Parippuvadai/ Aamavadai or Lentil Fritters are spicy and crisp golden brown fritters made from Bengal gram lentils. They are also referred to as “Aamavadai” because the word “aamai” means tortoise/ turtle. The ridged appearance (from shaping with the fingers) of the fritters resembles the ridged back of the tortoise/ turtle. These deep fried lentil fritters are made for various different festivals in my Palakkad Iyer community. They’re also made as everyday snacks to serve with evening coffee.
Some parts of India are celebrating the festival of Raksha Bandhan today. In my Palakkad Iyer community, today we celebrate Avani Avittam instead.Let me start by briefly explaining the term “Avani Avittam”. We follow the same English calendar as the rest of the world, but use a different calendar for most of our religious rituals and celebrations. These include birth or death anniversaries and festivals.
This traditional calendar also has 12 months and 30 or 31 days (sometimes 32). We also have 27 “nakshathram” or stars which fall in this calendar . These stars are astronomy related, and not stars in constellations as we know them in English. The 27 stars appear every month in a given order following in a regular cycle throughout the year.
It can be confusing to someone unfamiliar with it. Suffice to say that our religious rituals and festivals are based by when a particular nakshathram/ star occurs in a particular month. Other astronomical calculations are also taken into account.
So “Avittam” is a “nakshathram” (or star), in the month of “Avani” according to our traditional calendar. This roughly corresponds to time from the 15th of July to the 15th of August on the English calendar. On this day, every year, boys and men who have undergone their Upanayanam (or sacred thread ceremony) ritually change their sacred threads.
All over the world, food and celebration always go together. It is no different with us. Breakfast is usually idlis which are steamed rice and lentil cakes and coconut chutney. Lunch is a festive affair called “sadya“. This is an elaborate traditional vegetarian lunch with dishes prescribed by family tradition. Different families have their own sadya traditions but Parippuvadai/ Aamavadai or Lentil Fritters and “Paal Payasam” are a constant. In my husband’s family, it is a tradition to lalso make “Neiyappam” if there are unmarried boys at home.
The ingredient list for most popular Parippuvadai/ Aamavadai or Lentil Fritters recipes are likely to include onions, ginger and garlic. These are avoided if cooking for festive or religious occasions. Traditionally we do not use garlic or onions in our cooking. These lentil fritters are often also made to serve in the evenings as a snack with coffee or tea.