CHENNAI: It’s that time of the year when sweet and savoury kozhukkattais make a mandatory visit to most of our homes. While Lord Ganesha must be delighted with our annual offerings, let’s be honest that these steamed dumplings are the true showstoppers of this festive season.
It’s a year-long wait, alright, to savour this sweet goodness, but what if we told you that you can now have the cake...oops, we mean kozhukkattai and eat it, too — any time of the year. Coming to your rescue is Rennee Saradha with her new food venture Pidi that promises to supply us with authentic steam-cooked, gluten-free, native rice dumplings.
But what’s a sweet bite without a good cause? Operating out of a cloud kitchen in Korattur, Rennee has collaborated with Better Chances, an organisation for people with mental health conditions. “We have employed two women with mental disabilities, and this is their first job. They have to scoop the flour, fold it into the desired shape, and wrap it in the leaves for steaming.
This is more or less like an art therapy that involves hand movement, attention, and hand-eye coordination. The ladies are happy to earn money. With time, we will be employing more such people,” says Rennee, who aims to build a holistic work environment just like she did in her other venture Bagel Pot, which employs trans persons. Through Pidi, Rennee is eager to bring back indigenous rice varieties that have been lost to modern momos and other fancy calorific dumplings.
“I was curious to learn about the more than two lakh traditional rice dumpling variants. Every variety has a story. Kattuyanam, a rice variety cultivated in south India, grows as high as seven feet, and can even hide wild elephants when they enter the fields. Kattuyanam helps fight diabetes. Poongar helps in ensuring a smooth pregnancy, and brings hormonal balance. Mappilai Samba, also called bridegroom’s rice, is associated with virility and offers relief from stomach-related ailments.
These varieties are expensive. They have to be soaked for 8-12 hours before being used to prepare kozhukkattais,” explains Rennee. Launched under her parent company Attrai Vidhai, all the recipes have been passed down to Rennee from her grandmother. Promoting health is the focus. For instance, sugarcane and palm sugar are used as alternatives to make diabetic- friendly kozhukkaattais. It’s all in the details, she says. “The dough is kneaded in such a way that the kozhukkattais are soft for long.
That used to be my grandma’s speciality. The traditional way of preparation in her kitchen involved steaming them inside clay pots, which we hope to incorporate soon. To wrap the dumplings, we have used varieties of leaves like banana, turmeric, peepal, vilva, mango, palm, and coconut, depending on their seasonal availability,” she shares. Launched on August 21, Pidi currently offers an assortment box with two pieces each of mango leaf poongar pidi, navara vilva pidi, kattuyanam and organic ponni spiced pidi, mappillai samba elada, karunguruvai peepal pidi and organic unpolished ponni elada.
The dumplings are neatly packed in handcrafted panai olai petti (dried palm leaf boxes). Layers of banana leaves are placed inside the box and the steamed kozhukkattais (pidis) are placed on it. This is not only eco-friendly but also helps in retaining the aroma and flavours of steamed pidis. There’s also a short note detailing the benefits of the ingredients used.
“Though there are dimsums, baos and momos, nothing comes close to a kozhukkattai. We often restrict it to a traditional sweet prepared for Ganesh Chaturthi or a grand occasion. I know communities that consume it for breakfast. I enjoyed eating it while growing up, and in my grandmother’s house in Karaikudi. I want it to be made available to people as breakfast, lunch and dinner options — and not just as snacks. We deliver across the city.
There are more varieties in the offing,” says Rennee, as she signs off. So, if the lockdown routine has taken a toll on your energy, try some pidi kozhukkattais for some happiness and health.
An assorted box of 12 is priced at Rs 240. For details, call: 9840749519 or visit Instagram page: Pidi