Ravuthar. Well, I know each one of you reading this might think what on earth does this word mean. It’s a small community of people in the state of Tamil Nadu and Kerala who are Muslims and speak the language of Tamil. We are parted and addressed into three sects as maraikars , kayalars and the lebbai . Their food habits are humble with easily available local ingredients and mainly focus on non – vegetarian fare.
It’s a mouth watering experience whether it is a local fare of the southern tip of TamilNadu or the borders of Kerala and TamilNadu’s ‘Palghat fare’, an elegant meal at the home of an Muslim acquaintance or ‘cooking ravuthar cuisine’ back in one’s own kitchen. The states changing geography from north to South results in a fascinating profusion of different foods that are hard to find in any restaurant.
The ravuthar cuisine has taken turns of evolving into a new avatar by taking bits and pieces of influence from neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Burma where the men mainly went to make a living, leaving their families behind in India .
It’s hard to choose one dish to depict our style of food as each dish has its own versatile identity to it. Here I choose Nonbu Kanji, which is a staple in all Muslim households through out Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Mainly had during the holy month of Ramadan while breaking their fast for Iftar; which is hearty and filling. Every district in both the states have their own version of the same dish. This recipe is from a place called Kayalpattinam in South Tamil Nadu, that is made with rice and mutton, flavored with spices, dal and vegetables. This dish is called ‘Kari kanji’ as Kari means mutton and kanji is referred to things that are in a porridge consistency.
Once while skipping channels on the television, I was surprised to see a similar dish made in Turkey with an addition of chickpeas for the same purpose of having it for iftar. Later I got to know the connectivity of we ‘ravuthars’ being descendants of a group of Muslim soldiers, a mixture of Arab and Turkish horse-traders who came to South India in the 12th century as a part of the Turkish armies.
This Kari kanji is sold through out the year in the beach sides of Kayalpattinam as a street fare with accomplishments like vada ( rice patties filled with Maldives fish filling and deep fried ), cutlets, samosas and pickle . The mildly flavored Kari kanji sure does soothe your soul with every gulp.
On my mission to keep the lesser known ‘Ravuthar’ traditional recipes from slipping into food oblivion. I share this mighty recipe hoping each one of you try this at your home kitchens.
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