These soft and fluffy flakes of steamed rice gently flavoured with the exotic coconut, palm jaggery and gingelly (sesame) oil are wholesome and delightful and a powerful way to start your day.
Roast the rice flour over medium flame in a kadai or wok (refer 'Equipment' in the Notes section) for 8 minutes or until you get the roasted smell of rice flour, and it is off-white. Stir constantly and don’t wait for it to brown.
Put the moistened rice flour on top of the cotton cloth. With the long end of a wooden spoon make a few holes in the mound of flour so the steam flows easily through these air pockets.
Cover the vessel with a bowl — or any dome-shaped lid that fits tightly atop the vessel, not a flat one — and place it over high heat.
From the time the water starts boiling (you’ll hear it), give the puttu 20 minutes to cook on high heat.
During that time stir the flour twice so the cooking is even, and before you cover it with a bowl, make the little pockets in the rice flour, so the steam comes through them; it facilitates even cooking.
After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle a thin layer of grated coconut on the perforate disc in the puttu maker, and top it with a thick layer of the moistened rice flour. Top it with a thin layer of grated coconut, followed by a thick layer of moistened rice flour, and so on until it is full. Do not press it in; let it sit lightly. Place this portion over the one with water and let it cook in the steam for 7 minutes. If you are using an idli maker, place a clean cotton cloth over the idli mould and spoon a 2 cm-layer (3/4 inch-layer) of the moistened rice flour over it. Let it sit lightly, do not press it down. Let it cook in the steam for 20 minutes.
To make sweet puttu, take a helping of puttu on your plate or in your bowl, and add an equal amount of ripe mashed banana into it. Add more banana if you want it sweeter or jaggery or any other sweetener (maple syrup, agave nectar, muscovado sugar) of your choice. Pour in a teaspoon of gingelly (sesame) oil (you can add ghee if you want), add 2 tablespoons grated coconut, and a pinch of cinnamon powder or cardamom powder. Enjoy!
Take a helping of puttu in your bowl, add jaggery, a teaspoon of gingelly oil, add 2 tablespoons grated coconut, and a pinch of cardamom or cinnamon powder, and as much milk or coconut milk or almond milk as you like (porridge consistency)! Slurrrrp.
If you’re eating it for lunch or dinner, try it with fish curry, or chicken stew, or a vegetable stew. A popular choice is kadala curry (black chickpea curry).
Since this portion of puttu serves two, you can double it for four people. Whatever portion you are using (even if you are using a handful of flour, just for yourself!), remember that the coconut is half that portion. If you want puttu podi, after you mix in water, let it rest for 10 minutes before you place it on the cloth to steam. Do not roast the puttu podi.
Equipment: a kadai, or wok, or deep frying pan; a deep aluminium/steel vessel; a thin cotton cloth or a multi-layered cheesecloth; a big bowl to cover the vessel with (the opening must sit firmly over the opening of the aluminium vessel); a cotton string. Of course, all this is in the case that you do not have a puttu maker.