Puttu (Pittu) or Kerala steam cake is a popular breakfast item all over Kerala. The perception that it is a breakfast only item, has changed in the last few years. The advent of Puttu only restaurants, wedding buffets adding it to the menu, changing social views about food – all played part to it.
While also available in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, Kerala is the place where folks have taken Puttu to the heart.
Although it looks impressive on the plate, Pittu is just
coarse rice powder and shredded coconut. You may be surprised to know that it
takes only a few minutes of steaming to create such a perfect bonding between ingredients.
Puttu is a good carb source. Health benefits kick in when you add the right curry to it. Can be eaten without any curry, you will find it too dry though.
Puttu and Kadala Curry (Black Chana) is the classic combination. It also goes well with veg curries such as Chana, types of peas and Mung Daal.
There are lots of fans for Puttu - fish combo. Of all fish curries, Native Kerala Chilli Fish Curry is the best to eat with it. Mind you, this hot curry – Fish Mulakittathu- is a tongue burner.
Puttu is good with meat curries, fries or roasts. Some
people like it with Pappadaoms. Puttu makes a good combination with bananas. Goes
well with fresh bananas and steamed ones alike. Some people just sprinkle sugar
to it and eat. That is unhealthy choice though.
There are many reasons.
It is an easy to make dish. The
cooking part only takes a few minutes. Needs only a couple of ingredients,
which are easily available and inexpensive. It goes with all types of curries, roasts,
fries, Pappadom, bananas, jack fruit, sugar etc. No oil is used in making it,
so it is perceived to be healthy. And, it is tasty.
While Rice Puttu is by far the popular one, there are other
types to cater for different tastes or health needs – wheat, ragi (millet),
semolina, red rice, black rice, bamboo rice etc. It is easy to add stuffing or to
innovate it by using anything from meat to chocolate.
Puttu is made in a dedicated Puttu Maker called Puttu Kutti in Malayalam. It is a vessel with a cylinder on top. The lower part, the vessel, holds water. The upper part, the cylinder, is where Puttu is made. Rice powder is added in layers separated by shredded coconut. As water boils steam escapes through the cylinder thus cooking Puttu.
Rice layer sticks together while the coconut part breaks away. So, you can separate individual Pittu at the coconut layer part.
Traditionally wooden cylinders were used to make Puttu. Nowadays
metallic cylinders are used.
While the classic Pittu is cylinder shaped, you will also see hemispherical ones. They are made in coconut shells and called Chiratta Puttu. Metallic Chirattapputtu Makers are available in the market, eliminating the need for coconut shells.
You can make Puttu in microwave oven. It may not look the same shape, but will taste similar. May not be as good as the original though.