Merry Christmas to all! Santa loved the Dari-Free chocolate milk and allergy Friendly Chocolate Chip and Sugar cookies. He also left some mighty fine toys for my not so ‘Naughty’ 8 year old :)
So, on a day that embodies love, family and the spirit of giving I am reminded of my granny and my gorgeous aunt – everyone says I am a splitting image of her so I gotta say she is gorgeous ;) But my aunt and I do share a beautiful camaraderie.
The last memory I have of my beautiful and sprightly grandmother, or avva as all her grand-kids called her is of her sitting on the front porch of our family home in India in a bright green saree and a big bindi waiting to welcome me – her ‘special’ granddaughter. Or, that’s what I believed – she had a way of making each one of her 7 kids and numerous grand-kids feel as if they were important to her in a way no one else could be – shrewd, huh :)
My family likes to believe that I am a chip of the grand old block in terms of courage and zest for life. But, I can never hold a candle to my avva who in her last days was a frail 81 year old woman, back bent with age and life’s travails. Even as her health failed and she could hardly sit up – she was a source of immense strength for each one of us and she has left a void which the entire family has been hard-pressed to fill even after 15 years!
My grandpa lost his heart to his 16 year old vivacious bride who personified the spirit of giving even at that young age. Though money was extremely tight she helped her husband look after his 5 younger siblings and her own 7 children even if it meant selling her last piece of jewelry and nickel diming on the smallest purchase. If anything – it stoked her inner fire to ensure that each of her kids got an education so they could do better. One of the best gifts life threw my way is the 3 years I got to spend with her while I went to a local school. Despite her broken English – she would somehow manage to put all my friends at ease and they still remember her fondly.
For me her spirit lives on through the wholesome, all natural, made from scratch food she would whip up – fresh home ground spices, protein powders, homemade crisps and more. Little wonder hardly a day went by without unannounced guests who always stayed on for a meal! Her 6 daughters have ensured that her recipes have been passed on to the next generation. One of them in particular – my aunt Sujatha (Suja) has not given up making even labor intensive and time consuming recipes although she is a working mom. The variety of homemade crips/ fryums she makes caught my attention as I delved into the world of old family recipes searching for allergy friendly ideas. And during my summer in India this year, my aunt passed on that legacy/ labor of love to me which I am sharing with you in a multi-part series.
What are Fryums? Also referred to as sondige, vadaams, vadis etc depending on the part of India one finds themselves in – these are essentially deep fried snacks like Fritos, nachos and cheetos for which the prep work can be done months in advance. Now, why do I need to make them at home one might ask?! To avoid cross-contamination of course – the biggest worry of every food allergy sufferer. The main ingredients in fryums are often allergy friendly grains like rice, matpe beans, sago and/ or vegetables. The prepared dough is shaped into traditional shapes and left to air dry completely under the hot tropical sun. Now they can be stored for prolonged periods of time and deep fried as and when needed to make fresh crisps/ fryums at home.
Similar to making Tamales or fresh pasta – the whole family gets involved when making fryums so my little one got a slice of the action as we sat down with my aunt and cousin. Now before I get into that, I must mention the delicious, festive South Indian meal that aunt Suja prepared for us – making sure that it was all allergy friendly. The picture seen below is just the first course…yup, we do eat a lot! And, it is always off shiny stainless steel plates or plaintain leaves.
In the subsequent parts of this series, I will share the recipes for all the dishes displayed above but for now let me make introductions:
- Matpe Bean Fryum (some other popular Indian names are papad, appalam. happala)
- String Beans Stir Fry (my son’s favorite)
- Flattened Rice Fryum (we will make it in this blog post)
- Yam Stir Fry
- Split Pigeon Pea soup with pumpkin, flat beans and green peppers
- Cooked White Rice
- Starter Dessert (Yup – we start and end our meals with desserts and throw in a couple along the way too!!): Rice and Mung Bean pudding sweetened with brown sugar/ jaggery
- Cooked Split Pigeon Peas
On to the fryums…although the generic name is fryum each type has a special name. That beautiful Saturday afternoon as 3 generations bonded we made 3 basic varieties:
- Flattened Rice Fryums (Will discuss this variety in more detail in Part 1 of the series)
- Tapioca Pearls Fryums
- Rice flour Fryum
Flattened Rice Fryums:
- Flattened Rice (thick variety): 1/2 cup
- Okra: 2 or, Ash Gourd (Peeled and diced): 1/4 cup or, Finely chopped onion: 1/4
- Green serrano chilis – 2 (optional)
- Lemon/ Lime: 1 small
- Salt to taste
- Oil to deep fry
- Soak the flattened rice in enough water to cover it for half an hour
- Add the vegetable of choice (we made 1 batch with finely sliced okra and 1 batch with diced ash gourd)
- Add the juice of 1 lemon/ lime and the 1/2 tsp chili paste to the softened flattened rice and mix it well.
- Spread out a clean heavy duty plastic sheet in a sunny spot and place a tablespoon of the dough one inch apart. Flatten it slightly so it can dry faster.
- Let it dry completely – if you get a full day of intense sunlight the fryums will be ready to deep fry in just a day. For us it took 3-4 days thanks to a rainy spell. If you are caught in the middle of winter like I am at the moment – it will take up to a week and we will just have to dry it indoors in a sunny spot. But. rain or shine – they will dry ultimately :)
- Now they are ready to be deep fried for an allergy friendly snack made by completely eliminating the risk of cross contamination. Store it in an airtight container until ready to use.
- When ready to use – heat enough oil (oils with high smoking temperatures like Corn Oil, Vegetable Oil, Canola Oil) in a deep vessel for deep frying. When the oil is hot – gently immerse 5-6 dried fryums and fry over medium heat turning it over every 30 seconds till it is browned. Each batch wil take no more than 2 minutes.
Traditionally this type of fryum is served as an accompaniment with a main meal consisting of rice and any variety of lentil soup hence my aunt served it as part of lunch though it tastes equally delicious as-is too!
P.S: These fryums taste awesome when partially dry – the number of times avva gave us a stern warning for stealing half dried fryums when we were young is not even funny so better watch out…
Next up in this series is Tapioca Pearls Fryums and more which my little one loved making. Sujatha attai – it was super fun spending the day with you and Swarna making sondige – a memory Arjun will cherish all his life.