Monday, June 01, 2009

A Stack of Goodies

Heaven melts in your mouth

Is it paper? It looks like it," said a Bengali colleague when I held out a box of this and asked him to try some, many years ago. I didn't know too well myself but hazarded a guess. As it turns out, my little knowledge was no dangerous thing, and I was right, though not detailed. (The details are further down.)

Last week, we went home for an important party and came back with enough stuff for a party of our own. At least, it seems that way. We brought back several of two varieties of mangoes, home-made mango pickle, sweetu, haatu (to put it in typical Indian English - that's sweets and "hot"/savouries for the uninitiated). Just before we drove out of the city, I visited the supermarket close to home and when I saw these, it struck me that I could use them for Click - Stacks.

I'd always wanted to do a post on pootarekulu but didn't know much about them beyond their taste. Then, some time ago a Telugu cookery show on TV featured the making of this very traditional, very regional and quite tough-to-make delicacy.

And delicate are they! No wonder they are called paper sweet or mica sweet outside Andhra Pradesh. Can you guess what these sweet rolls of thinner-than-tissue sheets are made from?

Starchy rice flour. According to the people featured on the TV programme, a variety of rice called 'Jaya Biyyam', which is found only in and around that village in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh (it could be Aatreyapuram, I'm not sure) is soaked and ground to a very watery consistency.

An inverted earthen pot is heated from inside, and a cloth dipped in the rice paste is spread on the pot and removed almost immediately. The result is a thin, gauzy sheet of starch - like the one that forms around the vent of the pressure cooker sometimes after cooking the rice. You can see it in the first one in the stack.

The sheets (rekulu) are transferred to another surface, to be given a coating (poota) of finely powdered sugar and ghee. It could contain powdered cardamom too, for extra flavour. A few such sheets are layered and folded to form one pootareku.

The miracle, I believe, is one of texture and experience. At first glance, it looks compact - more and more of the same thing folded over and over. I would judge a good pootareku by this: Just bite into it, and it should literally melt in the mouth, leaving a cool, sweet feeling. It shouldn't smell overwhelmingly of ghee, either. (Sadly, supermarket versions smell both of ghee and plastic.) It looks light. It isn't.


I knew only of the white variety of pootarekulu but the TV show also showed a jaggery version and a "modern" version, which came as rather a shocker to me. The modern version, in addition to the jaggery or the sugar, was filled with cashew nuts and raisins. The next 'value addition' could be coloured pootarekulu - if you begin seeing some after this post, you know where they flicked the idea from! Let me know, I could claim some royalty.

An Uncle tells me more about pootarekulu (also known as mallinga madupulu):
They were usually made by families from the Raju community in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
The tougher but more traditional way of making a pootareku renders it crisp - for this, the sheets in a single unit have to be alternately coated with ghee and sugar, not coated with both as that will make it soggy. (The TV show's guests were preparing them the second way, which Uncle calls the lazy way.)
Uncle didn't know about Jaya Biyyam but said that rice harvested from a crop solely rain-fed (as opposed to one cultivated by flooding the fields) is used to make this sweet (and feed new mothers) as it contains less water.

Here's a recipe if you must absolutely try it, though I doubt the results will even approximate the original.

The first photo is off to join a stack of other treats at Click-Stacks.

36 comments:

  1. Something which I have never seen or heard, seems almost like magic to me!

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  2. I tried this about 2 years back at Pulla Reddy, one of the most reputed sweets shop in Hyd, and honestly, I didn't like it. It tasted so strongly of ghee! Maybe because I didn't grow up eating them :)

    Now, the kalakand they had! Man!! out of this world!!!

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  3. I've grown up eating this... family friends (Rajus from East Godavari) fed this to me regularly... I even lived with them for a bit while I worked in Gurgaon... now it has been a few years since I ate the sweet.

    I can handle small bits of this from time to time... did you hear my waistline talk?

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  4. Thanks for the enlightenment..

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  5. Sra, a year back one of my colleagues bought these from his native place. I was absent that day and hence could not taste it but my friend described it wonderfully which mademe drool like anything. After that I was hunting for this and after year of wait one of my dear friends bought a box of this. That version had just ghee and sugar which we loved till the last bite. Thanks for enlightening the blogging community on this wonderful traditional sweet. If at all we have a "Daring Indian cook" contest we can make this as a try :)

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  6. Oh my god!I am seeing them after a long time and instant craving.Oh well, am new to food blogging and nice to chance upon ur page. Great work!

