The famously huge sweet tooth that I possess is not a thing of yesterday or today. It was very much prominent even in my childhood, grew in my adolescence and youth, and continues to grow still. As a child, I often used to demand for ‘something sweet’, and Amma had an instant solution for most such demands – a bowl of panchamritam. It was easy to make for a child who asked for a dessert ‘now!’, and it was healthier than the other chocolate- or cream-filled desserts that she could buy for me. ‘It is the food of the gods,’ she used to tell me. Considering that I loved bananas and dates, I found the confection she whipped up using these ingredients as the base, delicious. I didn’t mind eating it every so often. It smelled divine, too, to boot.
In my college years, panchamritam became a favourite go-to snack while studying for brain-taxing examinations. I began to make it as ‘prasadam’ on festive occasions. The panchamritam fever caught on with my Gujarati friends, too, and they started making it at home, too. Amma was only too happy to guide them with the right proportions for the different ingredients to be put in, and help them in procuring certain crucial additions from the ‘Madrasi shop’ in town. Panchamritam, thus, has a long legacy in our home, and the smell of it is sufficient to take me on a trip down memory lane. Over the years, though, I stopped making it – I think the lure of chocolate-ey, gooey, more sinful desserts was what took me away from it.
A couple of days back, I had this intense craving for panchamritam – the type that Amma used to make. Amma was immediately called, and the recipe was recollected. Luckily, I had most of the ingredients at home. Delectable panchamritam was whipped up, bowls were licked clean, and there were many sighs of contented pleasure, both the OH’s and mine. You’ve really got to eat this to know why it is called ‘the food of the goods’, ok?
Now, panchamritam can be made in a lot of different ways – in fact, I believe each Tamilian household has a slightly different variation of the recipe. Panchamritam made in other parts of the country tastes totally different, as far as I know. Bananas, though, are an ubiquitous component. The dish is, ideally, made using five major ingredients (the panch amritams or the five nectars), and I will list down the five that have traditionally been used in our home, here.
Ingredients (for 1 large bowl):
2 bananas, ripe but not overly so
About 2 tablespoons of ghee
6-7 fresh, moist dates
3-4 tablespoons of honey
4-5 tablespoons of crushed jaggery
1. Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl.
2. Deseed the dates and chop them up finely. Add the chopped dates to the mashed bananas.
3. Now, add the crushed jaggery, honey and ghee to the bowl.
4. Mix well, till everything gets thoroughly incorporated into the mixture. Your kitchen will start smelling divine at this point.
5. This is optional, but it makes the confection smell and taste even better – Add a teaspoon of powdered elaichi (cardamom) or a pinch of pachchai karpooram (edible camphor). Mix well.
Slurp it up, after offering it to the gods, of course, if you are making it for a pooja or religious ceremony. But then, it’s not one’s fault if one cannot wait for the pooja to get over to get one’s hands on something that smells – and tastes – so wonderful!
Do you have any panchamritam memories to share?
If you have never had this dish before, I really do hope you will try it out in your kitchen!