P(iquant)othichoru

Have you ordered a thali home?

Little plastic cups filled with delectable dishes enough to fill your tummy and increase its circumference momentarily. Or better, a plastic tray with each of the cubby holes filled with choicest of the dishes.

But have you had the pothichoru?

An ambrosial experience (if I may)!

Pothi means a pack. Choru translates to rice- but when combined, it forms the archaic Malayalee lunch pack- an essential culinary delight every Mallu boasts.

A nostalgic moment, more than anything- pothichoru used to be the lifeblood for lunches in schools, colleges and offices, back in the day. From home, with love, a bundle of joy is sent with you. You push over the drudgery of the day, thinking hopefully about lunchtime, where you could experience your mother’s fine cooking skills.

A mound of rice is placed on a banana leaf, wilted just right to release its natural aroma. On it, coarsely ground dry coconut chutney and a scented lemon pickle is kept. On one side of the rice, thoran- an eloquent preparation of cabbage and carrot in coconut oil is served. The other side has a semi-liquid preparation- maybe an avial (the mix of any and every vegetable again in copious amounts of coconut puree) or kaalan (the princely dish made with raw banana and yam in coconuty yogurty blend). Adorning the crest of the rice is a piece of fried fish and a small omelette/sunny side up (only for the pescatarians)

A Kerala pappadam is also kept on top; after all, what Kerala lunch is complete without a pappadam. This menagerie is tightly wrapped and kept aside to age for a few hours or so.

The aroma from the banana leaf has spread across the pothi; all the smells and tastes have made inroads into the rice.

At lunchtime, you open it, and a captivating smell is in the air.

The soggy pappad, the fish and the egg are moved to the side, and then you proceed to dig your fingers into the rice to weave a harmony of taste and smell- I salivate as I write this sentence. The hands move in a circular motion, forming bite-sized balls of the rice mix, and with each bite, you experience a mini foodgasm- hearty and without a worry in the world, you devour the whole thing.

The nostalgia behind the pothichoru aside, the food fills your heart, body and soul.

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