Growing up in the Middle East Ramadan/Ramzan was always special for me. It meant school finished earlier and I could conveniently skive off eating the sandwiches Mom packed, because, well everyone was fasting. But seeing Sujitha Nair and her mouthwatering recipes from North Kerala’s Malabar, brought back a flood of very different memories for me.
Memories of a shy veiled girl, a cherished friend, whose packages of newspaper wrapped goodies signalled evenings spent eating voraciously and playing till our little feet groaned from the exertion.
Amina was a staunch friend of mine when we visited my Dad’s house in Valancheri, a small town in Kerala’s North. We would play all day long, chasing after cats, climbing trees, managing our imaginary households, and enthusiastically fake cooking in the ‘kitchen’. When it was Ramzan, our adventures were cut short, because she had to get home in time for Iftar, when the rest of her family, would break their day-long fast. But on all those evenings, her mom would send a packet of goodies for me too. And my God! They were delicious!
Malabar is famous for its cuisine. And it’s even more famous for the people’s overwhelmingly welcoming nature. No visit to a Malabar household will be complete without a lavish spread of homemade goodies. They take their hosting skills very seriously!
And when it is Ramadan, people really go all out. Tables are laden with snacks and desserts so indulgent you would think it’s a feast for the king. And it’s about time we tried some of these amazing recipes from the culinary capital of Kerala.
Thank you, Sujitha Nair for giving us these very special recipes, and bringing back a lot of fond memories!
1.Thari kanchi (Thari kaachiyathu)
Don’t be confused with the word ‘Kanji’ coming into the picture here. Unlike the rice porridge, Thari Kanji is actually a sweetened milk-based drink with semolina. It’s super healthy and is usually a common way for the Malabar Muslims to break their fast, after consuming the mandatory dates. It’s especially recommended because it settles the stomach, so after a long day of no food, it’s a great way to avoid any unpleasant sensations or queasiness.
2.Chatti pathiri (atti pathiri or atti pathal)
Layers of pancakes with a spicy meaty filling. Has to be the stuff of dreams after a long day fasting. Sujitha says that there are both sweet and savoury versions to the Chatti Pathiri, but the one in this recipe is a savoury one. It’s a rich dish and can look like a lot of work, but she assures us that if you have the right utensils and the patience, it’s a pretty simple recipe to cook up.
And guess what it’s compared to. The Italian classic; lasagna! So, without further delay try this Malabar lasagna and impress your guests this Ramadan.
Just like the Chatti Pathiri is Malabar’s answer to lasagna, kilikoodu is Malabar’s answer to scotch eggs. I distinctly remember gobbling these crunchy munchies between rounds of exciting hopscotch.
4.Kozhi Ada or Koyiada
These are basically spiced chicken pockets. They can be compared to chicken samosas, but the taste and crunch is spectacularly Malabar. Just like Samosas are a popular snack in Karnatake and Hyderabad for Iftar, Koyiadais popular in Malabar.
Steamed plantain stuffed with sweetened grated coconut with cashews and raisins and deep fried. Doesn’t need any more description, does it? This was and remains my favourite dessert associated with Malabar. Amina’s mom used to pack a little extra when she made these, they were pretty popular.
I have never had this myself. But this recipe is special for Sujitha. She has her own memories of a loved Bushara thatha (elder sister) and her Paal vazhaka recipe. It’s made of sago, which has always fascinated me.
I am not a Muslim. Neither is Sujitha. But I don’t think you need to be one to appreciate the magnitude and significance of Ramadan. The love, care and concept of sharing that Ramadan instills was taught to me and Sujitha through these recipes. And we treasure the memories, the people and the food.
Make your own special memories with these very special recipes and celebrate the spirit of Ramadan with an Iftar party that no one will forget!