December 21, 2006

VCC 147 - Kezhvaragu Kali aka Ragi Mudda

This recipe is coming from a traditional kitchen in Illinois, US, kindly contributed by Lakshmiammal to the group book project 'You Can Cook for 'Feed a Hungry Child'.

In Lakshmiammal's own words, "When I read the word ‘endangered recipes’ in the FAHC announcement, the first dish I thought of was ‘kali’(களி). Kali is a ball made with ragi -rice mixture and koozh (கூழ்) is the porridge form of it. Ragi known as finger millet is considered the poor man’s diet. In many tamil cinemas you can hear the hero saying his lover that ‘I will work hard and atleast earn you a ragi porridge all my life’. (மூட்டை தூக்கியாச்சும் உனக்கு வாழ்க்கை முழுக்க கூழ் ஊத்தறேன் kind of dialogues)! The reason for this is that ragi does not require much irrigation and so available for a cheaper price. (Not in US - a pound of ragi is nearly $2 , which is 5 times the price of rice sold here.)

I have heard that my grandma used to make this for our farm workers in a large scale. She used a tennis bat shaped wooden tool to make the balls and would use her other hand to shape the steam hot balls. That was a time when rice was considered to be a luxury food for the common man. So, if it is your lucky day, you get rice added in your kali or else it is just the ragi cooked and shaped as balls.(This is called the orumavu kali).The time changes, the scenes have changed and now even my mom does not know how to do this kali and everytime my neighbours do it for us, as we (my brothers and I ) love it. Though my mom know not how to make them, she will be always in the tug of war with my brothers and me to share the kali. And we purposely preserve a ball for making the ’piece of heaven ’ porridge, called koozh in tamil. I learnt this dish from my husband’s athai (father’s sister) who taught me a lighter technology to get the same great taste."

The recipe details of Kezhvaragu Kali aka Ragi Mudda are here.

VCC: VCC Q4-2006: FAHC: FAHC-campaign