Despite being part of a culinary tradition that has very little to offer in terms of sweet dishes, Pradhaman has done well for itself in Kerala’s gastronomic landscape. Pradhamans are a kind of payasam or payasa (the south Indian version of a north Indian kheer) either made with milk or coconut milk.
Conventionally a Pradhaman is made with dal or thin rice cakes. With milk or coconut milk as the base, depending on the kind of pradhaman, either jaggery or sugar is used. That said, Pradhaman is also very versatile. You can make Pradhaman with a whole lot of ingredients including seasonal fruits; there are jackfruit, banana, mango and even pineapple pradhaman being made in Kerala homes.
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Among all Pradhamans, Palada Pradhaman has a special place for a Malayalee. And when it comes to having original mouthwatering Palada Pradhaman, all roads lead to one place—Vinayaka Caterers. Vinayaka Caterers in Kadavanthara, Kochi, have been around since 1992, catering for wedding feasts and other celebrations. But they give particular emphasis to their Palada Pradhaman that has truly broken barriers of culinary excellence.
Pink in colour and smooth in texture, patrons say Vinayaka always gets the silky texture of the Pradhaman right. How do they do it? But before we find an answer to that, what is Palada Pradhaman and what makes it so special? Palada Pradhaman is made with rice cakes or ‘ada’ which is rice flour steamed and cut to small, thin cubes. These adas are then boiled with milk and sugar into a certain consistency to make Palada Pradhaman. When the rice cakes boil in the milk, the reduction, along with sugar, gives the pradhaman a rich thickness.
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These days, ready-to-use adas or rice cakes are available in the market which can be boiled with milk to make Palada Pradhaman at home. But the real taste of this Pradhaman lies in making the rice cake from the scratch. And that’s where Vinayaka scores. At first, rice is dried and ground to fine powder. This powder is mixed well with ghee to form a dough which is spread thin on banana leaves and then steamed. “We grind rice and make the cakes. Milk is boiled till it is thick, and then ada and sugar are added,” says Vijay Kumar, manager at Vinayaka Caterers in Kochi. The slow cooking imparts a faint pink colour to the pradhaman. “There are no preservatives added and you can store it in the refrigerator for four to five days,” he adds. That is, if you don’t polish it off in one go!
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