Wednesday, September 19, 2012

off the shelf of a naadan chaayakkada or country teashop

The above scene is a favorite of mine. I love the song, the ambience, the setting. The easy-going, slow moving tempo of country life back then, back home. The decor is more or less the same for every teashop. A roof thatched with woven coconut palm fronds, floor made of packed clay, wooden-latticed windows, a few wooden benches and desks, posters of movies and other meetings on the walls, whole bunches of plantain hanging right at the front, with the shop owner right there behind his desk  flaunting his tea making magic, greeting each customer as a long lost friend. There will be a cabinet with its glass doors displaying the snacks,  inside -- sweet and spicy and salty ones. Kerala's teashops -- "chaayakkada" - as they are known, once dotted every corner of the land. They were a place where locals gathered to read newspapers, to talk of the current political issues, and pass on the latest gossip in the village too, all the while imbibing hot tea and snacks. It is from places like these, that the local comrades get sustenance after a hard day's "party" work. "Parippuvada" and a small banana and tea is shared among the political activists and passivists. Tea is served in special glasses, snacks and meals in stainless steel dishes or banana leaf.

All in all, teashops are meeting places filled with camaraderie, and brotherhood.  Much like the pub in an English village without the intoxication. For that we have our toddy shops. The sad part of all this is that usually not many women frequent these establishments in the class and gender-conscious Kerala.

The most common teashop snack is the "parippuvada" -- a lentil patty deep fried in oil. It's cousin "uzhunnuvada" also puts in an ppearance most of the time. "Puttu" and "kadala" is another pair that we find there. Jilebis, halwas and and laddus sometimes grace the shelves., along with boiled eggs, and banana fry -banana fritters- called "pazham pori". Many of these shops provide lunches too, with rice, rasam, sambar, papadams, pickles, a couple of vegetable dishes, such as erissery or aviyal,  mango-coconut chammanthi/relish, and fried and stewed fish, as the main attractions.

A peep into chaayakkada menu:

banana fry/fritters
Bonda  -- (with and without potatoes)
bajji -- different kinds -- chili, plantain, onion etc
eggs, boiled or bull's eye

meen/fish fry and stewed
egg curry
egg masala
biryani (in some tea shops)


most of the breakfast items

Depending on the prosperity and resources of the owner ,and depending on the location, the items vary in each teashop, but parippuvada and puttukadala are some of the classic chaayakkada staples.



Parippu/toor dal - 1 cup
kadalaparippu/chana dal - 1/4 cup (optional)
dried red chili pepper -5
water for soaking lentils
onion, chopped - 1/2 cup
green chili, chopped -2 or 3
ginger, chopped - a small piece
asafoetida, powdered. - 1/4 tsp
curry leaves

Wash and soak the lentils together, along with the dried red chilies in water for 3 hours at the most. Drain. Set aside a tablespoon of the lentils.
Grind  the rest of the soaked lentils and chili coarsely in the food processor.
Mix all the ingredients except oil.
Make the patties. Deep fry in oil.
Serve hot with a cup of hot tea.

puttu kadala


Recipe for puttu

Puttu flour - 2 cups (rice flour)
water -- approx. 1 cup
grated coconut (with a little sugar if desired - if fresh coconut is not available, use sweetened coconut)

Mix flour and salt with water, till the dough is moist and crumbly, kind of like the dough for a pate brisee/short-crust pastry. Add the water gradually little by little. If you add too much, puttu will be hard spheres of dough.
If you add too little, you'll end up with dry as dust puttu. The right consistency of the mixture is important. One trick is to try holding a handful in your fist and press it firmly -- it should hold its shape, almost.
Now put a little bit of the grated coconut into the puttumaker to cover the little sieve-plate in there. Now put in a three heaped tablespoons full of puttu mixture. Do this alternating puttu mixture and coconut till you get to the top, ending with coconut. Steam for 5-6 minutes. Puttu can be made in different molds, even in coconut shells, when it is called chirattaputtu.


Serve with kadala and banana. Eggs sunny side up goes well with puttu, which is a very simple breakfast dish.



Recipe for kadalakkari

There are many versions of  both the dry and curried kadala, as there are kitchens in Kerala. This is one of my favorites.

kadala (black chick pea) -1 cup
coconut, grated - 2-3 tbsp
dried red chili  pepper - 3
turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
red chili powder - 11/2 tsp
coriander powder - 2 tsp
onion, sliced - 1 cup
green chili pepper - 2
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
ginger, a small piece sliced
garlic, 3-4 cloves crushed
tomato, chopped - 1/2 cup
curry leaves
Oil - 3 tbsp

Soak the kadala or chickpeas overnight. Cook till soft.

Heat a tablespoon of oil. Fry the grated coconut and dried red chili in the oil, for a few minutes, till coconut turns light brown and the aroma fills the room.(If using whole spices, those may be aadded to this now -- in this recipe, we are using powdered spices).Now grind this to a paste. You may add a tablespoon of the cooked chickpea to it when grinding.

Heat the rest of the oil in a wok. Add the mustard seed to this. Once they are done spluttering, add the curry leaves, onion, ginger and garlic. Saute till lightly browned. Add the spice powders now. Stir well for a minute. Now add the tomato and stir some more. When it is cooked, add the ground coconut mixture. Stir away for a few minutes. Now add chickpeas along with some water. Bring to a boil. Add enough salt. Let it simmer till it reaches the right consistency.

just a few more pics of teashop fare:

kaapapuzhukku, meenkoottaan,kondaattam, unakkameen,kattanchaaya
trans., mildly spicy mashed tapioca/yucca with salted fish sprinkles on top, fried yogurt chili peppers on the side, hot fish stew and black tea

pazhampori/banana fry

noolappam,mutta masala - rice noodles, egg masala
malabar porotta with the above egg masala is a delicious fixture  in the Malabar area teashops


rice and a few sides --yellow  erissery with yellow split pea and squash, fish in coconut milk, zucchini mezhukkupuratti/stirfry, fried fish

brown erissery with dried red beans and pumpkin or squash
upma, payarukari/cream ofwheat porridge/drid red beans soup
malabar chicken biryani

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