Panchamritam, the word, is a Sanskrit sandhi (fused words) of the words pancha (five) and amritam (nectar). Panchamritam is a heavenly concoction indeed. The five most important ingredients are bananas, jaggery, honey, cardamom and ghee (clarified butter). In addition to these one normally also adds chopped pitted dates, raisins and kalkandu (sugar candy).
Panchamritam takes me back to my childhood days. My paternal grandparents lived in a huge house in a small town called Srirangam (Trichy/Tiruchirapalli district) in Tamil Nadu. There were dozens of tress all around the house – some 10 coconut trees (I’m not exaggerating), a dozen banana trees, a big mango tree, a couple of papaya trees and one custard apple trees. These are the ones I remember and I’m talking only trees so far. There are also many flowering shrubs and other plants.
Coming back to trees, my granddad uses to ask all of us children what fruit we wanted to eat evening. The fruit (or fruits) or choice would be plucked fresh by grandpa himself and cut and distributed to all of us. What wonderful memories. Sadly, now, a huge apartment complex now stands where the house once was and, even worse, all the trees are gone. Sigh.
Anyway those days there were always lots of bananas at home (I think banana must be the fruit consumed most by Indians, apart from mangoes). Thus, also, always lots of ripe bananas that were about to turn overripe and my grandma was always making Panchamritam. Not that I complained. This wondrous mix of some ever-ready ingredients always took on a special taste when paati (that is what we say for grandma in Tamil). I’ve come to my parents place for a few days and there were lots of ripe bananas around. I pulled paati into the kitchen and asked her to tell me how she made Panchamritam. And here’s what I made with her advising me at every stage. Do read the notes. It will make a lot of difference to the end product.
This was made a day ahead of The Tamil New Year’s day (April 14) andIi was able to offer it as neivedyam on that day and it made me really happy. This is my third entry for Valli’s month-long Blog Marathon themed under traditional food.
(The quantities mentioned here are what I used but can be varied depending on your taste. Makes around 2-3 cups)
Bananas – 6-8 small ones or 4 large (See Note 1)
Jaggery (grated) – 1/3 cup
Honey – 1-2 tbsp
Cardamom – 3-4 pods slit on one side or ¼ tsp powder
Ghee – 2-3 tbsp (See note 2)
Raisins – 1 tbsp
Dates – 4-5 (pitted and chopped)
Kalkandu (sugar candy) – ½ tbsp
Chop the bananas into roundels and mash them roughly with your hands. Do not use a potato masher or blender, you WILL NOT get the authentic taste of panchamritam
Add grated jaggery. Mash both mashed banana and jiggery together with your hand (like you’d try squeezing mango for pulp). I prefer well-mashed bananas as that is how my grandma makes it. If you wish, you could stop at a stage where there are still some bits left
Add all other ingredients (except ghee) and mix well. You could switch to a spoon at this stage. It might seem somewhat runny at this stage
Add ghee and mix well. When you do this, you’ll see it all coming together and kind of getting thicker
Panchamritam is ready. Offer it as neivedyam ie. keep it in front of a picture of your God and then consume it (see Notes)
1. Grandma says it is best to use ‘mala pazham’ (a small variety) and not ‘poovam’ (another variety). “It tastes best with mala pazham,” she says. If you do not get this variety use one that is robust and doesn’t turn soft easily and definitely not one that has those fibre/string like running through the fruit (I mean inside the fruit, not the strings on the inside of the peel)
2. The quantity of ghee to use is ½ cup for a jar full (say 2-3 cups) of a mix of all other stuff
3. Grandma says the Panchamritam gets its real taste only once you offer it as neivedyam. I sure am the argumentative sort, but I just go with what she says in some things, like this one