One of the most interesting arguments I’ve often heard after wedding feasts – especially in cities like Thrissur and Palakkad in Central Kerala, is whether the sambar or payasam (kheer) should be the yardstick to judge an elaborate Sadya. Served on a banana leaf, the wedding sadya is a medley of at least 20 dishes. It’s too much to count, especially when all you want to do is dig in. Of course, this sadya or celebration meal is also a regular during festivals like Vishu and Onam as also the star birthday known as Pirannal (an abridged version of Piranna Naal or day of birth as per the Malayalam calendar).
I’ve always been in the payasam camp, for me the it’s the quality of the payasam (two in many sadyas) that determines the wedding cook’s culinary credentials. That may be one of the reasons why a payasam that is double cooked is also called a pradhaman that literally translates to number one. This backs my theory that it’s the star dish of any Sadya. The Ada Pradhaman and the Chakka pradhaman are probably the most popular among these star dishes. Kappa Chakka Kandhari is among South India’s finest restaurants for authentic Kerala cuisine. The restaurant takes its name from three ingredients that are an integral part of Kerala cuisine. My conversation (after I had polished off a bowl of chakka pradhaman) with Regi Mathew, one of the promoters and the culinary face of this restaurant chain centred around Chakka or jackfruit.
Almost everyone with a Kerala connection has a favourite jackfruit story, one that often involves happy childhood memories especially during summer vacation when this fruit is in season. Raw jackfruit is used extensively in Kerala cuisine and so is the ripened version of the fruit, especially in sweet dishes. There’s the popular jackfruit halwa crafted with pureed jackfruit and the jackfruit puttu (made with steamed rice). They are probably not as laborious as the chakka varattiyathu (roasted in Malayalam).
Even before Onam, many homes in Kerala start preparing this sweet dish that combines pureed ripe jackfruit with coconut milk and jaggery. Chef Regi tells me that Marayoor jaggery (with its dark colour and purity) is the ‘go to’ variety for the varattiyathu. This is slow cooking at its very best, the varattiyathu reaches its thick consistency on a slow flame and is finished with nuts and raisins fried in homemade ghee.
In many old Kerala homes (also known as tharavadu) this was cooked in large heavy bottomed brass vessels or ‘urulis’. While the chakka varattiyathu is a popular sweet dish by itself, it’s also the main ingredient in the chakka pradhaman. The varattiyathu is prepared before Onam and stored for the Onam pradhaman. You could also make it fresh as you put together this delicious payasam (that is double cooked) that requires a lot of effort and an extra portion of love:
Chakka Pradhaman – Recipe
Recipe Courtesy -Chef Regi Mathew, Co-Founder & Culinary Director – Kappa Chakka Kandhari
Ripe jackfruit flesh chopped: 2cups
Marayoor Jaggery: 2 cups
Water: 1 /2 cup
Ghee: 1 tbsp
Coconut chips fried: 1 tbsp
Coconut milk: 3 litre
Coconut milk: 1/2 litre
- Cut a ripe jackfruit and remove the flesh
- Puree the jackfruit flesh in a blender
- Take a thick bottomed flat pan and add the jackfruit purée and crushed jaggery along with 1/2 cup water and allow it to come to a boil
- Reduce the flame and allow it to cook, stirring constantly so as to not to allow the mixture to stick to the bottom.
- Cook till it reduces to a thick ‘Chakka Varattiyathu’ .
- Add 1 tablespoon ghee and mix together, transfer into a container and allow it to cool down completely
- Take another thick bottomed flat vessel, add 2 litre of second extract of coconut milk and the pre-cooked Chakka Varattiyathu and cook both till it reduces to a semi-thick Pradhaman
- Fry the coconut chips in ghee and keep aside.
- Add 1/2 cup of thick first extract of coconut milk to the Pradhaman, mix well and remove from fire immediately.
- Garnish the Pradhaman with the coconut chips and ghee.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie – a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.