Monday, October 19, 2015

Two Avalakki (Pressed Rice Flakes) Recipes from North Karnataka, and a Peek Into a Kitchen of the Past

The entire essay and the recipes are on The Aerogram. Here are a few excerpts.
Avalakki is a staple in North Karnataka cuisine. Avalakki Uppittu, a type of semi-dry porridge, is a popular breakfast dish. The rice flakes are also used to make quick snacks eaten late in the afternoon. A few basic spices and ingredients are all it takes to turn avalakki into dishes that are flavorful but light. More elaborate preparations of avalakki (such as Chivda) are made once in a while in large quantities to pack and take while travelling or to share among family and guests during festivals and religious observations.

Avalakki is available in three varieties — thin, medium and thick — and is sold in Indian grocery stores as poha. The thin and medium varieties (and a super thin version known as ‘nylon’ avalakkki) are ideal for dishes that do not require the avalakki to be soaked in water. The thick variety is called for in dishes such as Avalakki Uppittu where the pressed rice flakes will be soaked in water before being steamed with spices and vegetables.
Shakuntala Bai's Kitchen
Once she finishes prepping the dough, Shakuntala Bai places the cast iron pan on the stove, checks the fire and fiddles with it a little until she’s satisfied. She moves a little so she’s in front of the large, round, smooth Shahbaz stone placed strategically near the stove. She flours the surface and pats small balls of the dough into circular shapes on the stone, her palm going pat, pat, pat on the stone, constantly moving in quick semi-circles so the bhakris turn out evenly round. With darting movements, her fingers dab drops of water on the now expanding circle to fix cracks and then some flour so it doesn’t get stuck on the stone. Water, flour, water, pat, pat, pat. A white cloud of fine flour dust swirls in the air around her.

By this time, Shakuntala Bai’s kitchen is humming. The dal bubbles softly, perhaps there’s milk boiling on one of the other stoves, fires crackle under the various vessels and pans, her hands and bangles providing a steady rhythm to the melody.