HYDERABAD: The village of Atreyapuram in the coastal district of East Godavari is an important location on the food map of Andhra Pradesh. Its traditional sweet pootharekulu is quite popular in the two Telugu states and is gaining recognition nationally due to its signature looks and taste. The name of the sweet literally means “coating of sheet”. The sweet is wrapped in a wafer-thin rice starch layer resembling paper and is stuffed with sugar, dry fruits and nuts.
The traditional sweet has a history of a few centuries. It is said that a village lady first prepared the sweet by adding sugar and ghee to the leftover rice starch.
The making of the “reku” or sheet is quite interesting and provides livelihood to hundreds of women in Atreyapuram village. A special type of rice batter is used for pootharekulu. The variety of rice locally known as ‘Jaya’ is soaked for a few hours and then ground into a fine batter. An inverted earthen pot is heated before a fine cloth is dipped into the batter and quickly spread of the pot surface. It is taken away in a jiffy leaving a thin film of the starch on the pot.
This forms the paper-thin outer cover of the sweet. The sheet is then taken off and stuffed with powdered sugar, ghee, dry fruits, nuts and other ingredients and finally expertly folded into a roll. There are variations in the sweet where jaggery is used instead of sugar. The village folk of Atreyapuram are experts in making the paper-like sheet and they supply them to sweet manufacturers all over the two Telugu states.
Recently Pootharekulu was in the news, when under the patronage of AP Tourism Development Corporation a group of chefs in Vijayawada prepared a 10.5-metre long version of the dish, catapulting them in the record books. The state of Andhra Pradesh is in the process of applying for Geographic Indication (GI) tag for the sweet. The sweet is extremely popular for festivals, religious occasions and weddings.
In Hyderabad, many sweet shops prepare Pootharekulu. Almond House, the premier dessert manufacturer with multiple outlets have three versions of it – sugar, jaggery and jaggery with dry fruit. The rice paper is obtained from the locals in Athreyapuram as part of the social responsibility of the organization. According to Chaitanya Muppala of Almond House, they get frequent requirements for the paper sweet from outside Hyderabad, too.
Sabyasachi is a food enthusiast and blogs at www.foodaholix.in