One village, which remains in my memory for this, is where appalam or pappadum took roots, before World War II started. Kallidaikurichi is near the border between the Pandya and the Chera kingdoms of the past.
The pappadum business has developed mostly over the past couple centuries or so but it has a fascinating history. In early 1900, an enterprising young man started making and selling appalams along with a few women, leading to similar women being empowered all over the country thanks to the dawn of small businesses.
Papad, papar, pappadum, poppadom or appalaam as it’s known around the country, is a delectable snack that has made itself a vital item in every household — an integral part of meals in some parts of the country, while just an appetiser in others.
Thin, crisp and usually disc-shaped, it is made from varying ingredients, such as lentil flours — like black gram flour — chick peas, rice and even tapioca, potatoes and other vegetables.
Pappadum curry is not a new addition but has existed for over 80 years, invented in Kallidaikurichi by a lady called Lakshmima,who always had people dropping in for food in the last minute. Fresh vegetables or other ration wouldn’t be available to rustle up a side dish to accompany the rice so this served as the perfect alternative.
The curry is a fusion of the Kerala-Tamil cuisine. I had the good fortune of tasting it when we visited the town. Quaint homes, laidback lifestyle, unique culture and lots of history greeted us in the old lanes of Kallidaikurichi.
My friend Saraswathy insisted we visit her grandma’s house, uninformed. We trotted into a beautiful heritage home, with a tiled roof and high ceilings. The walls were painted in bright colour, the red stone floor shone like a mirror. Very little furniture adorned the house but a long wooden table with benches on either side caught my attention upon arrival.
Plantains and jackfruit along with some root vegetables hung from the ceiling in the kitchen, which boasted of two huge firewood and mud stoves. Clay and brass pots lined several shelves and a big earthen pot of drinking water quietly occupied the corner. It was a huge kitchen and Saraswathi, my friend’s grandma was a strong, majestic-looking lady. Her smile matched the lustre of the diamond nose pins and earrings she was wearing and she welcomed us happily.
Initially, I could see no sign of cooked food on the table or anywhere else. After welcoming us, she asked us to wash up, while she asked the maid to lay the table for lunch. We were wondering how lunch would be served as we were uninvited guests but our questions was answered when we sat down to gobble up one of the tastiest lunches I had ever had. There were only three dishes, but it was like a royal feast. Pappadum curry, rasam and rice, with buttermilk and pickles was all that was there. The curry was the most unusual and a first-time dish for me.
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cooking Time:
- 22 mins
- serves: 3-4
- Calories per serving: 180 cl
- 4 plain rice pappadums
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- A pinch asafoetida (hing)
- ¼ cup grated coconut
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 3 green chillies
- 1 whole red chilli dried
- ½ cup tamarind pulp
- 2 teaspoons finely shredded ginger
- ½ cup peeled and cut shallots
- Few curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp kasturi methi
- ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp jaggery
- 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
- You can deep-fry the pappadums in oil, roast them on the flame directly or microwave them for 2 minutes.
- Add ½ cup water to the tamarind pulp.
- Grind the coconut, 1 tsp jeera, methi seeds and green chillies into a smooth paste.
- Take 2 tbsp oil in wok or saucepan. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chilli and curry leaves. Sauté for a while.
- Add asafoetida, turmeric powder, coriander powder and dry fenugreek leaves (kasturi methi).
- Now, add the diced shallots and shredded ginger and sauté.
- Add the chilli powder and salt.
- Add the tamarind pulp. Cook for eight minutes.
- Add jaggery.
- Now break the pappadums into small chunks and add them to the gravy. Cover the curry and cook on low flame for two minutes.
- Add a spoon of coconut oil.
- Scoop out the curry into a serving bowl and garnish with some coriander. Serve this tantalising pappadum curry with hot rice.
Kitchen Tip: Add milk instead of coconut paste, if coconut is not available
— The writer is a chef and author of Festive Offerings to the Gods