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Puttu or Pittu is made of ground rice which is steamed in cylinders with coconut shavings. The basic ingredients of this dish are rice flour, coconut and salt. Puttu/ Pittu is often served with gravies. This is especially famous in Southern states of India such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu. Sri Lankans call this dish Pittu. The often heard origin story claims that Puttu was first mentioned in the book titled Thirupugazhu by renowned Tamil poet, Arunagirinathan, in the 15th century. However, more recent research suggests Portuguese influence in introducing puttu to Kerala. After years of research Tanya Abraham wrote in her book “Eating with History” that puttu was a portuguese invention (though “invention” is inaccurate). Portuguese colonization of Kerala was in the 15th century as well, when it was coincidentally mentioned by Arunaguruathan. In a research article for The Indian Express, Professor Ananya Jahanara Kabir of King’s College London and poet and writer Ari Gautier, noted that: “[puttu] is the name given to [the] dish that has evolved in the islands of the South China Sea. In Melaka and Java they call it “putu”, in the Tagalog language of the Philippines, they call it “puto”.
This south east Asian putu though can be traced further in time and to the island of Sumatra in the Malay Archipelago. Puttu is very similar to an ancient west Sumatran dish called lemang or lamang. Tania Yovani’s paper “Lamang tapai: the ancient Malay food in Minangkabau tradition” published in the Ethnic Food Journal in 2019, states that lemang itself can be traced back to the proto-Malays (aborginal Malays).

Malay Pittu
(Malay recipe)
Arisi-maa puttu
Maravalli Puttu

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