Porridge is a breakfast or dinner food, mostly nutritious and healthy. In Tamil Nadu, porridge is called as “koozh” or “kali”. Kali will be thicker than koozh, and both are equally beneficial to health. They are traditional breakfast food which serve the energy to work throughout the day.
Traditional Porridge Varieties From Tamil Nadu
1. Kezhvaragu koozh
Kezhvaragu is the Tamil word for finger millet, commonly called as Ragi in India. In some parts of Tamil Nadu, it is also called as Keppai. Kezhvaragu koozh was the traditional breakfast of Tamilians centuries ago. Later people turned to idly,dosa and now, due to modernization, people mostly prefer pre-packed foods like cornflakes and bread. However, keppai koozh still survives in several parts of Tamil Nadu as a road side drink. It beats the heat and it is very ideal to have during summer.
One cup of Ragi flour is dissolved in 2-3 cups of water. The dissolved mixture is added to 4 cups of boiling water and stirred continuously. Salt is added to taste and stirred continuously to avoid formation of lumps. After few mins, the porridge thickens and gets ready. When left to cool, it thickens again, so buttermilk is added and mixed well. Some prefer to add cooked rice while stirring.
For those who prefer spicy koozh, it is served with onions and chillies or pickle. For those who want is sweet, jaggery is added. Kezhvaragu koozh is recommended for anyone who works under hot sun, especially during April-May. This porridge is recently gaining support amidst other fast food dishes, mainly because of its high nutritional value.
2. Ulundhu kali
Ulundhu kali is a very healthy traditional sweet dish with high medicinal values. It is recommended to have as a breakfast dish. It helps to strengthen bones and muscles, especially for women. In most of the Tamil villages, this is compulsory given to teen girls who recently attained puberty. It is then used as a pain suppressor for period cramps, after-delivery pains and menopause issues.
Ulundhu in Tamil means Urad dal. Black urad dal along with skin is used for making ulundhu kali. One cup of black urad dal is roasted until light brown. It gives a nice aroma when roasted. It is then left to cool and ground coarsely in a mixer. A big lemon sized piece of palm jaggery is dissolved in water and this urad dal powder is added to it. The flame must be in medium low throughout the process. The urad dal powder and jaggery syrup are mixed continuously without forming lumps. It finally attains a paste-like consistency and then gets ready to be served. A load of good nutrients with just two ingredients, highly recommended by great grand mothers!
3. Pazhaya soru
Pazhaya soru or pazhaya sadham is a tasty porridge made with left over rice. It was once the staple breakfast of farmers who step out to work early in the morning. It is still made in villages where people indulge in hard work that require high strength and stamina.
Left over rice from the previous day is soaked in water overnight. In the morning, the soaked rice is added to a bowl along with the water. Most of the nutrients remain in that soaked water and it is very important not to throw it out. A cup of curd, few chopped pieces of onion, coriander and chillies are added. It is then served with some pickle. Enriched with vitamins, pazhaya soru keeps the body cool and energetic!
4. Vendhaya kali
Vendhayam in Tamil means fenugreek. It is known to reduce body heat. Vendhaya kali is also one of the traditional porridge varieties to reduce body heat during summer. 50 grams of raw rice and half tablespoon of fenugreek are soaked overnight. After 8-10 hours, they are ground together with salt to obtain a smooth batter consistency. This mixture is now added to boiling water and stirred continuously for 5-10 minutes.
Mostly, all these porridge dishes are cooked in low flame as they may form lumps. After stirring well, gingelly oil is added and mixed for few more seconds. When the porridge becomes ready to serve, it should bot be sticky. It is then served with palm jaggery and few spoons of gingelly oil.
During the good days, when there were no mixers and grinders, people used stone crushers to grind powders and batters. They just took some extra effort to form a healthy family. Rice, Ragi, Dal, Wheat etc were used extensively to make food healthy and tasty. Though the definition of ‘taste’ has differed now, traditional foods are always the ‘best’ as they served as both “food and medicine’!