Avalose Unda is a popular snack but also a Christmas-time favourite from Kerala, my home state. I must confess right here that I know very little about this particular preparation beyond having eaten it a few times, either while visiting some friends or when it came in the Christmas hampers our neighbours back home would send us on Christmas morning.
The more famous Christmas specials from Kerala are the Plum Cake (which actually has no plums, despite the name) and Achappam (Rose Cookies), but the Avalose Unda has its own little space under the Kerala sun!
More frequently eaten as a “naalu mani palaharam” or “four o’clock snack” is the Avalose Podi (podi means powder, and I haven’t a clue about the Avalose part) which is converted into theAvalose Unda, a rice and jaggery ball/ laddoo which is made at various times of the year in Kerala, including Christmas.
If I belong to Kerala, how is it that I know next to nothing about this favourite in Christian homes in my state? First of all, I belong to a small community that, though very much a part of Kerala today, migrated from Tamil Nadu hundreds of years ago. Our families were not just Hindu but also of the priestly caste too so that meant that our cuisine was not at all influenced by culinary traditions of other communities around us that were non-vegetarian, including Christians.
Mentioning this may not be politically correct in today’s world, and though I do not subscribe to the thought that people are unequal based on caste, this is how our world was sometime back, and it influenced a lot of things including our food habits.
So as children, we were not exposed much to the way people ate in non-vegetarian Hindu or Hindu households unless we had very close friends in these communities. It was a very different world then, and one couldn’t really blame people for the prejudices they grew up with even in a very forward thinking state like Kerala.
I first came across Avalose Podi only when I had started working, and a colleague and good friend brought me some from home. Now Avalose Podi is made from rice powder and fresh grated coconut which are roasted with some cumin seeds till light golden. This gives the Avalose Podi a very long shelf life (upto 6 months and sometimes longer) so you can make a huge batch of it and use it whenever needed.
Popular as a filling and nutritious evening snack, in Kerala it is usually eaten sweetened with sugar (or honey sometimes) or with banana which makes it easier to swallow. Occasionally, it is also used to make Avalose Unda (“Unda” means ball) for festive occasions or just because the occasion demands it.
To make Avalose Unda, one needs to make the Avalose Podi first, though I understand this powder is available readymade these days. This video might be helpful, and though it is in Malayalam, I think just watching it should help.
This is a treat which is very easy to make, and one needs to note just two things. First is the the Avalose Podi requires slow and even roasting on medium heat, and that the jaggery syrup for the Avalose Unda should not be cooked beyond one-string consistency. Otherwise you might have something resembling a “Vedi Unda” (cannon ball) in consistency rather than an Avalose Unda!
You might notice that my Avalose Podi is looking exceptionally brown rather than the creamy colour it should be. This is because I used brown rice flour (Chemba puttu podi, as it is known in Kerala) to make my Avalose Podi. Traditionally, only white raw rice flour is used for this but I like the nutty taste of the brown rice flour, and I must say it makes a great Avalose Podi.
Like a lot of traditonal food cooked in Kerala, this dish is gluten-free and can easily be made vegan since the only non-vegan ingredient here is 1 tbsp of ghee.
Other Posts In This Series:
Avalose Podi (Cumin Sesame Flavoured Roasted Rice Flour And Coconut)