KOCHI: Keralites’ long-time obsession with puttu (steamed rice cake), has come as a blessing in disguise for traditional artisans working in the bamboo handicraft sector.
For among the various handicraft products they make, demand for bamboo kana (culm) and chiratta (coconut shell), which are used to prepare the state’s time-honoured dish, has gained popularity over the years as the implement strikes an average Malayali with nostalgia, not only in terms of the rich aroma it adds to the dish, but also as inspiration for the resurgence of a number of traditional recipes.
“We have been producing a host of handicraft products, including steam cake-maker made of bamboo and coconut shells, bamboo flower vases, ornamental flower pots, traditional wooden ladles using bamboo and coconut shells and more. But, the steam cake-maker, both bamboo and chiratta types, are in high demand. The two products have made a real comeback with the emergence of the puttu in various avatars,” said Biju A Davis, of Vedhaandh Handicrafts, Kodakara.
“We used to subject the bamboo to chemical treatment to make various handicraft items. But the bamboo used to make steam cake-makers and wooden ladles would be subjected to ayurvedic treatment after the routine seasoning of bamboo wood, as it is being used to make food. In fact, several Keralites who buy the implement out of curiosity cannot manage the item like our elders did,” Davis explained. Since it is an eco-friendly perishable material, the cake-maker has to be used in the traditional way, if it is to survive for long. Though it costs a little more than the steel vessel, the bamboo cake-maker is the best alternative for those who wish to switch to eco-friendly kitchen utensils.
The emergence of puttu not only as breakfast, but as a dish fit for lunch, dinner or even for high-tea, created a niche for bamboo and coconut shell products in the handicraft industry, Davis said.
In fact, among the various handicraft items displayed at a fair organised recently at Rasa Gurukul, near Poolani, Chalakudy, Kerala, the traditional steam cake-makers were the chief attraction. Das Sreedhar, a London-based hotelier who owns half a dozen hotels in the UK said he organised the fair to familiarise the younger generation with the age-old practices.
Puttu has already made its way to luxury restaurants and eateries and so is the case with the bamboo steam cake-makers. Now the wafting aroma of the steam cake made from bamboo utensils is redefining its legacy. Around two dozen kinds of puttu mixed with minced meat, fruits, vegetables and grated coconut are not only providing a new experience to food buffs, but also a lease of life to the traditional handicraft.