Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recipe: Vadam

It was good that I got into vadam making in full swing the last couple of weeks. Last weekend, the clouds suddenly started to gather and the temperature came down. We started getting light drizzles towards the evenings and the days were not fiercely hot any more. Typical Bangalore weather had arrived in Hyderabad. It remains cool till date. We also made a trip to Golconda fort in the fine drizzle and enjoyed the first rainbow of the year from atop the Golconda Fort. Here it is.

Now to the recipes. We shall start with elai vadam. Elai vadam as I said earlier is so named because it used to be made on the leaves of Palasha leaves. These days, we have this contraption.

Making elai vadam was a big project in our childhood days; it is so even today for different reasons. The day was usually fixed for a weekend so that all the children would be home to lend a helping hand, and Manian the cowherd was asked to bring the leaves, the maid was ordered to pound the rice in the stone mortar and pestle. And how much rice did we need each time? As much as 3 to 4 kgs. Yes, that was the quantity of vadams that were made at each sitting (not each season). We would repeat this vadam making process some 3-4 times. Remember that during the summer vacation, our house would be bursting with the children and grandchildren of our grandparents and there would be days when we may have to fry not less than 100 vadams only for the members of the family. That meant that we had to have a great many vadams dried and ready in time for summer. The rice was mixed with water into a thick batter and kept in a cool place. Vadam batter should not get fermented. A day before, Echiyamma would inform Singari mami or Chelli mami or Ponnu that we were planning to make vadam on the next day. The leaves would be washed and dried with a cloth and kept under some weights to keep them straight. The next morning, my echiyamma would wake up earlier than usual say at 4 am and wake up her daughters-in-law also, so that all other kitchen activities would be finished by 7.30am (including preparation of lunch). Now we would all sit at the allocated places in the assembly line. This was a project that could take in as many as were available on hand. The whole process had to follow a streamlined program to achieve optimum result.
Accordingly 2 people would be wiping the leaves with a cloth dipped in a mixture of oil and water, the next people on the line would spread the batter on the leaves (writing the vadam it was called), the next would arrange them on the idli plate and hand them over to the person sitting near the large fire wood stove with a huge steamer (this would be a large utensil called arikanchatti on which huge idli plates would be kept). The arikanchatti would be half filled with water and some hay would be put in the water so that the idli plate would sit tight on the water. The whole thing was covered with a huge lid with the idli plate inside the steamer. After the vadams were cooked by steaming, they were taken out and the next batch would go in for steaming. Now another set of people would peel off the cooked vadams from the leaves and spread them on the back of a new bamboo sieve. Up to this point, the job needs skilled labour. Now comes the turn of little children, who would take the bamboo sieves with vadams to the next room and transfer these vadams onto mats. The leaves from which vadams were removed would again go to the first set of people to be cleaned and then written in and then steamed. After an hour or so the vadams would to go to courtyard to be dried in the sun. More people needed now to mind the crows as well. Of course we would always have children from the neighbourhood to help around. This process would go on for 3 -4 hours. At the end came the most interesting part. The last batch would be thickly written vadams which would be eaten raw with a smearing of raw coconut oil on them. This was a delicacy nobody wanted to miss. Even when Singari mami or Chelli mami made vadams, they would keep the thick raw vadams for us to eat. And my friend Subbammal's mother, Kanakam mami would always keep raw vadams for me to eat on my way to school.

As I said, these days the process has been simplified by the vadam stand. Yet you need at least two persons to make vadam. One to stand near the stove and write on the plate and steam and another to remove the steamed vadams and transfer them to a cloth or plastic sheet.

We usually make vadams in the evenings these days and allow them to dry under the fan in the night and in the sun the next day to avoid running between the kitchen and terrace. By morning they will have dried to a level of not sticking to each other and it is easier to carry them to the sunny part of the house.

Now, on to the actual recipe.

Though many people get the rice powdered in the flour mill, I prefer to grind the rice in the mixer or grinder to get the right taste and color.


