The Glories of Raghava's Bag, Part 11
BY: SUN STAFF
Rice Sweetballs in Sugar Syrup
Feb 25, 2016 CANADA (SUN) A journey through the nectarian contents of Raghava's Bag.
Powdered and Parched Rice Sweets
Today's verses from Caitanya-caritamrta Antya lila describe two wonderful preparations included amonst the famed raghavera-jhali:
sali-dhanyera tandula-bhaja curna kariya
ghrta-sikta curna kaila cini-paka diya
karpura, marica, lavanga, elaci, rasavasa
curna diya nadu kaila parama suvasa
sali-dhanyera -- of rice of a fine quality; tandula -- the grains; bhaja -- being fried; curna kariya -- making it into a powder; ghrta-sikta -- moistened with ghee; curna -- the powder; kaila -- made; cini-paka diya -- by cooking with sugar; karpura -- camphor; marica -- black pepper; lavanga -- cloves; elaci -- cardamom; rasa-vasa -- and other spices; curna -- to the powder; diya -- adding; nadu -- round sweetmeats; kaila -- made; parama su-vasa -- very palatable.
She powdered fried grains of fine rice, moistened the powder with ghee and cooked it in a solution of sugar. Then she added camphor, black pepper, cloves, cardamom and other spices and rolled the mixture into balls that were very palatable and aromatic.
sali-dhanyera kha-i punah ghrtete bhajiya
cini-paka ukhda kaila karpuradi diya
sali-dhanyera kha-i -- parched rice from fine paddy; punah -- again; ghrtete bhajiya -- frying with ghee; cini-paka -- boiling with sugar juice; ukhda -- ukhda; kaila -- made; karpura-adi diya -- mixing with camphor.
She took parched rice from fine paddy, fried it in ghee, cooked it in a sugar solution, mixed in some camphor and thus made a preparation called ukhda or mudki.
The sali-dhanyera (rice) used by Damayanti in first preparation, described in verses 10.29-30, is the same fine quality rice mentioned in verse 10.27 as salikacuti-dhanyera, a kind of fine rice.
While the rice is the same, these highly aromatic confections were not made with the rice Damayanti flattened in poha. In this case, Srila Krsnadas Kaviraj explains that she powdered the fine grains of rice, then cooked the powder into a mixture. Once rice has been flattened, it really is no longer a 'grain'. And in Adi 17.20, we find the word tandula used to describe 'raw rice'. So the rice grains were not first cooked and then powdered, rather the raw uncooked rice was ground to a fine powder (tandula baja, 'the grains being fried').
Raw grains of rice that are powdered will, if a little moisture is added, cook into a beautiful rice-flavoured preparation having a dense, smooth consistency. Damayanti cooked her powdered rice in ghee, which helps to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan. Cooking powdered rice in a bit of ghee, one might first cook until it takes on a little golden color, then adding the sugar solution (again, probably a light sugar-water syrup).
The spices that Damayanti added to the powdered rice mixture were very aromatic: camphor, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, etc. (rasa-vasa, 'other spices'). This resulted in sweetmeat balls that "were very palatable and aromatic".
In verse 10.31, we find the same fine rice paddy is used: sali-dhanyera, but this time the rice has been parched (kha). It is possible that she used some of the flattened rice in this preparation, because poha can be parched.
In Adi 13 and 14, there are several references to kha as being 'fused rice'. 'Fused' rice generally means the rice has been mixed thoroughly with another flavoring agent, like coconut. In this case, kha is translated as referring not to flavoring, but to cooking. Parching the rice typically means dry-roasting it. However, rice that is parched slowly at low heat will take on an added flavour, so 'fused' may also be a correct description.
In this preparation, Damayanti has cooked the parched rice first in ghee, then in a sugar solution with camphor. And at the end of this verse, we get another hint as to the technique Damayanti used. The preparation made here is known as 'ukhda' or 'mudki', which are common names for parboiled rice.
'Ukhda', or parboiled rice, is rice that has been boiled in the husk. This makes the rice easier to process by hand, without cooking out as many of the nutrients. It also results in improved flavour, and changes the texture. The art of parboiling rice is known to be more than two thousand years old, and continues to be a common practice.
'Hand-polishing' rice refers to removing the bran layer, and this becomes much easier if the rice has been parboiled. In the case of Damayanti's preparation, it is possible that she parched the rice for this same reason -- to remove the bran and get the very enjoyable texture of ukhda.
As Damayanti was most concerned with providing foodstuffs that would maximum her Lord's health and wellbeing, we should mention that one of the benefits of ukhda
There is also a textural benefit to this cooking process: the rice starches become thicker, making the grain surface harder and glassier, thus preventing the grains from sticking to one another. This technique is used in many Krsna prasad recipes, like Pushpanna Rice.
Mudki is also the name for a preparation where the rice is cooked in molasses or jaggery, making a darkened sweet.
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