Arrow root halva or Koova Kurukkiyathu is an easy sweet dish to prepare. The texture is very similar to Jelly, solid but not hard. Usually coconut bits are added to it for the much needed textural contrast. It was customary to serve this for Thiruvathira along with puzhukku. Koova Kurukkkiyathu (or Varattiyathu or Verakiyathu) being the sweet complement to the main meal – Puzhukku.
Arrowroot Halva is one of the easiest dishes to make. Arrowroot ( Koova in Malayalam) does not have any discernible flavor. It is mainly a starch and as such can be used in soups and stews as a thickener. Adding jaggery makes it sweet and t the halva tastes like toffee, though not as sticky.
Halva and its semi solid cousins “Kurukku” are notoriously time consuming to make. Hours of stirring is required to reduce the mix to the right consistency. Thanks to the thickening power of arrow root this halva takes only 15 minutes to make. Fifteen minutes to a yummy dish from scratch – doesn’t that make for a happy cook !!!
My mother has a few of Arrowroot pants in her backyard. They are in the ginger family (my humble (un)scientific observation). The roots are similar to ginger but with just one main stem and no off shoots. The ones my mom grew were white in color, but there is another variety with blue/purple colored roots.
Extracting the arrow root powder was a time consuming affair. The ladies in the village used to do this as a group . Each rhizome is cleaned and grated using the finest grater one can find. The idea is to form it into a a pulp and expose as much of the starch as possible. This is washed many times – to get rid of the grit and dirt that might have gotten inside wile grating.
The washed pulp is soaked in water and allowed to settle. All the starch settles to the bottom leaving a clear liquid on top. The solids are washed again if needed until a very white powder remains in the bottom. The clear water on top is drained and the settled solids are dried and stored until needed.
Here is my version for processing just a few arrow roots. Wash them well, rubbing to remove as much of the dirt and grit as possible. Using a peeler gently scrape off a thin layer of skin. Wash again. Slice the rhizomes into thin rounds. In batches process it in a blender adding enough water. When the roots are cleaned properly the blended much does not have to washed further. Transfer the mix into a bowl and allow it to settle. Drain the water and dry the solids under sun or in a warm oven. Once dried use a fine mesh sieve to filter out extra fibers and big pieces.
Doing all these by oneself was a lonesome job. The village ladies were wise to make this into a communal activity.
The main nutritional benefit of arrowroot was its easy digestibility. It was one of the solid foods that were given to infants when introducing solid foods. The infant version will have arrow root, a dash of jaggery and a pinch of salt and will look more white in color. As they start taking more solid food some might even prepare it with milk.This
This version has a lot of grated coconut. Some prefer to serve with with sliced bananas.
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