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  7. Hmm..its been a long time i had this..I love to have this once in a while...Yummy one..:)

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  8. Something that I've never come across. Sounds like something I'd like to eat, but not make.

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  9. Very interesting post. Do keep one for me for our next meet.:)

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  10. Beautiful click. I hav enev erhad these, would love to try. Next time when i am in India i am going to look for this to have a try as it sounds really yumm.
    Well i woudn't mind to have a bottle of the mango pickle you brought from home.

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  11. I have tasted this sweet twice. But never knew the name or what into it. Thanks for the detailed writeup.

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  12. Wow!! wonderful..thank you :)

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  13. Hi, I am lucky to have eaten this home made, by my MIL! And each time she visited, she used to bring it to us in Hyderabad. I had seen them at Pulla Reddy's but never knew what it was and never bought them. Really love this, and if the sugar and ghee are right, it is simply delicious.. I am hoping I will get it this time too:-) Great idea for stacks click!Shreya

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  14. Very very interesting information Sra. When the sweet shops adapt any traditional delicacy they smother it with ghee and make it into a ghee sweet instead.

    I love the mango pickles the Rajus make. Out of this world.

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  15. This was a very interesting piece Sra. Now I want some of that "sweetu" :D

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  16. Wow.. that looks so delicate and your description of it makes me want to try it immdtly.

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  17. I always want to try something new and this sounds like something that I might like. Wish I knew where to get it in the US.

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  18. Wow....very informative. I have never seen this! Looks so light and pretty!

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  19. Sra, I have you to thank for introducing us to this sweet, remember?
    And as I was telling you, I tasted the jagerry (Pulla Reddy) version my niece brought home from Hyd. Of course, I was able to show off my knowledge about this "unknown" (to the others at home) sweet and how it was made, again thanks to you. :D

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  20. I've never heard of this before... Sounds like melting magic!

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  21. Wow, an Indian version of puff pastry sheets! Never seen or heard of these before!

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  22. I had no idea abouit these too...but through your description, can somehow imagine how lovely it must taste :-)

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  23. I have never had these .. they look very pretty

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  24. Interesting food item. I've never seen or heard of it before, but you sure pique my interest.

    Your references to the mangoes have caused a serious mango craving right now.

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  25. Ooh .... that looks so melt-in-the-mouth delicious! I seem to remember trying something like this when I was a lot younger. It's such a remote memory.

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  26. its been ages isnce i had them. although not a gr8 fan of these sheets, right now i feel like grabbing one from screen!
    err, any extra jar of mango pickles there? ;) u can always send it to me if u are over stocked, u know ;)

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  27. thanks for a fascinating peek into the process and for a lovely click entry.

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  28. Sra,
    where, where you get this so neat ideas:) ...this is indeed good to send it to click ...
    never had it ,but would love to have this sweet thing..
    thanks for sharing such interesting traditional stuff with us..
    hugs and smiles

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  29. I saw this in click and came rushing.....my favourite...Once i saw them making this delicacies in khamam at one of my uncle's friends hosue....it was really a tedious job.....melt in mouht delicacies look yum...

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  30. Thanks for educating me. Never seen or heard of this before.

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  31. Sra..thats a lovely stack!..

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  32. idhi na and noel's favourite sweet of all times.. we just love it... I would never attempt to make though... I would leave it to the experts...

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  33. What a fascinating and fantastic sweet, but I'd have to be suicidal to attempt them at home. I once tried "Cigarettes Russes," thin, tightly rolled butter cookies - best tasting slag heap I ever ate. ; )

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  34. I have had this I know for sure - but can't remember whether in Chennai. In fact there is something called Mahim Halwa in Mumbai which is similar thin crisp sheets of melt in your mouth goodness but not as thin and flaky like this one
    Thanks for all that research!

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  35. I was so excited to see this. I had a chance of eating this sweet strangely in Calcutta, in our office - and I assumed it is from Bengal. Nobody knew the name, and I was told the guy who bought it had left a box with colleagues and gone off on vacation! I did speak to many aunts and friends in Kolkata - trying to find out more -by describing this sweet! And now at least thanks to you - the mystery has been solved!!!! This sweet is really incredible! Thanks for such an informative post! BTW - filo dough and sugar rolled?? hmmm doubt it can taste like the original!!

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  36. This Sweet Called Phutha Rekulu......
    Good tasted....
    Thanks for share.......

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