Of Palghat maamis and madisaars!

 It’s a few months since I’ve been married and moved to Madras. We are at a friend’s place and I’m chatting away with her mother-in-law, proudly showing off my newly learnt skill – in Tamil.
Engaathuku vaango, maami.” I invite her to visit us.
Paalakaadu thaane?” she responds. (You’re from  Palghat, aren’t you?)
I am horrified – it’s one thing to learn someone else’s language but I definitely don’t want to lose my Hyderabadi identity.
Eeee, illave illai. Naan Hyderabad lendaakum!” I respond completely belying my claim! (What I said was “definitely not – I am from Hyderabad” – in the purest of Palghat accents!)
Pinne sariyaana Palghat Tamil yen pesarai?” (Then why are you speaking in a Palghat accent?)
And that is the first time I come to know – that I have adopted, willy-nilly, the whole caboodle of an accent which belongs to a very tiny community on the borders of Tamilnadu and Kerala! For such a tiny community, they’ve had an amazing influence on the world outside Palghat – they know it and will never tire of letting you know it too!
Having always had an ear for languages, I’ve prided myself on my ability to pick up a new lingo really fast but, as I’ve discovered to my cost – new accents are easier to acquire than get rid off – thirty years on, I’m still “pinne-ing” and “aathu-fying” away with the best of the Palghats! (“pinne” and “aathu” are typical Palghatisms – “pinne” in the sing-songiest of intonations means “then what, you think I’m kidding or what?” and “aathu” being a colloquialism for  “home”! Kamalahasan has done an absolutely brilliant job of picking up on this in Michael Madana Kamaraaj…
My accent has been the cause for much hilarity among my friends. A friend’s husband had come home one evening to pick up their daughter. Hubby and I are arguing away about something and he’s definitely on the receiving end this time. Friend looks at him, then at me then again at him and then at me… “I know one of you is from Palghat but which one?!!” I stalk away in a huff – me, the free-spirited Hyderabadi???!!!
But I would never, ever walk away from this totally delicious dish from Palghat… the incredibly simple….

  • Ripe mangoes – 2 large or 4 small. Peel  and cut into large chunks. Keep the kottais/ tenkas/ seeds
  • Turmeric – 1 generous pinch
  • Jaggery – 1 tbsp – depending on the sourness of the mango
  • Salt
  • Sour yogurt – 2 cups


  • Coconut oil – 1 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds / methi – ¾ tsp
  • Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
  • Red chilies – 4-5
  • Rice or rice flour – 1 tsp
  • Fresh coconut – grated – 3 tbsp
  • Jeera / cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Fry all the seeds in the oil and add coconut and rice flour. If using rice, fry that as well. Cool and grind to a smooth paste.
  • Coconut oil – 1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Cook the mangoes with the seeds along with the turmeric and jaggery for about 5 minutes.
Add the masala and cook for a few minutes more till mangoes are tender.
Add the yogurt, salt and enough water for make a medium thick gravy and simmer for a few minutes.
Temper and serve with plain rice and a pappadam or two…or three…
And you won’t care if you’re mistaken for a sariyaana Paalakaadu maami again!