Friday, April 25, 2008

Puli Chammandi - A simple tribute to Mattemma

This is my entry for JIHVA FOR LOVE

Mattemma is short for matte amma in malayalam, literal translation meaning the `other' mother. She was my maternal grandma's aunt.

She was widowed at a very early age, and shortly my grandma lost her mom. So she was brought up by mattemma.

Tall, slim, with salt and pepper hair and golden skin, she was the kind of person every child would dream of having at home. She lived in my mom's ancestral home and made all our vacations the most heavenly days.

Thinking back, those days we were interested only in the amazing variety of sweet and savoury snacks that she would provide. The normal food items were never very interesting, though I remember everyone raving about her food.

She used to make jackfruit, banana, tapioca and a wide variety of chips and anytime we passed thru the kitchen, which was often, she would give each of us a handful...then there were sharkkaravaratti, madhura many types of adas, paayasams, kozhukkatas...oh the list would go on and on...and she would make everything from scratch...

I have joined her many days to put the rice, kondattams, pappads and other things that had to be dried in the sun.

The only leisure time she took was about an hour from around 1 to 2 in the afternoon when she would sit facing the east and read aloud some novel from the weekly magazines. She would start making some snacks for the 4 o'clock tea as soon as she put down the book.

And between tea and dinner, she would help us roast tamarind seeds, jackfruit seeds, onions, tapioca and any other thing we could get our hands on. We were really fascinated with the old wood-stove she used to cook everything on.

Ever since I started cooking, I have been thinking how remiss I had been in not appreciating how great tasting even her simplest dishes were.Just talk about mattemma's cooking, and my dad would start drooling.

So in her memory, I present the simple Puli Chammandi

Imli/tamarind/puli (the type used for sambar) - size of one lemon
Curry leaves - 2 stalks
Green chillies - 3
Red chiilies - 2 (or can use 1/2 tsp chilli powder)
Ginger - 1/4 inch
Small onions - 5
Grated coconut - 3/4th cup
salt - to taste(rock salt would add to the taste)

Grind it so that the texture is just short of fine.And add as little water as possible. In the end, she would just roll it into a big ball and place it on a steel plate.Every cooking member in our family has made puli chammandi, but the taste is never the same.

Alas! I cannot produce the kind of taste where the chammandi is ground on the stone.But it is not too bad since my husband has also acquired a taste for this.

I remember leaning against her and rocking to the rythm of her grinding chammandi on the stone..imagine the endless patience it takes to make chammandi for a housefull of people while having a 10 year-old lean on!

And so thank you to Indira who started JFI, Jigyasa and Prathibha for giving us this opportunity for a tribute . Salutations to Pedatha for leaving a great legacy.


  1. This is a comment that Pratibha sent to me via mail..I am just copy-pasting the same

    Dear Swapna,

    That write-up just drew such a lovely picture before my eyes...the magic of a childhood in the lap of such a lovely well you described her inside and out!

  2. Pratibha,

    Thank you for your comment. As you can se, I have managed to post your comment.

  3. what a great post and recipe!!!

  4. nicely written and i love love this chammandi.

  5. wow!!!jst loved the way u hv written abt evrythin n evryone my dearest sis....u r simply wonderful!!

  6. good old days... beautifully narrated...
    i also remember when we kids went to make 'ulli chuttathu'..with eerkili :D