When I was 14 years old we moved to a different city where my parents rented a little house in the outskirts. The house had a little gate leading to the small front yard, a backyard that was bigger than the house itself, stairs on the side of the house which led to the terrace, and a teeny-tiny room under the stairs. Among the many houses we lived in, this was the first one with a terrace of its own.
Every summer this terrace was put to good use by my mother. The coconut trees in the backyard were too far away to provide any shade leaving the terrace open to sunlight for most parts of the day. This made it a perfect place for drying the fryums that mumma made every summer – fryums not just for the summer but for the entire year and not just for us but for all her friends too. That was a whole lot of fryums to be made in one month!
Mumma was known for many of her recipes. It will ever remain a mystery how she kept her vadais super-crispy on the outside and soft on the inside or how her biryani tasted the same every single time or how her paniyarams were just perfect in shape and taste. Among many things, she is still remembered for the fryums she made. Every time I go home, mumma’s friend from church—Jayshree aunty—gifts me a box of homemade fryums in my mother’s memory.
Making homemade fryums is a tedious process but the rewards outweigh the efforts. Mumma ensured that my sister and I were part of the tedious process. She made many kinds of fryums – rice, sago, semolina, finger millet (ragi); many flavours – cumin, onion, tomato, pepper; different shapes - spiral, spherical, circular, cylindrical, and irregular. The spiral ones were the most difficult to make. We needed the murukku instrument to make the spirals and there was only one of those at home so basically I didn’t need to help with the spirally ones (not that I ever got them right anyway!).
The sago ones were the easiest and every time mumma made them, we were rudely woken up by 5:30-6:00 in the morning. Mumma would have been up earlier to get the sago mix ready. My sister’s role was to secure the plastic sheets on the terrace with heavy stones or bricks (and then she could go back to sleep). My role was to carry the big cauldron of hot sago mix up the stairs and help her spread it on the plastic sheet using a tablespoon. Around 10 litres of the mix to be spread one spoon at a time at 6:00 in the morning. At that time, I did think that the world was better off without fryums!
Mumma is in heaven now and all I have are her memories and her recipes. The following is her famous sago fryum recipe (slightly modified by me) –
Sago - 1 cup
Salt - 1 tbsp
Cumin - 1 tbsp
Ginger (grated) - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Lemon juice - 1tsp
Vegetable Oil - 1 tsp
Flavouring agent (use any one)
Onion (finely chopped) - 1 cup
Tomato paste - 1 cup
Pepper (coarsely ground) - 1 tbsp
Green chilli (finely chopped) - 1 tsp