Anoop Chand and family from Thiruvananthapuram love to have a DIY ada pradhaman. So this Onam too, they will be making their own ada for their favourite payasam. “We plan to make traditional varieties of payasam and often make the ingredients from scratch, especially ada,” says Anoop, an admin of Facebook group Chef’s Table. “Making ada at home is perhaps an art that’s dying,” says Anoop (Instagram page foodloose.in.).
“This is ideally done on the eve of the day you want to prepare ada payasam so that it’s fresh,” adds Anoop.
Chef K Latha, known as the first woman chef of Kerala, explains why ada pradhaman endears itself to the Malayali taste-buds. “It is not for nothing that we often say ada is pradhamanil pradhaman (the numero uno in pradhaman). It always accompanies sadya during special occasions in the southern parts of the State,” says Latha, Chef de cuisine of Malabar Café at Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty.
Do it yourself
- Anoop explains the process thus: Soak raw rice (ideally pachari, which has not been cooked or unakkalari, that is parboiled rice) well and grind to a consistency thinner than dosa batter. Add a bit of ghee. Using the five fingers, scoop and drip the batter in long stripes/lines on tempered plantain leaves. Fold and tightly wrap, preferably with threads. Boil water in a large vessel and drop the plantain wraps in them. After the water cools, unwrap and (the batter would have become more solid) cut to strips of required size. Dip the thin ada strips in water in room temperature for a wash. Strain the ada and roast with a bit of ghee and jaggery.
According to the chef, ada pradhaman is a sweet legacy from the erstwhile Travancore times where, she says, the dessert held a high status among payasams. “Back then, ada was made at home, which was an elaborate but engaging process. Fresh raw rice, typically unakkalari harvested in the beginning of the month of Chingam (first month of Malayalam calendar) itself, was used. With no mixers and grinders, grinding the raw rice for the ada batter was laborious process, one reason perhaps why it was not so commonly prepared,” says Latha. Another special ingredient was Marayoor jaggery, which is now a GI-tagged product. “This jaggery was predominantly used for its purity and minimal salt content,” she points out.
Latha observes that ada payasams became more regular when “instant ada” entered the market.
Undoubtedly, it is ada pradhaman’s unique jaggery-saturated flavour that wins it many admirers, like Suresh Ambi Swami of the famous Thrissur-based caterers Suresh Ambi Swami’s known for their payasams. “Ada pradhaman is a personal favourite of mine as well. It’s flavour is quite pleasant, especially due to the way it is prepared today with the addition of spices such as cardamom, which was not the case in olden times,” he explains.