

Prawn Vadai/ Raal Vadai

Time taken: 40 mins + Soaking time – 3 or 4 hours

Makes 10 prawn vadai

Ingredients:

  • Prawns/ Raal – 10
  • Urad dal/ Ulunthu – 1 cup
  • Chillies – 3 or chilli powder – 1 tbsp
  • Onion – 1, chopped
  • Fennel seeds and Salt, to taste
  • Oil, for deep-frying

Method:

  1. Clean the urad dal and let it soak in a bowl of water for 3 – 4 hours, or overnight.
  2. Clean the prawns. Rub some salt over them and boil the prawns in some water for about 10 mins.
  3. Drain the urad dal and grind it together with the chopped chillies and onion till the batter is just right for vadai. Add some fennel seeds and salt, to taste and mix well.
  4. Dab some oil on one of your palms.
  5. Take a small ball of batter and flatten it slightly on your palm.
  6. Place one of the cooked prawns in the middle of the batter and close it up, forming a ball again.
  7. Flatten the ball of batter again, into the shape of a vadai and make a small hole in the middle, like a mini-doughnut.
  8. Deep fry the prawn vadai.
  9. Serve with some hot tea.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Vadai and Pachai Sambal

Black gram, or urad dhal, plays an important role in the cuisine of the north. It is one of the gram varieties cultivated in the seasons in between paddy cultivation and is a major source of nutrition.

Today, I will share my mother’s recipe for her famous vadais as well as a green gram snack in my next post. Vadai can be breakfast food or a tea-time snack or can be served with lunch or dinner. It is the most common snack under the Tamil cuisine of the country and is quite popular around the country.

Vadai with Sambal

(a) Vadai

Cooking time: 20 – 30 mins + 4 hrs (fermenting time)

Makes 10 vadai

Vadai

Ingredients

  • Urad dal/ black gram – 1 cup, skin removed
  • Green chillies – 2, chopped
  • Onion – 1, medium sized and chopped
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Coriander leaves – 1 tbsp, chopped
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Low fat oil (sunflower or canola) – ½ litre (for deep frying) + 1 tsp (for sauté)
  • Salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Soak the black gram, without the skin, for 3 – 4 hours.
  2. Grind with a little water to thick batter.
  3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and lightly sauté the chopped onion, chillies and curry leaves.
  4. Transfer the contents of the pan and the coriander leaves to the batter mix and add salt to taste. If you prefer, you can also add 1 tsp baking powder.
  5. Mix well and keep aside for 5 mins.
  6.  Heat ½ l oil in the pan.
  7. Take a piece of banana leaf or something equivalent, dab some water on the surface and put a spoonful of batter onto the leaf. Shape it into a round or elliptical shape with a hole in the middle, like a mini doughnut.
  8. Transfer to the oil pan, 3 to 4 at a time, and fry until golden brown on both sides.
  9. Serve with pachai sambal.

 (b) Pachai sambal

Preparation time: 5 – 10 mins

Serves 4

Pachai Sambal

Ingredients:

  • Freshly scraped coconut – ½ cup
  • Green chillies – 2, chopped
  • Onion – ¼, chopped
  • Ginger – ½ “ (optional)
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig, chopped
  • Salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Mix and grind all ingredients and add salt, to taste.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.