Circa summer 1984, in Tadipallam, a small village near the famous town called Anakapalli, in Andhra Pradesh:
In those days, my Ammamma lived with my maternal uncle, his family and his sisters, in a joint family. We visited them, every year, during our summer holidays. And it is here that I witnessed many of the life ‘firsts’. Every day was a revelation for us.
For instance, here , I realized that there was a separate room to store pickles, which was always kept dark. Only my grandmother would enter this room to replenish the ration of varied pickles for daily consumption. Though we used to sneak into this room in the afternoons, as it was always very cool, here. To get some respite from the scorching May summers.
The next day, Vanaja, my cousin, took us to a farm located in the same village. Here for the first time I saw water, being drawn from the well with a help of bulls. Again, this was a ‘first time’ experience for me.
Scene on April 28: One particular incident during these holidays was particularly interesting. The kids were scampering around and playing ‘catching cook’. Today was their mother’s birthday. One of the girls stepped gingerly and stealthily into the ‘holy’ kitchen. As a rule, kids were not allowed in the kitchen, when the cooking process was ongoing, especially in the mornings. She innocently asked her grandmother, today is Amma’s birthday. Will there be cake in the evening? Her granny smiled and said ‘yes’. The little girl was happy and scampered along to resume her play.
In the evening, all the three little sisters and their two cousins, gathered near the small table with a candle, matchbox and knife. They were waiting eagerly for their ‘Ammamma ‘ to bring in the cake. Finally she emerged out of the kitchen with a cake like dish and came near the table. She gingerly placed the plate on the table. I exclaimed, ‘Ammamma this is not cake’ She softly said, this is the Indian cake.
We ‘coolly’ accepted this. Then she served us pieces of this ‘cake’ or rather pancake with freshly made coconut chutney. And this was my first experience of having ‘dibba rotti’ doused with copious amount tangy and tasty coconut chutney. Ammamma made the best coconut chutney. Coconut chutney brings out the essence of this bland dish by imparting a spicy and tangy taste to it.
What is ‘Dibba rotti’:
‘Dibba rotti’, when literally translated from Telugu to English, means ‘stout’ roti or bread. However, it a type of traditional pancake which is made from granular rice. which is mixed soaked urad dal (split black gram) and fermented overnight. It can be had for breakfast, lunch or as a satiating evening meal.
Savoring freshly made dibba rotti’, nimbling the warm, crunchy crust (along the perimeter), with the warm ‘earthy’ flavor of the bland rotti, with the tangy coconut chutney clinging and soaking each piece, is indeed a highly satiating experience! What could be more delicious?
Ah! It was indeed a surreal culinary experience for me.That day I fell in love with ‘dibba rotti’!
Methods of making ‘Dibba rotti’:
There are two methods of making ‘dibba rotti’ One is the traditional way wherein split black gram and rice is used (along with cumin seeds or jeera) And the other one, the modern and simpler version, is made with idli batter. It is more commonly known as ‘minappa rotti’. Wherein ginger and green chillies are added to the batter to spice it up. I will share the recipe for both these type of ‘pancakes’ Moreover, ‘Dibba rotti’ made in either of the way, tastes splendid!
Here is the recipe for the simpler, modern version of ‘dibba rotti’ (minappa rotti)
Recipe for Minappa rotti:
2 cups idli batter
1-2 green chillies
½ inch ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
2-3 teaspoon of oil
Salt as per taste
Take the idli batter in a small bowl. Cut the green chillies and ginger into fine pieces. Add to the idli batter. Add jeera and salt. Mix well. Heat a small kadhai /wok or a griddle for a minute or two. Add 1-2 drops of oil on it and spread it well with the help of a spoon. Now pour two ladleful of batter onto the heated kadhai or griddle and spread lightly to form a small pancake, around ½ inch thick. Lower the flame. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 3-5 minutes. Check in between whether it is cooked as it may blacken if it is over cooked.
Once cooked, flip this ‘rotti’ over and let it cook for a minute for two. Do not cover it. Now, put off the heat and savour this warm ‘flat bread’ with spoonfuls of tangy chutney.
The recipe for the traditional ‘dibba rotti’ is listed below.