If you’ve heard this name for the first time – NO! We are not talking about poo or poop. ‘Pootharekulu’ as it is called in its birthland is a unique delicacy that is adored by millions of people.
We are talking about the mighty ‘Pootharekulu’ that emerge from the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh. It is also popularly known as the ‘paper sweet’. ‘Paper’ ‘Sweet’ - note that down. It is quite often misunderstood for ‘pepper sweet’. Alas! Its name arises due to the unique texture of the sweet. It quite literally feels, looks and tears like a paper. Yet, it tastes a hundred times better, much akin to the sweet nectar of fresh honey.
The name in Telugu, the language of Andhra Pradesh, translates to two words ‘Pootha’ + ‘Reku’ (‘rekulu’ in plural form). Here ‘Pootha’ means coating and ‘Reku’ means sheet. It is essentially a description of its one-of-a-kind texture.
Well, rightly so, the sweet has certainly earned its name.
The making of the sweet is quite an interesting process. The recipe is dormant only to a rare set of individuals that have mastered the art over several years. These individuals are hundreds of women in and around Atreyapuram Village near East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. This village is also where the iconic sweet first originated.
A special type of rice batter is prepared from a variety of rice called ‘Jaya’ that is locally produced. This rice is usually soaked for several hours and then blended into a fine batter. The remaining process is the secret behind the popularity of this sweet. It begins by heating an earthen pot that is laid inverted on direct flame. Then, a fine cloth is dipped into the batter and immediately spread on the surface of the hot pot. The cloth is then quickly removed to form a paper-thin film of starch on the surface of the hot pot. This paper-thin layer is the main ingredient of the sweet which comprises its body.
Once cooked to the chef’s perfection, the film is intricately removed and stuffed with fillings of ghee (clarified butter), jaggery, powdered sugar, dry fruits, nuts and many more. Once filled, the sheets are delicately folded into a roll and packed for dispatch. Now as easy as that appears, in context of doing is extremely difficult.
The most common variety of ‘Pootharekulu’ is with the regular filling of powdered sugar. However, these days, one can find ‘Pootharekulu’ in all sorts of variants like in fillings with jaggery which is a much healthier alternative to regular powdered white sugar. The addition of dry fruits and nuts also give a scrumptious bite to otherwise melt-in-mouth texture of paper-thin sheets of rice starch and sugar.
The village of Atreyapuram is famous worldwide owing to the production of this unique sweet throughout its lanes. The visuals of preparing ‘Pootharekulu’ is a delight to tourists’ experience of Andhra Pradesh. It remains a traditional sweet of the state and a flagbearer of its excellence in culinary mastery and competence. We think that one should opine his/her verdict on the sweet only after tasting it, at least once in their lifetime. We vouch that it is one of those things that is as good as it is hyped. It rightfully earns its reputation and praise.