Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Kanatha vadam: My family's guilty indulgence

-by Aishwarya Pramod and Janaki Krishnan

Like all Palakkad Iyers, I love kanatha vadam. But whenever I think of it, it's always with a twinge of guilt. Not because kanatha vadam is unhealthy. Rather, it is because the dish takes a humongous effort to make, but almost no time to finish off. All that work for only a moment of deliciousness? So self-indulgent. :P

Non-Palakkad-Iyers might ask, what are kanatha vadams? At the risk of sounding clinical, they are steamed rice flat-cakes that are sundried to make papads :). During the papad-making process, a few of them are set aside for immediate eating (without drying).

My grandmother has loved kanatha vadam since she was a young girl. She penned down the recipe and her memories associated with it. Here is what she wrote.
Writing down the recipe
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Kanatha Vadam by Janaki Krishnan

I learnt to make kanatha vadam at a schoolgoing age. Kanatha vadam means "thick vadam". It's made on a set of leaf-shaped metal trays. It's also called elai vadam, meaning "leaf vadam".

The "leaves" for making kanatha vadam
Vadam-making was a group affair. Children were given simple jobs to do like peeling off cooked vadams from the leaves. There were 8 of us who helped our mother make large batches of vadam-papads. We would set aside a few vadams for immediate eating, and keep the remaining ones in the sun to dry. While peeling off the cooked vadams, a few small pieces would inevitably remain on the leaves. We loved snacking on those even as we were supposed to be setting the vadams aside.

Ingredients
  • 1 glass puzhungal arisi. This is parboiled unpolished rice. It is slightly reddish because a bit of the husk remains on the grain. We use this rice to make idli too
  • 1 glass polished rice
  • Salt, chilli powder, hing (asafoetida) powder
  • Metal leaves to cook the vadams. Right from my mother's time we have been using metal leaves, though traditionally, leaves are used. These leaves are available in the market or with flower sellers.
Soak the parboiled rice overnight. Soak the polished rice the next day for about half an hour. Mix all the rice together, drain the water. Grind into a paste in a mixie/grinder. Add about half a cup of water while grinding, little by little.

Once the paste is ready, add more water to it till it becomes the consistency of dosai batter. This will make it easy to spread on the leaf. Add a spoonful of sesame seeds (optional).

The rice paste with sesame seeds
Ready the metal leaves, by dabbing them with a cloth dipped in a mix of water and a little oil. Spread the batter evenly in circular shapes. Steam-cook it for two minutes.

Spreading the paste on the leaves
Steam for 2 minutes
Remove the leaves from the steam-cooker and let them cool for a couple of minutes. Spread a little oil of your choice on the vadams, and gently peel them off the leaves. Trying to remove the vadams before they cool down will make them stick to the leaves. They are now ready to eat!

Ready to eat
Some of the vadams can also be dried in the sun and later deep-fried.

I still love kanatha vadam. I prefer eating them directly rather than drying and deep-frying. The steamed ones have very little oil and I can easily eat half a dozen.

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Aishwarya back again :)
Like my grandma, my mom has also been a long time fan of kanatha vadam. I myself wasn't a big fan, until I was suddenly converted a few years ago. I'm back home after finishing my MBA. It turns out that Amma has developed a slight addiction and asks Shyamala (her cook) to make these vadams every fortnight or so.


Here she is answering mails, taking phone calls and watching Star Trek all at the same time. I bring a plate of sample vadams to my her, and she tastes one. "Needs more salt in the batter. Also, not sour enough. Maybe add buttermilk." She feeds me a couple and eats the remaining two. "OK so are there more vadams?" she asks furtively. I grin at the guilty look on her face and go to fetch another plate.

4 comments:

Anuradha Shankar said...

My mom used to make these too. And I loved them. You brought back a lot of memories with this post.

Ananva said...

I think Maharashtrians make these too- my mom had the same set and I remember helping her make these.

Haddock said...

Never heard of this before.
And if we don't have the thattu (metal leaf) we can't make it I suppose.

thedevilcorp said...

For your consideration.