Inji Puli in Malayalam language means Ginger Tamarind chutney, has been one of my most favorite condiment from Kerala for its unique blend of hot, lemony and sweet tastes. It is an amazing appetizer and wonderful aid in digestion and goes greatly with any of your cooked foods as a condiment. Carrie discovered that it is just right for Ice Cream! Inji Puli has some preeminent position in the Kerala's food as it is the first condiment prepared in almost every home during the biggest festival in Kerala, the Onam. Inji Puli is also the first dish served on green banana leaf which is followed by nearly a dozen more dishes and pickles. The whole feast is known as Onam Sadya is an elaborate lunch cooked in every household on the day of the festival when everyone in the house wear new dress and possibly new ornaments. The Onam festival in Kerala has been celebrated by all sections of the society irrespective of caste or religious affiliations and is celebrated with traditional dances, music, games and many other activities.
The myth behind the festival of Onam is that an Asura King ( Demon ruler) Mahabali once ruled the entire region of Kerala and during his reign prosperity prevailed everywhere. There was no wrong doings by people and all human beings were equal in the social status . There was no caste or other discrimination and Truth was the hallmark of the King and his people . Seeing the righteous attitude of the human beings the Mother Earth also blessed the land with plenty food and it is believed that humans and all other living beings lived in happy.
This great governance by the King Mahabali caused tremendous jealousy among the Gods or divine spirits whose abode was up in the heaven. The Gods feared that if Mahabali is allowed to continue to rule in the righteous way, soon he will be qualified to become a God , may become greater than the Gods themselves and he would become the God of Gods, Indra. So they wanted to end his rule on the Earth and they approached the Lord Vishnu to save them from the future perils caused by the goodness in the earth. Lord Vishnu who agreed to their request soon incarnate himself as a dwarf Brahmin boy, called Vamana. This dwarf Brahmin boy one day went to King Mahabali and requested for a little piece of land to live. The King immediately agreed to the boy's request and asked him to take as much as land he wanted. Vamana said he only wanted three footholds of land for the King gave his consent . Soon the Vamana grew in gigantic proportion and put his first foot which covered the entire Earth and in the next foot he covered all the spaces in the sky and there was nothing left for him to put his third feet. The King Mahabali being the great upholder of Truth, seeing this bowed in front the Vishnu and asked him to put his third leg on his head , thus sending him to Paathaal or Inferno world below the Earth , . Before he accepted the sentence he obtained one boon from the Lord Vishnu , to visit his people every year which God gave him permission. The Onam is celebrated as a day when the King Mahabali return to Earth to be with his people.
My experienced of Onam feast is normally have condiments, pickles, main dishes, fresh and fried bananas to eat the rice in three to four serving. The first serving of rice is to be eaten with skinned green beans soup with ghee and clarified butter and Pappad, a oil deep fried thin bread made of Indian Black beans powder. The second serving of rice is with Sambar, a spicy lentil soup with vegetables, tamarind and herbs.
The side dishes will be served as many time one can eat.
Sambar will be followed by serving the first sweet rice flakes cooked in ghee, sugar and dry fruits. This will be followed by next serving of rice which should eaten with two other soups Pulisseri and Rasam . After this two more sweets prepared from peas , vermicelli and end up with Yellow Boli made of common flour and sugar.
Inji Puli has the preeminent position this long line of food is because of its ability to increase the appetite of the eater. The unique combination of grounded Ginger roasted in Mustard Oil cooked with sugar, black pepper corns, mustard, fenugreek, asafaoetida, cumin, curry leaves,turmeric powder added with tamarind and salt generate plenty of saliva in the mouth which fills the entire digestive tract and makes one to eat more the festival feat .
The same spice combination tremendously ease the process of digestion which helps the body to get the essential nutrients from the food rejecting unwanted.
In some places Fresh Ginger chopped into smallest possible size fryed in oil is cooked with sugar , spices, Tamarind paste and salt. I dont like to deep fry the ginger in oil rather prefer to blend them into a paste and cook slow in heated mustard oil.