April 28, 2012

Ramasseri idlis and Marina sundal

The idli has taken many avatars.

I got to know one such this past week.

The Ramasseri Idli.

To enjoy a couple or a plateful of these iddlis you will have to travel all the way to Palakkad in Kerala, then branch off some 8 kilometres away to get to this place and if luck is on your side, chance to feast on the idlis at one stall that is said to carry on a legacy that colours India's food heritage.

The idlis are fluffy, round but flat and look more like little bloated dosas or tossed up idi-appams.

They are best had with idli podi soaked in oil though foodies who must have chicken curry for breakfast opt for the curry.

I am told that this food is a legacy which the Muthaliyar community once of Kanchipuram carried to Palakkad and it now remains in the hands of a few families who have chosen to run food stalls in this little place.

I got to know much of this while sitting and evaluating projects of the Mass Communications students at Pondicherry University, most of which were either PSAs, documentaries or short films.

As a student's docu on the Ramasseri idlis rolled on I wondered if I may have had the occasion to chance on something similar during a visit to Kalpathy, a well preserved Tamil Brahmin settlement in the same district, during its famed temple car festival.

Nooks, heritage spots and local traditions make for fascinating indulgences when we chance to explore a place.

With a bit of adventure and licence, you will discover these experiences even in your backyard.

If you turn off one or two less frequented beachside spots on the East Coast Road (ECR) outside our city you will chance on  shacks where local women of the fisher community offer you a simple but tantalizing plate of fresh fried fish or spicy fish curry.

The tangy curry is unique to this east coast region and is best enjoyed with steamed rice.

Friends who frequent Bessie Beach (Elliots Beach, Besant Nagar) often end their weekend evenings with a visit to the fish hawker for plates of fried fish and crab masala.

The salty sundal and green mango slices dipped in chilli powder is part of Marina beach lore. So is softball cricket.

They tried to remove the cattamarans; they banned the cricket . . .but the two have survived.

Living heritage, either on the decline or being wiped out is also about idlis and sundal.

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