Thursday, July 11, 2013

Aralu Sandige - Condiment Home made and Sun dried, of heartaches, nail biting wait and a lesson in risk management

Did I mention we are were having some real Summer weather and temperatures for the past week? Our trip to the beach was glorious this past weekend and as we were driving back home, BH casually mentioned that the 90s temperature would hold up for another week. The cook in me can only think of one thing when I see abundant Sun shine and scorching temperatures. So we made a quick turn around and went to the store to pick up a few raw materials for the project that was to last a week and more :-). So here is what I have been doing for the last several days - my labor of love. But then the finicky Seattle Sun decided to play hide & seek, so I watched every morning with bated breath as the Sun rose to see if the clouds came right along too. One of the days in the midst of the cloudy skies, I was frantically picking my brains to find alternate sources of heat to dry my condiments but then all of a sudden the moving ball of heat in the sky took pity on me and decided to stay put right on top of my front yard and I came of out the project smarter, wiser and happier :-)
Flashback a few several years back, end of school year heralded a very promising Summer Holidays packed with fun and frolic. While it was a time of unending play time for us kids, nammamma would be as usual busy in the kitchen, more so since the hungy monsters with no schools to keep them away would raid the kitchen at all hours, unannounced and demand that they be fed something yummy :-). I don't know how she managed, probably had an unlimited supply of energy source hidden somewhere in the back of her kitchen. In addition to the usual cooking, cleaning Summer contrary to being a Holiday time, meant more work for her as she would get busy making the Summer delicacies like the happala (papads) and sandiges (I have not found an equivalent word to describe this delicious genre in English), it is called Wadi, vadi, pyalala vadiyalu in other Indian languages. If I were to give you a one word description of what most people would understand is that these are home made spiced 'chips' not necessarily with potatoes.

Being an educator, my father used to get Summer Holidays too though it was much shorter than ours since he had many valuation, tabulation related responsibilities and other University defined obligations. But he did get to stay home for a couple of weeks atleast every Summer. Nammamma planned her condiment preparation during this time as it was always a team work for both my parents. I believe my dad had a wonderful cook hidden inside him that came out only on certain special occasions. Two of them together made some of the best dishes I have ever had, but more than the taste of the dish, it is their team work, planning, organization and execution of things that I covet most. I can not imagine myself doing these things on a scale nammamma did year after year but I love to do a little bit of it whenever possible and relive those days.

There is a plethora of happala and sandige nammamma made and each one required different kind of prep work, some had to be started way early in the morning and be out in the Sun as soon as possible, some needed really scorching Sun while some were made in Summer though dried in she chose different days for each of the different varieties. Aralu Sandige is a special and extremely delicious condiment (if I had the rights, I would 'knight' them in the world of condiments). Aralu Sandige is made with Aralu (Paddy puffed rice) and Nammamma made two variations of it - one with ash gourd pieces and the other with onions. Both had the same exact other ingredients except for this difference. Infact she would mix everything else and then add ashgourd to one half and onions to the other half.
Huge vessels or new buckets would come out the previous evening, washed and put out for drying. Aralu would be cleaned over a week or so to remove any paddy skins (this is bad if you get it while eating the Sandige as it can poke you in the mouth and tastes like dried grass). The previous evening, green chilies would be washed, stems removed and spread on a thin cloth to dry inside the house. Coriander (Indian equivalent of cilantro) leaves would be cleaned and rolled in thin, wet towels to keep them damp and fresh.

