Wednesday 25 November 2015

Pori Urundai (பொரி உருண்டை)

Pori (பொரி) is puffed grain that is prepared by popping rice, rice flakes or paddy in a sand filled oven. In India, pori is used to prepare snacks, though it can be eaten plainly or mixed with rice flakes, fried gram and jaggery. For Karthigai deepam (கார்த்திகை தீபம்) festival, pori made from rice flakes (அவல் பொரி) is used to prepare pori urundai (பொரி உருண்டை) or puffed rice flakes balls. This festival is celebrated during the eighth month of Tamil calendar, on the full moon day (பௌர்ணமி) that coincides with ‘Karthigai star’ (கார்த்திகை நட்சத்திரம்). On this day prayers are offered to Lord Shiva believed to be in the form of ‘light or jyothi’ (ஜோதி). It also marks the symbolism of bringing divine light into our lives.

On this day, the houses are decorated with oil lamps, mainly in the front yard around beautifully drawn rangoli. In our native place, a bonfire with a palm trunk in the centre (சொக்கப் பனை), would be lit in each temple. As is the norm, sweets such as appam (அப்பம்), pori urundai (பொரி உருண்டை), athirasam (அதிரசம்), and kadalai urundai (கடலை உருண்டை) are prepared for this festival. Let's see how to make pori urundai for Karthigai festival.

Puffed rice flakes (அவல் பொரி)
Ingredients: (Makes 35-40 balls, depending on the size)

Pori or puffed rice flakes (அவல் பொரி) – 200 gms or 10 teacups
Jaggery (வெல்லம்) – 2½ - 3 teacups or 500 - 600ml measure
Cardamom – 5 no
Dry ginger (சுக்கு) – ½” piece, powdered
Coconut – 2 tablespoons, grated
Rice flour – for dusting hands

Method: Powder cardamom seeds and dry ginger finely using the mortar and pestle. Grate the coconut meat using fine vegetable grater. Alternatively, you may cut the coconut meat into small pieces. Keep aside.

Heat jaggery with 50ml of water in a vessel till it dissolves. Pass through a filter to remove impurities, if any. Now heat the filtered syrup in a kadai on medium flame stirring continuously (Fig.1). 
Fig.1: Heat jaggery syrup on medium flame
First the syrup boils and starts to thicken (Fig.2). At this stage, the syrup is sticky to touch. 

Fig.2: Jaggery syrup boils and thickens
Soon the syrup reaches ‘string’ consistency – when touched between thumb and index fingers the syrup stretches like a string. Now reduce the flame and continue to stir till the syrup reaches ‘soft ball consistency’ (உருட்டுப் பாகு). Switch off the stove. Add grated coconut, cardamom and dry ginger powder to the syrup and mix well (Fig.3).

Fig.3: Add grated coconut and spice powders to the syrup
How to check the consistency of jaggery syrup: Drop little syrup in water. If it dissolves, the syrup is not ready. If it stays intact and you are able to roll the syrup into a soft ball (Fig.4), the syrup has reached 'soft ball consistency'.

Fig.4: Soft ball consistency - see the rolled up ball on the spoon
How to make the balls: Spread a portion ( 1-2 teacups) of the pori in a wide mouthed vessel. Top it with a ladleful of syrup (Fig.5). Mix together using a spoon. 

Fig.5: Pour jaggery syrup on top of pori and mix well
Dust your hands with rice flour. Take a handful of mixture and shape it into a ball. Keep adding pori and syrup to the vessel as needed, mix the contents and shape into balls. Repeat this process till you use up the entire quantity of pori and syrup. Store the balls in an air-tight container.

Pori Urundai (பொரி உருண்டை)
Note: You may find it difficult to shape the balls if the syrup turns cold. Hence, it is preferable to take the assistance of another person while shaping the 'pori urundai'. 

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