Women of Atreyapuram making Poothrekulu | Photo Credit: Vijaya Bhaskar CH
When Pootharekhulu from Atreyapuram village received the coveted GI tag under the food category, curiosity about the dish rose in the rest of the world. The name translates as ‘coated sheets’, a loose description of the traditional sweet prepared in Attiyapuram village on the banks of the Godavari River in Konaseema district of Andhra Pradesh. Like a feather, the melt-in-the-mouth dessert consists of paper-thin sheets of rice flour coated with ghee and covered with jaggery or powdered sugar. Variants with finely chopped roasted dry fruits such as pistachios, almonds and cashews are currently popular.
The process of making it is what makes the dessert so special. The preparation centers around a specially designed earthen pot and a slurry of thin rice flour of the consistency of milk. The MTU-3626 variety of rice, locally known as Bondalu, is preferred for its taste and glutinous nature which gives it a sticky consistency.
Ganesh N of Atreyapuram introduces us to the process of making Pootharekulu sheets.
A woman, Yatham Kanaka Durga, circumambulates Poothrekulu in Atreyapuram village in East Godavari district. Photo Credit: Rambabu S
Coarse rice is washed and soaked in water for two hours. The rice is then ground in a stone mill, in which a thick milk-like slurry is prepared by adding water in between. More water is added to this batter to further thin it and prepare the sheet of paper.
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After this a specially designed vessel is prepared. This pot has two holes; One with a regular circular mouth and the other on the side. The vessel is turned upside down to rest on the ground on its circular mouth. Through another hole at the neck of the vessel, burning dry coconut leaves are inserted to heat the vessel.
A fine cloth is then dipped in the rice flour solution and spread over the utensil in a clever circular motion, so that its entire surface is coated. The pot’s heat dries the coating in less than 60 seconds, leaving a thin crisp white paper-like sheet.
Because color and texture are important, the heat of the pot has to be maintained continuously by adding or removing leaves one by one from the fire.
Making thin edible films for Pootharekulu at Atreyapuram in East Godavari district. , Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Once a number of sheets are prepared, they are assembled. It takes two sheets to make one puthrekhu. A sheet is coated with melted ghee on one side. Then powder and jaggery or sugar is spread. , Dry fruit powder is added to it. A second sheet is laid on this sheet, again greased with ghee and then folded by hand in layers to form a rectangular envelope.
The women of Atreyapuram have been preparing Pootharekulu in the same way for centuries.