Early morning, Nammama made a paste of green chilies and cilantro, this is a thick chutney consistency with no water added. Chopped the onions, peeled and chopped the ash gourds. A big bucket would be filled half with water and the cleaned Aralu would be dumped into it(small portions of it at a time), pushed down by hands so it soaks for about 45 secs to a minute, taken out in handfuls by squeezing out all the water and put into another big bucket. My father sat on a small stool in the kitchen and did this and as soon as she had enough quantity of the damp aralu in the bucket nammamma would mix in the chili-cilantro paste, onion or ash gourd pieces, required amount of cooked saabudana, salt and mix it all well. Then we would carry the bucket outside where a huge, white cloth would be spread in the Sun, get the mixture into our own smaller vessels, sit in different corners just outside the cloth and start putting out small amounts of the mixture into a round or oval shape on the cloth. The competition was to see who made the most number  of sandiges, whose sandiges had even shape and size and whose sandige lines were uniform and parallel. Yes, my dad taught Mathematics and sneaked in our Geometry lesson in Summer :-). Once the bucket got empty, we would head back and repeat the entire process until all the raw material was used up. This was done quite early in the morning as the sandige needs one good day of Sun to start with so it doesn't become hard in the center.
After the sandiges were put in the Sun, we were assigned the watchman's job of making sure no flying crows descended on the inviting sandige platter and eat them. We had to sit there close by in shade and keep shooing away any aspiring birds. That was a great time to read books, play board games etc. Nammamma would come out every once in a while to make sure her kids were not getting sun burnt or bring in glasses of seasoned butter milk to keep us cool and also to chide us if we were caught eating the yummy sandiges :-).

The sandiges would be carried inside the house once the Sun set and brought back the next morning, turned over and let to dry completely. Aralu sandige usually takes a good 3-4 days of drying before they can be put in oil and deep fried. That wait is torturous but becomes slightly bearable as you keep eating the raw ones which are equally yummy :-)
When my neighbors ask me what I am doing every morning infront of the garage laying out tables, wood planks, spreading aluminium foil, parchment papers, plastic sheets and putting funny looking things from big vessels, carrying them back into the garage for the next 3-4 days, I jump into a detailed and long winded explanation of what all the fuss is about in an effort to spread my knowledge of these home made condiments from Desh. I have found that it makes for a very interesting discussion especially when you are surrounded by neighbors from different countries and cultural backgrounds. I get to learn stuff from them in the process.

I have been making small quantities of these almost every Summer since Nammamma's large scale kitchen shut down a few years ago, it is just my way of reliving those Summer joys and thinking about my parents and childhood. These were lessons in planning, organizing, delegating, managing the resources, assigning tasks according to the individual's capabilities, team work - a perfect project management effort with delicious rewards.
Sandige making is a simple process - just needs some prep work. If you are making it for the first time, I suggest you do it in small quantity to get a hang of the different steps involved and then expand into large scale productions :-)
All photo credits on this post belongs to BH, he took the plate out to the garden and clicked many, many pictures among our blooming Daisies and Hibiscus. I was wondering about the enthusiasm to click for the blog and then realized the hidden motive when the plate came back empty into the kitchen :-), but the man deserves a pat on the back.

What do you need to make Aralu Sandige? 
Makes about 80 sandiges - this is not a big number :-)
1 - 400 grams packet of Aralu(Paddy puffed rice)
1/4 cup sabudana/sago (tapioca, any variety other than the nylon sabudana)
1 medium sized onion chopped into small pieces or 1 cup of chopped ashgourd/winter melon
1.5 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
20-25 green chilies (adjust to taste)
1/4 Tsp asafoetida
a big bunch of cilantro
How do you make Aralu Sandige? 
  • Open the Aralu packet and pick any non-Aralu particles (usually a stray paddy skin hanging on)
  • Wash the sabudana twice in water scrubbing the pearls with fingers as you wash, add 1.5 cups of water and cook it for 20-25 minutes on medium heat until the grains are soft and mushy and the entire thing reaches a sticky ganji consistency. Cover and let it cool to room temperature. 
  • Make a coarse paste of green chilies, cilantro, salt and asafoetida - do not add water.
  • Take a big vessel, fill it half with water. 
  • Pour the aralu into the vessel and let it soak in water for about 1/2 minute. If you have a smaller vessel, do this in batches. 
  • Pick the soaked aralu in handfuls, squeeze out the water completely and put it into another vessel.
  • Add the chili paste, salt, chopped onions or ash gourd pieces, mix well. 
  • Add the cooked, cooled sago into this and mix - this makes the mixture moist and you can hold a handful without it falling apart.
  • Take spoonfuls of the mixture, lightly press it together and lay them on a plastic sheet or a thin cloth and put them out in the Sun to dry. 
  • Turn the sandige over after a day or so of drying and continue to dry for another 2 days until they reduce in size and become brittle. 
  • Store in dry containers, these stay over a year and can be deep fried any time in oil. 
How do we enjoy Aralu Sandige? 
  • Heat oil in a pan, make sure there is enough oil for the Sandiges to take a full body dip. 
  • Once the oil is hot (test by dropping a tiny piece of Sandige, if it comes up right away, you are good to go), drop 3-4 Sandiges at a time and turn them over to get an even light brown color on both sides. 
  • Take them out onto a paper towel lined plate to drain off excess oil. 
  • Enjoy the crunchy sandige with plain rice and dal, yogurt rice, sambar rice, lemon rice - you get the picture :-)
  • Cooked sago acts as a binder in the sandige mixture but use it just as needed. If you happen to cook more, add salt and a little bit of cumin to it and lay out spoonfuls on a parchment paper to dry. This gets dry sooner than the sandige. It can fried and eaten as a yummy sago papad (see the pure white crispies in the below picture)
  • You can make sandige sans onion or ash gourd pieces but these are the traditional varieties. Sandige with onion turns a little bit brighter brown when fried than the ash gourd ones. 
  • Typically sandige is in an oval shape but I flattened it a little bit to make it dry faster :-)
  • Do not keep the mixed sandige mixture for too long, prepare the sheets on which you will place the sandige before mixing in.
  • Aluminium foils, parchment paper, plastic sheets, thin cotton cloth can all be used to put sandige for drying. 
  • Keep the heat on medium while frying the Sandige, and turn them around in oil with a spoon. It takes all of a minute for it to be done. Do not let them blacken as they taste bitter, Light brown on all sides is good. 


