Savouring rich heritage

A FESTIVE mood reigned as the Nattukottai Nagarathar community came together to celebrate their food and culture at the Penang Spastic Centre.

Housewife M. Seva, 31, was excited to cook for her family and friends at the first ever Nattukottai Nagarathar Heritage Society food fest.

“I am making vellai paniyaram which is a savoury dish to be eaten with a chilli-based chutney. These are recipes that have been passed down for generations and are authentic to our community,” said Seva, who was running her booth with her friend L.Visalakshi.

She added that the fair was a great way of exposing the younger generation to the various types of food.

Seva was among 35 women who cooked 22 vegetarian dishes at the fair, varying from savoury delights like idli served with chutney, sambar and kurma as well as adai made from dhal and chick peas.

There were also sweet dishes such as the exquisite pal paniyaram made from rice and black beans and then soaked in sweetened milk.

The 100-odd families who attended the fair were also treated to special drinks such as panakkam, a sweet and sour concoction made up of brown sugar, honey, lime juice and salt as well as buttermilk.

Nattukottai Nagarathar Heritage Society president Datuk N. Ramanathan said the food fair, which was held for free, was aimed at bringing the community together.

“We are also here to check out which stalls have garnered the most sales as we want to know which dishes are popular.

“We gave out mock coupons to those who came as we want to hold a proper food fair which will be open to the public next year.

“Next year, we will have non-vegetarian food as well,” he said, adding that proceeds from the food fair next year would go towards a Nattukottai Nagarathar museum showcasing artefacts and pictures of the community.

Ramanathan said there were about 70 Nattukottai Nagarathar families living in Penang and about 1,500 families in the whole of Malaysia. “We hope to invite all the families for next year’s event,” he said.

The community is one of the over 20 chettiar communities in Tamil Nadu. Early settlements were reported in Malacca and Penang but the community has since spread all over Malaysia.