Asthram: Onattukara's culinary contribution to Kerala

Asthram: Onattukara's culinary contribution to Kerala

A weapon that remains untouched by the restaurateurs in Kerala is Onattukara's very own 'Asthram.' Onattukara or Odanad (today's Mavelikkara, Chengannur, Karthikapally and Karunagapally) was an old state in medieval Kerala which later became part of Travancore after King Marthanda Varma conquered the north. A piece of history and mythology tags along with this humble taro root curry.

Served with Kanji (rice porridge) and Muthira Puzhukku (horse gram cooked with coconut) as an offering during the Kumbha Bharani festival at Chettikulangara Devi Temple, Asthram (literally: weapon) can be made with any kind of tuber - tapioca, yam, or vegetables like pumpkin, plantain etc. The legend has it that when the local workers were consuming these traditional dishes at the Illam near the present temple, the Devi had joined them for lunch.

To the boiled tubers a mixture of ground desiccated coconut, shallots, cumin seeds and green chillies is added. Once cooked and cooled, beaten yoghurt is mixed in and gets tempered with curry leaves and mustard seeds. This starchy yet creamy gravy can be served along with rice or kanji (rice porridge), pair it with spicy mango pickle for delicious fare.

It is highly unfortunate that dishes like ‘Asthram’ do not receive the recognition it deserves. While the fusion food industry is booming in Kerala with pseudo-Arabic and pseudo-Chinese cuisines tweaked to befit our palate, it is high time that we uplift what is truly ours, it is time to unleash our ‘weapons’!

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(The author is a food blogger and culinary enthusiast.)

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