Raw rice: 1 cup
Gingelly seeds: 2 tsp.
Gingelly oil 2 tsp.
Salt to taste


Wash and soak the rice in water for 3 hours. Grind with enough salt to form a thick batter. This batter needs to be refrigerated if the vadams are to be made the next day. The tin plates are to be wiped with a cloth dipped in a mixture of gingelly oil and water; just a few drops of oil in a cup of water. This is to lubricate the surface so that the vadams would peel off easily after steaming. The batter is thinned with enough water to a consistency that allows it to be spread evenly and not flow off the plate. Add the gingelly seeds and gingelly oil to the batter and mix thoroughly. Ladle a small spoonful of batter on to the plate and spread it evenly. Arrange the plates on the stand and steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove and spread on a clean cloth. Repeat the process.

This quantity of rice makes 20-30 vadams, depending on the size.

Dry the vadams in the sun for a day. They will be ready to be fried in the evening. These vadams will keep good upto 2 years.


Wipe the plates with the oil-water mixture every now and then.
Add ¼ cup of water to the steamer each time a new batch is put in.
If possible have the stove at a level where you can comfortably sit and work if making large quantity.

Turn the vadams after 1 or 2 hrs initially so that they do not stick to the cloth


Jennifer said...

Ammupatti. Thanks for sharing this. What a process!! It's no wonder the elder generations are in such good physical shape. All these kinds of household chores are labor intensive and use so much of energy! Simply Amazing!

Also, I appreciate you have written to refill water in steamer after each batch. I made critical mistake when steaming puttu in the coconut replica that sits a top the pressure cooker. I did not refill the pot on time and started to burn the pan! Luckily it's saved and still usable!!!

Narayan said...

Talking of making vadams - it was common in the days of yore for the children of the house t o help their moms in taking out the steamed vadams for drying on mats in the backyard or home terraces in towns/cities. In summer, it was common for children to give this as an excuse to skip school, whether or not they helped! ;-)


akamonica said...

Just hit upon your blog. These karuvadam and vadam posts brought back so many memories. I am a Palghat Iyer but born and brought up in Bombay, where every apr-may we would make all these things and dry them in the sun. we used to love the whole process. We never made vadam in the elai because the vadam stand was already in by then. Am definitely going to go through your kerala recipes and use them. One suggestion: It would be great if you could also write about our functions like vishu, karthigai and describe its significance and what is to be done, what is to be cooked etc. Great blog!

Sam said...

What a great process!! Its a very unique recipe. I have never heard of it earlier also. Your post made me remmember the times my Mother used to make pickles at home. I always stole a chance to eat thr dried green mangoes :-) . Will try it out soon. Thanks so much for sharing.

balayogi said...

Only last month I was talking about authentic home made 1. Elandha vadam and 2. kootu vadam to my daughter because they were an important part of school vacations.

Unfortunately these have become extinct. we can neither get them in shops nor are anyone born after 1920's know to make them that authentically and the ones who are still alive cannot do it.

We have failed to enforce grammar on food items that we go about redefining and redesigning the texture,taste and also the tenure of solid state of most food items as if we are toothless species.

Unfortunately we live in an era where we have a brand of Mysorepakku not hard as any sore paw , it must not even be pronounced as mysore pakku but we must stop with mysore paa [as if it is meant to be fed to the character in the film PAA. On the whole it is a bad excuse for anything to do with mysore pakku because when you take it breaks quicker between your thumb and index finger than Thogayal made of thenga [coconut] and parrupu [dhal] and reaches the throat faster than saliva. Is it Mysore pakku please clarify.

Same is the case with elanda vadams it looks and tastes like mashed tamarind pattis. why even cheeedies are waiting to turn into semi liquid the moment they touch the tongue.

Common guys don't be too oldish, we have a new APPs on Androids you touch the picture of mysopaa on touch screen and you get a fleeting taste in your tongue tips. Now you know why I like to eat more sweets. Anyway my wife made tasty seven cups sweet yesterday.