prathibha Garre said...

Nicely the fryums any day!!!

sashi said...

We could hardly wait for the sandige to dry. Sandige tastes so much better when its kind of half dry. Slightly chewy, spicy, sweet onion -a wonderful combo. So our offer to watch was not considered by Grandma or mom. So had to resort to sneaking.

pursuit said...

My mother used to make aralu sandige during summer months. Your post brought back fond memories of my childhood. I can feel in my mind the gradual increase of heat on summer mornings, chirping of birds and the smell of 'nithya mallige' (a kind of jasmine that bears flowers the entire year), as my mother worked as fast as she could to get the sandige out there before it got too hot. Sigh.

And I wish I were your neighbor. :-)

Nagashree said...

Thanks all for visiting and your comments.
Sashi - I can relate to the Grandma restrictions, my doddamma would be like that not allowing us to pop any into the mouth but amma used to be totally cool.
Pursuit - I am so glad the post reminded you of your own Sandige making, I enjoyed and relived those moments all over again. We had a nithya mallige balli in our yard too. You are welcome to visit us anytime and I promise I will make the sandiges for you.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

sandige ( vadiyaalu) very tasty though a tough proccess . i like your vadiyaalu.

Sreemala said...

Thanks for yet another very nostalgic recipe Nagashree! Brought back memories of reading favorite books with an umbrella atop and a madi kolu to drive away the birds :)

You've inspired me to try making sandige before the summer passes by!

Meena Selvakumaran said...

wow homemade vadagams are always delicious,it taste so great.u r recipe is new to me.

Chitz said...

My grand ma used to make these at home.. Everytime we went on vacation, we brought back tins of these.. So dedicated of u to make these at home !! Wud love to make this at home.. Such neatly explained with beautiful pics..

Nagashree said...

Sreemala - go ahead and make them. Ah the multi purpose madi kolu :-)

Chitz - thanks, it is not really a complicated recipe, takes some planning. If your Summer is still hot, go ahead and give it a try.

Sangeetha Priya said...

wow so crisp and wonderful preparation :-)

Kalyani said...

@Nagashree - tooooo nostalgic !! I used to love on chomp on half dried sandiges before ajji used to shoo us away alogn with the crows ! but the best part was eating the raw mix with the heat coming in from the fresh ground green chillies - and of course the puffing of the sandige on sundays or festivals to be had with hot n yummy bisibelebhaath !! what bliss :-)) are u taking any new neighbours, btw ? ;-))

Nagashree Ravi said...

@Kalyani, thank you so much for sharing your memories. Ofcourse I will take neighbors especially if they are BBB and sandige fans like me :-)