It all started when Pazham met Maida in the dainty streets of God’s own country.
My longstanding relationship with it dates back to when I was old enough to chew solid food. There is a saying in my family that even the end of the world couldn’t wake me up from my sleep. I wish I could disagree with that and in my defence, this is something that is set in our genetic code just like our love for this dish. The only thing that could wake me up from my sleep almost instantly is the divine smell coming from my Ammama’s kitchen of bananas deep frying in hot coconut oil.
Normally it is made with chai in the evenings at my place. I would finish school and be home just in time for this regular tea time snack but it is not any less famous as a mid-morning or even a breakfast snack in Malayalee households. Being a Malayalee myself, I can attest to the fact that Pazham Porri is indeed every Mallu’s favourite, and thus it effortlessly carries the title ‘snack of the State’. Every Pazham Porri fan knows that the key to a perfect yet humble Pazham Porri is the combination of textures with a soft slightly overripe banana on the inside and a sweet crispy coating on the outside.
Simplicity is elegance and this dish is the embodiment of this statement. All you need to make a plate of Pazham Porri are Nendra Pazham (Plantain bananas) and a batter of the right consistency. The batter requires 1 cup of Maida, salt, and sugar according to your taste. Everyone in our house has a sweet tooth so we add quite a bit of extra sugar to the batter. It takes less than 2 mins to make the batter and if an amateur like me can cook it to perfection so can you. All you have to do is combine the Maida, salt, and sugar and add a little bit of water at a time to make a thick batter such that it smoothly coats the back of the spoon. Next, dip the cut bananas into the batter and deep fry until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Although it is best served hot even a cold Pazham Porri is just as delicious.
Fair warning, your taste buds are going to be absolutely delighted but I can’t say the same about your calories though!
From Kozhikode to Thiruvananthapuram, thousands and thousands of Pazham Porri are made on a daily basis in Kerala. Traditionally this dish was first made only during the festival of Onam but over time it has become part of the everyday diet. Now, these golden-crusted banana fritters will be seen in glass cases in every small Thattu-Kadas (tea stalls) and bakery on the streets of Kerala. Even the fanciest restaurant will serve this dish no matter how ordinary because that is how staple this dish is in Kerala cuisine. Pazham Porri is a dish that needs no accompaniment and is best eaten alone. Although very often it is served with a hot cup of chai from the local tea stall. In some parts of Kerala, it is eaten with a side of beef/ chicken curry, a blend of sweet and savoury that shouldn’t work but does like magic.
Never served with sophistication, the taste of Pazham Porri is almost unanimous throughout the State. In some parts of Kerala, the addition of sesame seeds in the batter is quite common, and in some places for example Malabar, it is made with egg which is rather unconventional elsewhere.
Rheya George from Kottayam says, that from where she is they make it smaller in bite sizes rather than long pieces so it’s easy to eat but taste-wise it’s just like every other household. She says that “The ones in restaurants here are a little different as they add turmeric for colour giving it a yellow shade rather than golden. Other than that, it is almost the same as everywhere else.”
Leona Joseph from Alappuzha makes it the traditional way with a small twist. “I add a little bit of rice powder to the batter, it’s my secret to making this absolutely delicious dish even better. It makes it crispy and doesn’t get soggy even after it cools down”.
Recently restaurants and chefs across the State are experimenting and trying to modernise this dish. One such new variant is Pazham Porri made with jaggery and a coconut milk-based batter. Another hybrid version I came across during my last trip to Kerala ( which was before this pandemic of course) was Oats Pazham Porri which is made with a batter that's dipped in oats before frying. When I spoke to the local tea stall owner who served these oats Pazham Porri he said,
“Although people are always curious to try new things, they sell only once or twice to the same customer before they go back to the original Pazham Porri. The authentic taste of Pazham Porri is embedded into the hearts of Malayalees and no new gen version can take its place”
Personally, when it is made in its true form with the most basic ingredients and nothing fancy that is when it tastes its best, always leaving your palate wanting more……
All photographs were taken by Rhea Prashanth.
Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this piece and a big shout-out to all my fellow Malayalees out there.
Proud to be a mallu :)
Pazhampori is one of the most underrated foods out there, loved reading this made me extremely hungry during this time of Ramadan xD