If I think of the most splendid food I have taken so far, the first thing that comes into my mind is the Aarattu Kanji that I had had way back at Purakkad Sri Venugopala Temple. Purakkad, a small village some 30Kms south of Aalappuzha is my father's place, even though nothing much of an ancestral home remains there. But two of my father's brothers live there and we go there once in an year to visit them and the temple.
The temple festival is held somewhere in January, and Aarattu is the last day of the festival. People from many nearby places like Aalappuzha, Ambalappuzha and Kayamkulam will come during the festival, especially on the Aarattu day. The Kanji is served late night, may be around 12.
When we went for the Kanji, I was half asleep by 12, my father woke me up and we went to the temple ground. We sat in the ground, and as per my father's instruction I made a small digging in the sand. Then they gave the banana leaves, and we placed the leaf on top of the digging, so that when Kanji is poured on the banana leaf, it will be as if in a vessel. Rice came first, and then came Katchil Puzhukku which is the main item. It is Katchil (a kind of yam) cooked with various spices, and served hot. Payar Koottan came next and to accompany it there was a kind of pickle specially made for the day, with many vegetables and sprouted cashews. And finally there was fried Mulaku Pappatam which is a kind of spicy Papat. I will never forget the taste of the Aarattu Kanji of that day. The combination of Kanji, Puzhukku and the Papat was really wonderful.
Pathrodo is the most treasured and delicious food item of Konkanis. We need many leaves of Chembu (Taro), which grows almost anywhere in South India. There are two types of Chembu actually, one which has very large and dark green leaves and another one, which has rather small and light green leaves. Nobody really plants the second variety I guess, and it just grows anywhere where there would be little moisture in the ground.
Both variety would do for Pathrodo, but the taste will be little different. I prefer the second one. The first thing is to collect the leaves (which can turn little tricky if you don't grow them in your land). Leaves are to be cleaned up and little bit of processing is to be done on the leaves. After this we mix Rice, Udad Dal (not sure whether this is necessary - have to ask my mother), Salt, lot of red dry chillies, Tamarind, Asafoetida, Turmeric powder etc and grind it. Then we take a leaf, apply the mix on it, place another one on top of it, apply the mix again and it will go on for 5-6 leaves after which we roll it vertically to form a cylindrical structure. We cook it in steam and after half an hour the aroma would start coming. We cut Pathrodo into small cakes and serve hot with coconut oil. The cakes can be dipped in the oil for better taste, and it would be good if we take the oil that has been previously used for frying papat or chillies. Besides, the cakes can later be roasted and it will taste better then.
Sometimes we will remember some of our meals because of reasons not related to taste. For e.g.., when my parents set up my kitchen in SathyaNilayam, Bangalore when they visited in July 1999 - the simple meal we first made, with rice and tomato curry is something that is unforgettable.
Why am I writing about food today like a recipe writer?
What else shall I think of now, in my current condition, eating the horrible Pizza everyday? Even the junkest meals I took in Shanthi Sagar Hotel at Bangalore appear heavenly to me now.