Though cooking meats inside bamboo tubes is a common practice in the Northeast, in Tamil Nadu, this method of cooking was followed by villagers during the early days. Chef Damu opines that many hotels make bamboo biryani that has got a unique flavour. "Since it is lockdown and people have a lot of free time on hand, they are cooking food in bamboo hollows. There are many things one should keep in mind while cooking in bamboo tubes. You should only use the tubes twice for cooking. But for dishes like a biryani that takes 1-1.5 hours of cooking, you can use the bamboo tubes only once. After a single use, the tubes lose its flavour. Also, there is a chance of tubes getting fire. You can make any type of biryani, gravy or puttu in bamboo tubes. Grind together onion, tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste, salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder and oil. Add this mixture to the vegetable of your choice, place it inside the bamboo hollow, cover it well and place it on the fire. Vegetable dishes can be made in half-hour or so. The most important thing is to seal the mouth of the bamboo tightly — you can seal the edges with wheat dough, maida dough, or a cloth," says chef Damu.
In the olden days, people used to make different dishes in coconut shells — the shells give a unique flavour and aroma. "There is a dish called vedikai that is prepared in coconut shells. A coconut has three eyes at the top of it. You have to poke one eye and using a funnel, pour the gravy along with minced meat or fish into the coconut shell. Cover the shell and place it on the fire. Once it is cooked, break the coconut and take the gravy. You can put anything in a grinding form inside the shell. People used to prepare vedikai in rural areas around 50 years ago," he adds.
The chef points out that in Kerala many people make puttu inside a coconut shell. "It is called chiratta puttu. You can also make ilaneer payasam inside the coconut and refrigerate it,” Damu adds.
Gobu Kumar, Chef de Cuisine, Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park, observes that these days people are trying out forgotten recipes at home. "In the same way, a few are trying to cook in earthen pots, bamboo tubes, coconut shells, banana leaves, etc. It is not a tough method like many consider. We are used to cooking in pots and other utensils. So, you should be extra careful while handling such things. Be careful while selecting the bamboo hollows — tap on them and if you hear a clear sound, then you can use it. Make sure that the circumference of the bamboo is small. I prefer to cook bamboo biryani in charcoal — it gives biryani a unique flavour," shares the chef.
He says that daily cooking in bamboo hollows or coconut shells might be a tedious task. “You need time and patience to cook specialty dishes. You can try weekly or monthly once. Since many have time now, they can try making new dishes and share the recipe with others,” remarks chef Gobu.