Nostalgia and Insights


Here’s a dedication to the superhero of South Indian delicacies!

What do you call that which is Omnipresent? That which is all pervasive, all-encompassing, everywhere and widespread??

Some would call it “God. Some call it “Dogma”. If you ask us, the South Indian Foodies, without any hesitation or doubt, in one equivocal voice, we will call it “Puliyodharai or Puliyogare” or quite unjustifiably termed in English as “The Tamarind Rice”. It is pronounced as “Puli-Yo-The-Rye” or “Puli-yo-ga-ray”!

Going forward let’s call it the ‘P-Yo’!

P-Yo was, and to this day available EVERYWHERE in my small town and many parts of South IndiaWithout P-Yo, no temple visit is divine, no vacation is relaxing, no wedding feast complete and no train trip can be exciting! P-Yo is the distilled essence of simplicity and complexity carefully wrapped in perfect balance.

I have always wondered….

How can a dish be both a soul food yet exotic?

How can it be an everyday food yet be a delicacy?

How can a food item that even world-renowned chefs struggle to perfect and yet the next door 80-year-old lady can make it even when half asleep and still knock it out of the park?

How can one food be apt for every occasion?

How can one single dish treat all your senses and intensify whatever your present emotion is to a new heightened level?

Well, if there’s one question that tops the charts, it is this —

          “How can something that is a NOT a secret, be so mysterious?”

If you haven’t woken up to the tongue tingling, heart-warming, soul-stirring, mouth-watering, delicious cooking aroma of tamarind in oil and spices filling up an entire household, at least once in your life, ohhhh! my dear dear friend – you are YET to experience a unique feeling that only Zen masters could articulate!!

I am no Zen Master, but hey, the food lover in me cannot and will not be denied expression?!? So, I’ll try! It feels exactly like hugging someone you love. Actually, more like a big group hug of everyone you love. In that very moment, you know that everything will be Okay and you will be more than Okay.

Maybe that’s why P-Yo is everywhere. Maybe that’s why it is served in temples to parties to canteens to funerals. Think about it…Maybe, it invokes a feeling of assurance that comes with normalcy, even amidst chaos and craziness!.

I remember, when I was in fifth grade, my mom packed me P-Yo for a school trip. Like only moms do, right before she packed it, she fed me just a bite for taste and that was enough to get my taste buds go wild that morning.

While my friends were busy looking at the architectural wonders of our excursion site, there I was, just dreaming, drooling and really dying to eat my P-Yo. It was carefully packed in a banana leaf, which was further wrapped in a newspaper and tied around by a thread. Call me paranoid, but every few minutes, I kept touching it to ensure that it was there safe.

After a very painful 5 hours of waiting, lunch came and I carefully opened the P-Yo packet and took that first mouthful of P-Yo. One word to describe that moment- DEEE–VIIII–NNNEE!!!!!!  In that very moment I felt mom, I felt love, I felt grateful and most of all I felt invincible!!!!

You see, P-Yo is not just a food. It is an experience. From consistency to color, to the oily glow, the flavor, the spice, the aroma, it HAS to be Perrrfffeecccttt!! P-Yo is more than an exotic food and I WILL NOT diminish its glory and greatness by calling it as “gluten-free vegan rice dish”.

It’s a profound legacy, a philosophy, a sentiment, a medical supplement. a therapy, a peacekeeper, and an endorphin booster.

Simply put, P-Yo is “AMBROSIA” to me! Ambrosia, (Am-bro-shia) in ancient greek myth refers to the food or drink of the gods, an epicurean delight, food fit for a king, delicacy, and a heavenly spread. 

I can write in volumes about this Marvel of a dish, Pride of South India and the Joy of my life! Okay.. that was a stretch…I mean one of the greater joys…you get the idea! But, I’ll stop here.

Let me leave you with this one piece of suggestion If you want to decide whether to keep a friendship or relationship, get them some authentic P-Yo and see how they respond. If they enjoy it, Keep them, because they are wired right 😄”  

So, what’s your Ambrosia? 


P.S- If you are a P-Yo lover too, please comment and share your thoughts 🙂 If you want to try P-Yo, comment your location and I will try to help find you some decent P-Yo!

6 replies »

  1. I have to go make pulikaachal now. To my everlasting regret, I did not have my mother make me a big bottle of it when she was here for 6 weeks. I’ve had a hankering for puliyodharey for some time now. Reading your post has kicked it into overdrive. Am off to soak puli, now

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome writing! Brings back some very fond memories from school and childhood vacation days. No trip is complete without this food.

    The most important of all, this wonder food can be eaten with:

    1. Appalam
    2. Pappadam
    3. Potato chips
    3. South Indian murukku and cheddar
    4. Thattai murukku and thenkuzhal
    5. Nendrangai chips in coconut oil
    6. Coconut chutney
    7. Plain yoghurt
    8. Pachadi in many flavours
    9. Nellikkai thugayal
    10. Cucumber thick pachadi

    This food is everyone south indian’s aha moment at some point in life!

    Keep writing ✍️! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dear left out specifying which temple’s puliyodarai (i refuse to americanise it as P-yo!) is laced with which aroma of divine flavour…srirangam has a particular taste…and vishnu temples offer it in a particular nuance vis-a vis other temples…yes…and my mom used to pack an extra lunch box lest her daughter will be left only a mouthful to taste after it’s been devoured by the class-mates descending on your lap like a swarm of bees as soon as the whiff of the aroma escapes the lunch box on opening the lid!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can totally understand your sense of loyalty to Puliyodharai by not nicknaming it. My goal is that everyone should atleast attempt once and not be biased because the name sounds complicated! Good point about leaving the temples esp Parthasarathy Perumal koil Puliyodharai… Guess I wanted this to be a “hello world, here’s Puliyodharai… Come check it out”! But then how can anyone do justice to Puliyodharai in one just 700 words! As I said in the blog, volumes can be written about it😄 I love how you said “swarm of bees as soon as the whiff of aroma escapes”!! Thanks dear…


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