KOTTAYAM: For Keralites, porotta is as emotionally gratifying as any food item. Though claimed to have originated outside the state, either in Madurai or in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, porotta — in combination with beef curry — offers a lip-smacking experience for those with a liking for non-vegetarian delicacies.
While preparing the layered flatbread made of refined wheat flour has always been associated with men, a 23-year old girl from Kuruvanmoozhi — a sleepy hamlet in the valley of the Sabarimala reserve forest in Kottayam district — has been leading a silent revolution by moving into the male bastion of porotta-making.
Anaswara Hari, an LLB student at the Al-Azhar College in Thodupuzha, earns a livelihood by running a small restaurant named ‘Hotel Arya’ at the Kuruvanmoozhi junction — en route to Erumeli — along with her mother Subi and their relatives.
Anaswara stepped into the field at the age of 10 to help her mother, who had taken up the mantle of running their traditional tea-shop after her father left the family when she was very young. More than a decade later, Anaswara has become a professional porotta maker who can make 100-150 porottas within a short time, every morning. With over 13 years of experience, she says porotta-making is not an easy job everyone can do.
“My hands suffered burns several times initially when I crushed the cooked porotta immediately after taking them from the hot tawa, which is the final step of the process,” Anaswara recalls.“From the first step of mixing maida with water, the job has to be done with utmost care and diligence. Also, porotta-makers need special skill and training in spreading the kneaded dough ball, rolling it into a spiral shape and spreading again before it is placed on a tawa.”
And in due course, porotta and beef curry has become a specialty with Hotel Arya. Her mother starts off the process, kneading the dough (maida or plain wheat flour) by mixing water and other required ingredients early in the morning. “I join her by 7.30am to spread the layered bread and cook it. I used to prepare up to 150 porottas every morning but the Covid lockdown has affected our business. We now prepare it only after receiving orders in advance,” Anaswara says.
In doing so, she is also keeping alive the tradition of her grandparents, Kuttappan and Narayani, who started the tea shop around 50 years ago. Anaswara’s dedication to her work also earned her the nickname ‘porotta’!
The vivacious Anaswara, who aspires to be a civil servant, also finds time for studies after her work at the little restaurant. “During exam days, I study at night, sometimes into the wee hours of the next day. After completing LLB, I want to take up LLM and then PhD. I also plan to attempt the civil services exam,” she says.
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