My Andhra family recipes have had a deep influence on my food journey. These simple, traditional and tasty dishes have been a part of my growing years, cooked lovingly by my Ammamma (grandmother) and my mother. This culinary journey continued as I learned more traditional and varied dishes from my mother-in-law.
As my daughter was growing up and started liking varied dishes, I developed a keen interest in cooking, followed by food blogging. I like to document traditional recipes via my blog. This is a memory from my childhood—the tale of dibbarotti, a traditional Indian ‘stout’ bread.
Circa summer 1984, in Tadipallam, a small village near the famous town called Anakapalli, in Andhra Pradesh.
In those days, my Ammamma lived with my maternal uncle, his family and his sisters, in a joint family. We visited them, every year, during our summer holidays. It is here that I witnessed many of life’s ‘firsts’. Every day was a revelation for us.
For instance, I realised that here was a separate room to store pickles. It was always dark, and only Ammamma would enter this room to replenish the stock of varied pickles for daily consumption. We used to sneak into this room in the afternoons. It was always very cool, and a respite from scorching May summers.
One day, Vanaja, my cousin, took us to a farm in the village. I saw water being drawn from the well with the help of bulls. Again, this was a first-time experience for me.
Cut to April 28th one year. The kids were scampering around and playing ‘catching cook’. Today was their mother’s birthday. One of the girls stepped stealthily into the kitchen. As a rule, kids were not allowed in the kitchen when cooking was on, especially in the mornings. She asked her grandmother, “Today is Amma’s birthday. Will there be cake in the evening?” Her granny smiled and said “Yes.”
In the evening, all the three sisters and their two cousins, gathered near the small table with a candle, matchbox and knife. They were waiting eagerly for Ammamma to bring in the cake. Finally she emerged from the kitchen with a cake-like dish and placed it on the table. I exclaimed, “Ammamma, this is not cake!”
“This is an Indian cake,” she said softly. That was the day I fell in love with dibbarotti!
‘Dibbarotti’, when translated from Telugu to English, means ‘stout’ roti or bread. A type of traditional pancake, it’s made from granular rice mixed with soaked urad dal (split black gram) and fermented overnight.
I ate my first dibbarotti, doused with copious amounts of that tangy coconut chutney that Ammamma made best. Nibbling the crunchy edges, soaking in the warm earthy flavour of the bland rotti—it was a wonderful culinary experience.
There are two methods of making dibbarotti. One is the traditional way, wherein split black gram and rice is used (with cumin seeds). A modern and simpler version is made with idli batter, known as minapparotti. Ginger and green chilies are added to the batter to spice it up.
- 2 cups idli batter
- 1-2 green chillies
- ½ inch ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- Salt as per taste
Take idli batter in a bowl. Chop green chillies and ginger finely. Add to the idli batter. Add jeera and salt. Mix well. Heat a small kadhai/wok or a griddle for a minute or two. Add 1-2 drops of oil and spread it with a spoon. Now pour two ladlefuls of batter onto the heated kadhai or griddle, and spread lightly to form a small pancake, around ½ inch thick. Lower the flame. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 3-5 minutes. Check in between whether it is cooked as it may blacken if overcooked.
Once cooked, flip this ‘rotti’ over and let it cook for another minute for two. Do not cover it. Now, turn off the heat and savour this warm ‘flat bread’ with spoonfuls of tangy chutney.
- 2 cups granular rice
- 1 cup split black gram (urad dal)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- Salt as per taste
- 2-3 teaspoon oil
Granular rice is readily available in South India. It can be made at home too. Grind regular rice coarsely. Sieve off the finer particles and use the granular rice to make this ‘pancake’.
Soak the granular rice in water for 1-2 hours. Soak urad dal in water for 2-3 hours. Add cumin and salt to the dal and grind it to a fine paste. Mix with the soaked granular rice, and keep overnight (5-6 hours so that it ferments).
After the batter is fermented, use it to make the dibbarotti, using the same process as the minapparotti.
Like the dibbarotti, some of my favourite recipes come from my childhood but I make small changes in the preparation.
Take the Andhra mango pickle, avakai, for instance. Unlike the traditional long process, I try to incorporate some quick steps like using ready-made chilli and mustard powders. I make it in small quantities and gift to friends. Sambhar is a must-have stew in my household. I try to incorporate more vegetables, like pumpkin, tomatoes, onions, drumsticks, brinjal, ladyfinger, etc. to enhance its nutritional value.
There’s also the traditional Andhra drumstick curry. To save time, I use ground rice flour instead of grinding raw rice. The taste does not alter with this step and one can make this dish quickly too. Most important are the Andhra chutneys, a must-have dish in our household. Many of these were ground in a mortar-and-pestle. But thanks to modern innovations, the electric grinder is one of my best friends to whip up these chutneys quickly.
For more traditional recipes, visit Tangy Tales.