What defines a Malayali? And if the options are - lungi, puttu-kadala and kattan it could land you in a stiff competition. A Malayali will go for it all. For the Malayali, puttu and kadala is as vital for his existence as oxygen is.
So, what goes into the making of this amazing food? Puttu is that dish that a Malayali holds close to his heart and is Anglicized as “steamed rice cake.” And it calls for special skills if its taste and woolly softness are to be got right. Pounded rice is fried and mixed with water in the right measure and then steamed along with coconut scrapings. It’s hard to find a Malayali who would turn his back on this mannah.
Though puttu enjoys a special kinship with kadala (Bengal gram) and plantain, the combo is slowing moving aside to make room for other awesome combinations. Steaming hot puttu along with beef roast is the best bet. The beef is marinated with ginger, pepper, garlic and other ingredients and cooked till it soaks up the taste of the ingredients. The beef thus roasted is served along with the puttu and makes for a heady combination. And it is not just rice that is used to make puttu these days, you can also make it with wheat, ragi and tapioca. And if the Malayali does not get it at home, he will travel great distances for the perfect 'puttu.'
It was one such quest for 'puttu' that landed us in this popular food joint Puttum Kattanum resting close to Seemas cinema in Alappuzha. A popular hangout of foodies, it serves some of Alappuzha’s most enticing dishes. Apart from the puttu and pepper beef roast combo, here comes a list of sinful combinations. Puttu appears with kadala, plantain, pappadam, chicken kondattam, chicken roast, spicy beef and fish curry at your table, all served to order. If puttu is not exactly on your mind, you have appam, pathiri, idiappam and chappathi to choose from.
The very name “Puttum Kattanum”, is seductive. Add to its charm, the taste of what’s served. It’s something to die for. Along with the flavor comes good looks too. The various sizes, shapes, and texture of the puttu here are a true delight. If you wonder how this very modest food joint could become such a hit, dig into the dishes and watch your doubts dispelling. As for the kattan (black coffee), it’s something out of this world.
The best is yet to come. Don’t forget to order “Puka”.
Puka? what’s that? It’s a brilliant portmanteau of Puttum Kattanum. It’s special to this place. The very look of a glassful of the hot stuff is inviting. Puka is easy to make, yet needs a special touch. Sugar is melted in hot water. To this mix is added pudina leaves. A minute later, a tea bag is dipped in. It’s a delight to watch streaks of brown from the tea bag mix with the water to turn a dark maroon. Whatever be the puttu combination you are in for, a sip of the pudina-rich tea is a treat.
There’s more to order. Another special here is the Biriyani tea. Not an item served with biriyani, but can be asked for along with your puttu dishes. Biriyani tea is ready when hot milk is whipped to a rich lathery foam to which is added tea and other rich ingredients.
Behind the taste and success of Puttum Kattanum lies the Midas touch of 65-year-old Suhara, whose grandson owns and runs the shop. There’s that Suhara touch behind every dish served here. As you leave the shop after having had your tummy’s fill, you cannot help but bless Suhara and her grandson for the very moderate bill they charge on food that’s high on taste. Puttum Kattanum opens at 5 in the evening and is a busy hub for the next 12 hours.
If you are in Yeshwantpur in Bengaluru, keep your eye out for Puttum Kattanum has an outlet here too.