I was gorging on some Pootharekulu (read on to know what they are) brought by Bro’ from his overnight trip to Vijayawada and was immediately reminded of the ones that my Grandma used to make. They are, quite simply, the best Pootharekulu in the World! The ones I was having were close, but not quite. It was then that I wondered how they came into being i.e. whatz their origin, the myths behind it or the reason for its popularity. A quick but deep search on the web yielded no great shakes but one thing is for sure – they are one of the most popular selling items on shopping websites esp. those specializing in Andhra-to-America deliveries!
The Wikipedia entry for Pootharekulu hazards a guess about its origins as being in the 16th Century but explains clearly what it is: “It is a sweet version of a Vegetable Roll where the vegetables are replaced by finely ground sugar powder in fine laminated foils made of rice. The wafer’s size varies from 100 to 1000 micrometres depending on the expertise of the person who makes it”. I’ve heard my Granny talk about the making procedure and from the sounds of it, the wafer-making is the toughest part for sure. Also tough is to prevent the wafer from breaking/crumbling as it is being rolled. Few years ago (I’m talking about pre-Independence days), the wafers were prepared at our home itself but since that involved lot of effort and manpower, it was abandoned. We now purchase the raw wafers from the markets in Visakhapatnam.
I’ll try my best to explain the preparation procedure. Ground Rice dough (starchy) of very thin constituency is poured upon earthen pots which are then baked from the inside. Once done, the wafer is peeled off gently and is cut into rectangular mats. They’re to be handled with great care. Very finely powdered Sugar – sometimes mixed with cinnamon or cardamom for flavour – is then sprinkled onto the rice mats/wafers and is wetted by liberal amounts of pure ghee. The ghee should not be poured on but more like sprinkled upon the mats/wafers, evenly spreading it across. The wafer is then folded (not rolled cylindrically) into a rectangular shape (My granny does like this – one fold from bottom towards the middle, another fold from the top towards the middle on top of the previous fold, thus making three layers & then folding from right-to-left to make a rectangular box-like shape). Delicious Pootharekulu are ready!!! They can be had immediately or allowed to stand and turn crisp – coz the ghee will solidify – and then eaten. Of course, the crisper they are, the more are the chances of crumbling and loss of the sugar within! Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go finish the remaining Pootharekulu