Happy Kerala Piravi: Do you know how Malayali's favourite dish 'puttu' was born?

Puttu is Malayali’s own food. But we still can’t claim that we were the first ones to make it. Historians say that puttu was first made in Tamil Nadu. Photo: Onmanorama

“Today also we have Puttu for breakfast? Ok, I have lost my peace of mind.” This was the dialogue by Mukesh in Sathyan Anthikad’s movie ‘Vinodayathra’. Even in the recent ‘Bheeshma Parvam’, Mammootty pours himself some rice porridge at the dining table dismissing the puttu and egg curry placed at the center of the table. A while ago, a schoolboy’s note expressing his agony of eating puttu every day went viral on social media, with the boy saying “puttu breaks families.” James who was a third grader from Bangalore said it was his 'most hated food as it hardens when it cools.'

Even the character Kannaas in ‘Kabuliwala’ has agreed that puttu gets harder when it cools. You can see Kannas forgetting his tiff with Chandrika when he consumes hot puttu and says it tastes better when it's hot and even packs a few slices for Chandrika. We also laughed at Harishree Ashokan’s attempt to add puttu powder through a puttu maker without the sieve. Despite many such pokes in real and reel life, puttu remains the universal breakfast favourite of Malayalees. They love to team it up with whole moong dal curry, bananas, black channa curry, and pappad. How was this amazing dish born and how to make the perfect puttu? Let's find out. 

The origin of puttu
Puttu is Malayali’s own food. But we still can’t claim that we were the first ones to make it. Historians say that puttu was first made in Tamil Nadu. Today, puttu is also made in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Sri Lanka. In Assam there is a similar dish called Sungapitha. It is said that puttu was mentioned in the 15th-century Tamil poet Arunagirinathar’s book ‘Thirupugazh’. Most historians and academicians have noted that the Malayalam language started evolving in the 8th century. But none of the early Malayalam literature mentioned puttu. During that time, Kerala and Tamil Nadu didn’t have separate food habits, so one can claim that puttu also originated in Kerala.

In ‘Thiruvilayadal,’ a book written by the 16th-century writer Param Jyothi Munivar, there is an interesting story behind puttu. The book is about Madurai temple’s Shivaperumal’s story. It is said that Ganapati came in the guise of a commoner to help an old woman make puttu. When she said she didn’t have money to pay him, he asked him to give her whatever crumbs that came with the puttu. But that day all the puttu broke into crumbs. To this day, Madura’s Ganapati is offered crumbs of puttu as an offering.

There are more stories about puttu. Everyone is familiar with the ‘Kuthira biryani’ mentioned in SK Pottakadu’s 'Oru Deshathinte Kadha' that is served at this tea shop at Kozhikode made of puttu, kadala and pappadam. There are those who have hit the world record by making puttu. In 2006, a group of students from Wayanad’s Oriental School of Management made a 10ft long puttu. Made of 26kgs of rice flour and 20 coconuts, it apparently took 30 minutes for the mega puttu to get cooked.

The trick to make soft puttu
According to food vlogger Mrinal Das Venkalat, if done well, puttu will never turn stiff even when it cools. To make soft puttu, water should be gradually added to dry puttu flour to make the puttu mix, before it is steamed to perfection.Even when made with wheat, ragi or corn flours, the trick is in ensuring that before steaming, the puttu mix isn't too dry or wet. It should be just wet enough to be steamed into the soft breakfast that we love. 

Most nutritious breakfast
Nutritionists rate puttu and kadala curry as the healthiest breakfast in Kerala. The combination of carbs and proteins is considered a great partnership according to them. Since it is steamed, it not only retains the nutrients but is also a great source of energy. Though there are various combinations that go with puttu like beef curry, fish curry, chicken curry, egg curry, and moong dal curry, nutritionists rule out having meat for breakfast. But yes, you can have these combos for lunch or dinner.

Here are some ways to spike the nutrition in puttu:
• You can add shredded carrots along with shredded coconuts while steaming puttu.
• Try ragi and wheat puttu.
• Diabetic patients can have puttu in small portions.
• Ideal habit is to go for a small portion of puttu with enough curry.
• Steaming puttu in bamboo and coconut shells is ideal.
• Avoid sugar in puttu.
• While making curry, go with moong sprouts or mixed sprouts.

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