[It struck me very late and very recently that this is a very highly nutritious protein bar. It would be, if you pat it down in a tray and score into pieces instead of rolling into balls. Porulvalanga balls have all the nutrition packed in protein bars and it comes disguised as a very tasty sweet. The good thing about these traditional power balls is that they transport well, stay good for as long as 2-3 months and do not contain any refined sugars, soy or other such additives.]
The preparation is a rather ancient. My amma said, “yenga pati kaalathu lendu irukku” (Its been around since my Grandmum’s time). Porulvalanga urundai, is a sweet preparation from the Southern part of India, rather Tamilnadu.
What’s with the name?
‘Porul’ – Ingredients. ‘Valanga’ – that which cannot be seen.
This is a laddoo or ball made with a lot of ingredients, and from the humble external appearance one cannot guess what is within. It is a nutritious and healthy blend of roasted whole grains (wheat and parboiled rice), and legumes (Bengal gram dal and dehusked mung beans) bound by a thick syrup of jaggery. It does not require any fats in the form of ghee or butter, nor does it contain refined sugar. Ah! Caught your attention, didn’t it? It’s a treasure.
In the olden days when mechanical transport such as trains, buses and flights were not available, distances stretched far. Pilgrims from far off places, traveled on foot to sacred places like Varanasi, Gaya and Rishikesh in large groups and abstained from food cooked by others who did not belong to the same caste. Casteism was a huge issue back then. We did not call ourselves ‘vegetarian’ and ‘non-vegetarian’. It was ‘brahmins’ and ‘non-brahmins’. It might be difficult for some to visualise this kind of division. I find it ridiculous too. One has to understand that those were different times. The only good thing that came out of it was the diversity that Indian food rendered itself to. Thanks to ‘brahmin cuisine’ we have a lot of inherently vegan dishes in India.
Abstinence also meant that meals had to be simple. Addition of oil, ghee etc. was forbidden. Consumption of food was permitted only after bath and prayer. On certain days, that were considered auspicious, consumption of onions and garlic was not permitted.
Porulvalanga urundai is probably the result of such restrictions that led imaginative cooks to come up with alternatives and; what a fantastic alternative it was! These tasty ‘rocks’ would not only provide instant energy but remain fresh in any climate for long periods. Sustainable eating.
Beware though – you have to have a healthy set of teeth to bite into these laddoos! They are rock hard as they were made to last. If you have a decay or two, I would advice you to break the laddoos with a pestle before you sink your teeth. You can’t sink them, of course, all you can do is bang your enamel. Ouch! 🙂
Just break off a small piece and savour it as it slowly melts down in your mouth and bite of little bits as it softens. Believe me, you are missing something if you do not eat this one. When we were kids it was our regular way to show off our strong white teeth by biting into one urundai and act as though it was a child’s play – when it really wasn’t!
This laddoo happens to be my favourite and my mother always makes a generous batch when I visit her. The last month was a very happy one for me as I rested at my maternal home, and enjoyed delicacies my Mom prepared. The kids happened to have vacations, so it was a good break at Bangalore for them too. I read a lot of books, lazed the whole day, saw movies and took photographs of some of Mum’s dishes. It is the first time that my mother saw me in action, and she was so proud – she is learning to surf the internet and checks my blog too. She put on first an air of disinterest and indifference, and then stayed around as I showed her the blog, and then started the criticism – “Do you only think about food and eating all the time?” she asked. I thought the note was negative, until she donned her apron and set out to show me in detail ‘the making of a porulvilangai urundai’, and set up the ingredients so I could get some great snaps. 🙂
That’s how she is – not the kind to make an explicit show of her love, nor will she hug and tell, in fact a little reserved but the kind who would be around when you need her most. There was a time when I was the ‘unruliest’ of three kids. I was the one who would always argue with mum and hope I wouldn’t become like her, and now when people tell me I am turning out a lot like her [Oh! they don’t forget to mention how my ‘unruly’ corners seem to have knocked down – hehe, they think they know it all ;)] – it just puts me on top of the world. It makes me feel proud to turn into my Mom! Can’t believe that I am putting it out here. 🙂 I realise that this is nature’s way of humbling the ‘temple of youth’.
Recipe: Porulvalanga Urundai [Multigrain Ladoos]
Vegan high protein snack – Can be made gluten free by using brown rice in place of whole wheat. Roast before pounding.
Dry Ginger Powder (Sonth or chukku), Cardamom powder (Elaichi or yelakkai). I haven’t put in the ratio as it up to you to increase or decrease the quantity of spices. You may also add Cashew chopped into little bits or chopped coconuts like my Mom.
Boiled rice – 1 cup (a variety of thick rice shown below)
Chana Da, Moong Dal and whole wheat grains – 1 cup each
Bhuja hua chana or pottukadalai (roasted/puffed bengalgram) – a fistful (Optional)
Roast the grains and dals separately to brown as shown in the image above and set aside a day before to cool completely. Roast separately as the time taken for each ingredient to brown is not the same. Also roast in reduced fire as the browning should be uniform. Mix the roasted and cooled grains and dals together along with the spices and pound it to a fine powder at home or a mill. This is the basic powder. When you are free you may proceed with the syrup. This can be made in advance and set aside for a week or so and you can proceed with the next step when free.
If you do not want to make the laddoos you could use the powder by itself as ‘Sattumaavu podi’ or protein powder. Dissolve a tsp. of the powder in a glass of milk and cook a thin porridge, adding a little sugar or jaggery to taste. The porridge is excellent for recuperating patients, old people and for growing children.
Jaggery – 3 cups (You may add half a cup more if you like it really sweet but this is perfect)
Water – About a cup
Method to make the syrup:
Heat water and add the powdered jaggery. Let it melt completely and strain to get rid of impurities. Boil again till it passes the soft ball consistency test.
Soft ball consistency – Take a little tap water in a bowl. Add a drop of the jaggery syrup and shake the bowl slightly. If the jaggery disintegrates into strands, you need to boil it further. If it comes together and settles the syrup is ready to use. If the settled jaggery is hard that indicates an overcooked syrup. Add a tbsp. of water and loosen the syrup in that case. Please see below:
Method to form the balls or laddoos:
In a large bowl take about 2 cups of groundpowder. Add a ladle of syrup and mix with a ladle quickly to just bring them loosely together. While it is still warm form the balls and set aside. It is best to do in small batches as the syrup tends to get hard with time. If you wait for the syrup to cool you will not be able to form the laddoos.
My mother makes the syrup for the about 40 laddoos, and turns off the stove. Then she forms 10 or 12 laddoos with a ladle of syrup. If the remaining syrup gets hard add a tbsp. of water and heat again till just soft (do not boil) and proceed as before.
My teeth are strong! Yay! I made a crater of a dent – did I not?
He he – that would have loosened my cap – I just broke it with a pestle like I told you to do it. 🙂
This also gives me the oppurtunity to tell you all about the quaint cooking accessory I received as random winner of the third helping hosted by Lucy of ‘Nourish Me’ for my ‘Puzhukku‘. The book contains all kinds of trivia about cooking and eating – the historic facts associated with certain foods, and my son especially enjoyed it a lot. 🙂 Thanks, Susan! She was so thoughtful that she actually sent a book bound in imitation leather in keeping with my sensitivities – isn’t that just great? BTW – I am the host for July 2009 of MLLA!
Suganya, the wonderful cook and photographer of Tasty Palettes is hosting the second edition of vegan ventures – Vegan Ventures, Round 2 as November is the National Vegan Month! Sending the porulvalanga urundais to her too. 🙂