Before I start off about what this post is about, just wanted to tell all my readers that I’m going to be blogging every single day this whole month. Now I don’t know if you all have a “great!” or an “Oh my god :(” reaction to this, but I’m MEGA EXCITED! Reason being, Valli is turning her thrice-a-week blogging marathon into a month-long event for this month alone. The first week all the co-marathoners as well as I will blog about dishes that are apt for or specific to any occassion; week 2 is all about traditional dishes, week 3 is about seasonal food and the fourth week will be a little different with creative things like craft, food decorations, food creafting etc. Ok, now on to the main post…
Any auspicious occassion (eg. wedding, thread-investiture ceremony, 60th birthday, 80th birthday, baby shower, house warming etc) in a Tam-Bram (a community in Tamil Nadu, India) family has to have a pair of what is known as paruppu thengai. It is actually a pair of conial containers that could be filled with a variety of things, generally nuts like ground nuts, cashew nuts or almonds rolled in jaggery syrup (similar to chikki) or Manoharam. Manoharam is a sweetmeat made with thick fried vermicelli made mainly of rice flour that is then crushed lightly and rolled in thick jaggery syrup.
These are placed close to the holy fire (agni kundam) along with all the other gifts being given to the person in question. Once the function is over, the sweetmeats are removed from the conical container, broken into bits and distributed among all the attendees.
As a kid, I remember waiting when the ladies broke the sticky sweets into big and small pieces. If you were smart enough, you could offer to help with gathering the tiny chunks and be rewarded with a few pieces to bite into before anyone else!
I belong to a deeply religious family that believes in celebrating all occassions with the minutest traditional detail intact. In the last couple of years, we have had two 60th birthdays (shashtiabdhapoorthi), one 69th birthday (bhimarathashanthi), three house warmings (grihapravesham), one baby shower (seemantham and vilaikaapu) and one thread investiture ceremony (poonal). These were all large family get-togethers with 100-150 guests during each occassion. So, the order for paruppu thengai was given out to a food contractor.
Recently, when my sister-in-law came over during the kids’ post-exam vacations, my mother-in-law prepared this stuff at home for the kids to munch on. The quantities mentioned here will make some 60-70 golf-ball sized manoharams but won’t last too long! They lasted us all of three days. Just to put it on record, there were 7 ‘consumers’, 4 of who were (or were forced to be!) mostly dormant in the munching department. So, essentially, most of the 60-odd manoharams were downed by 3 kids in a span of three days! So, beware when you make these.
Incidentally, the manoharam is made in two parts: the thenguzhal (a fried snack item made of rice and black gram flour that looks somewhat similar to fried spaghetti!) that is broken into smaller bits and rolled into golf-sized balls held together in a thick jaggery syrup. You’ll need a vermicelli press for this one that comes with multiple options for the thickness. Chose the disk with thick holes.
(makes a humongous quantity!)
Raw rice – 12 cups
Black gram (urad dal) – 1.5 cups (see NOTE 1)
Butter – 200-250 gm (see NOTE 2)
Salt to taste – 1/2 tsp or so (See NOTE 3)
Oil to deep fry
If you’re preparing this in large quantities, simply get the rice and black gram (urad dal) ground together into a very fine flour a flour mill
ELSE Wash rice well and drain in a colander for 30 mins. Spread it out on a dry clean piece of cloth and let dry for 30 mins. The rice will be more or less dry at this stage. Do not worry if it seems damp. Grind it to a fine powder by powdering the stuff in small batches in your mixer-grinder or food processor. Dry roast urad dal till it becomes fragrant. Grind it into a fine powder once cool (See NOTE 4)
Mix all dry ingredients and rub butter into it
Add enough water (roughly ¾ cup – 1 cup) to make a soft pliable dough (like you’d make for rotis)
Heat oil. Fill the vermicelli press with a fistfull of dough and press out into the hot oil. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon when it starts to turn from a creamish colour to a light brown. Don’t let it turn any darker, it’ll affect the taste
Drain in a wide colander and let it come to room temperature before shifting to an airtight container. Do this with the rest of the dough.
(makes around 60 manoharams)
Jaggery (see NOTE 5)
Water (see NOTE 6)
Smash up the jaggery into smaller bits
If the jaggery you get has impurities, add water and mix well so that it dissolves. Let this stand for a while. The impurities will rise to the top. Remove the impurities
Add three to four times the quantity of jaggery used and mix it
Heat a big heavy bottomed pan or wok. Add the jaggery water mix and boil the mixture. Keep stirring frequently
The jaggery syrup needs to get past the three string consistency stage. Another way to check if jaggery syrup is thickened enough and ready is to drop a drop of the syrup into a bowl of water. Once out of water, you should be able to form a ball by rolling it between your fingers. My grandma also says that if you throw this ball, it should make a noise when it hits something. What this basically menas it that it should be hard enough on cooling
From here you have to work really fast. Remove the jaggery syrup into a big wide vessel
Break the fried thenguzhal into smaller bits (roughly 1/2 cm long or smaller) and dump into the syrup. Grease your palms with ghee and mix well
Grease your palms again and start pulling out lumps of the sticky thenguzhal and roll into golf-sized balls quickly and place on a plate. This is manoharam. You do not need perfect balls at this stage
When you’re done with the entire thenguzhal this way, pick up each manoharam and press well with both pals to form as tight a ball as you can. This is important, otherwise the manoharam will break apart on cooling
Let cool completely and store in an airtight container. This will keep for a couple of weeks
1. The ratio of rice to black gram is 8:1. If you’re making a smaller quantity, change the amount of black gram used accordingly
2. The ratio of butter to rice used is 1 spoon for 1 cup of rice
3. You can add more salt and eat it in thenguzhal form. It is pretty yummy this way too!
4. It is difficult to powder just 2 tbsp of urad dal. So, you could powder 4-5 tbsp and use. 2 tbsp in this recipe and keep rest for later
5. The ratio of prepared thenguzhal to jaggery is 1:0.75. So if you have 2 cups of thenguzhal, use 1.5 cups of jaggery
6. The amount of water added should be three to four times the amount of jaggery. This helps in making a good syrup that holds the manoharam well and prevents it from falling apart
7. Be careful when you start pinching the thenguzhal in syrup because it will be hot