Theratti Paal

Growing up doesn’t seem to have made me less rebellious.  It seems to me that even now, my Mom only has to tell me that something is not a good idea, and suddenly it suddenly becomes the most attractive option.

So there I was, stuck with a gallon of expired milk, as I mentioned in my earlier post.  Rasagullas were the only way to go, my Mom told me.  Theratti paal was a definite no-no, it would take far too long and I would be bored.  Are you surprised, then, that I suddenly wanted to try making theratti paal ?

It seemed the simplest recipe on earth too.  Boil milk.  Add sugar or jaggery and (optional) elaichi.  That’s it.  Even making Maggi noodles involves more steps. (Boil water. Break Maggi brick into little pieces.  Add masala powder. Add (optional) peas, vegetables.)  So how difficult can theratti paal be, I thought.

Except, of course, Maggi is usually finished, if not in two minutes, at least in five.  Theratti paal is not a dish that cares for Time.  You can see that this dish belongs to the times when people had never heard of kitchen timers and dusk meant that the cows came home (or the husbands did). The men spent hot afternoons sleeping or chatting at the village pipal tree (and in later generations, reading the Hindu).  The women, meanwhile, passed their time making theratti paal.  You might, of course, consider that the women were wiser.  Making theratti paal is way more interesting than reading the Hindu.  Watching paint dry would be more interesting. But I digress.

There is no quick way to making theratti paal.  Boiling the milk in the microwave doesn’t help either.  It still takes close to an hour, I am told, and continues to require constant attention and stirring. This dish is an attention-seeker cum laude.

I had chosen to boil the milk on the cooktop.  I divided my gallon of milk into two saucepans. One was destined to become rasagullas and the other, theratti paal.  The rasagullas were progressing at a fast pace.  But the milk in the other saucepan was still boiling sedately. At least, the milk was still good, despite being a week past expiry. Otherwise, I doubt if I could have made theratti paal at all.

I finished making the rasagullas and peeked in.  The milk was still turning over lazily, blowing bubbles at me.  It had shrunk to half its volume, but did not seem any thicker for it.

I was suddenly assailed by doubts. Wasn’t the milk supposed to change color before you add the jaggery?  Wasn’t it supposed to thicken and turn creamy and stick to the bottom of the saucepan?  Did this milk know what it was supposed to do? Does theratti paal only work with whole milk?  Then I realized that the milk you get in India does not remotely resemble whole milk, and brightened up.

I turned up the gas.  I stirred madly.  Nothing happened.  I left it alone. Normally, the milk would have boiled over the moment I ignored it.  But not this time – it just ignored me back and continued to boil lazily.  What was it thinking – its toasty here, nice and cozy, let me snooze?

I lost patience and added the jaggery.  I added 1 cup of jaggery to the roughly half gallon/ 1 liter of milk, though you can add more if you have a sweet tooth.  In an ideal world, you would powder the jaggery, but small blocks are fine too; it’s going to melt in a few minutes anyway.

At least the color changed to brown now 🙂  The milk also seemed thicker, though it may only have been due to the jaggery.  I then added the elaichi.

The theratti paal started looking thicker, suddenly.  The milk had come out of its siesta and realized it was supposed to do something. So it stopped blowing bubbles and started sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.  It was clearly agitated.  I let it simmer for a few minutes before turning the gas off.

Next morning, on Skype, my mother couldn’t believe her eyes. Rasagullas AND Theratti Paal? Made by her daughter?  What was the world coming to?  And then she wondered why I wasn’t making any of this stuff when she was here last.

The question remains – would I do it again?  The next time I find milk expiring on me, that is?  Or the next time my parents visit?  Reason tells me rasagullas are tastier and much easier to make.  But I am too irrational to rule out the possibility 🙂  Maybe all it needs is my Mom to tell me the theratti paal success was just beginner’s luck, or a flash in the (sauce)pan!


25 thoughts on “Theratti Paal

  1. Lekhni, even the milk you boil has character and temperament.
    I have a huge idiotic grin on my face as I write- such fun this was, on par with your rasagullas:)

  2. Making theratti paal is way more interesting than reading the Hindu.

    I wonder if N. Ram and his Paati ever argued over that topic?

    //I haven’t had theratti paal in like 2 million years. Amends must be made. Pronto.

  3. Josh Maxwell: It’s the Misty Look theme with 2 sidebars; I have retained the link to the website at the footer of my blog. I just increased the width of the “container” and the sidebars.

    Dipali: That milk was just lazy 😀 But the theratti paal came out fine in the end, so I shall forgive it 🙂 I’m glad you liked the post!

    km: I wish they had argued over that topic – the Hindu would have been all the better for it 🙂 Did you make theratti paal then/ are you making it now?

    Adithya: I suppose 🙂 Too bad you don’t get it in the Indian grocery stores..or do you? I’ve never looked.

  4. Hi Lekhni,

    We have a fest “Umang” which is one of the top college fests in mumbai. We publish the official Umang magazine called “Sans Fronti?res” and are inviting famous writers and bloggers to give in their contributio for the same.

    You get a complementary copy of the magazine if your article is published.

    Get Published in Sans Fronti?res!

    Get a parchment, seize your quill and start scribbling! Here’s your chance to get your words in print. Submit original articles in your style and on any subject for Sans Fronti?res, the official Umang magazine. Creative writing, fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetries are all welcome and the subject matter is entirely upto you. No clue where to begin from? Then here’s your aid?

    1. “I wnt 2 b ur FRAAND!” (The Boons and Banes of Social Networking Sites)

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  5. Pingback: Spoilt Milk and Sweet Tooth Leads To… | DesiPundit

  6. I’ve only heard of this and seen this in Chettinaad restaurants. Nice piece! My milk spoils the whole hog – it curdles when I put it on the stove!

  7. lekhni,

    nowadays women use condensed milk and it all becomes a 10 minute thing. The glorious test match nature of thiratti paal has now become a twenty20 affair.


    :-). I like your innocence.

    ‘thiratti’ and ‘thiruttu’ are two different words. ‘ Thiruttu’ means theiving. ‘thiratti’ literally means to collect, gather or condense spread out things to a small location. As people stir and stir to condense milk to a small ‘thogaiyal’ like shape it is called ‘thiratti’.

  8. La Vida Loca: It tasted quite yummy too 🙂 I am glad it’s not your favorite, we don’t want to make you more homesick, do we? 😉

    ruhi: That sounds very interesting! Thanks for the invitation. But the deadline is less than a week away!

    IdeaSmith: “Thiruttu-paal” is a good one 🙂 Aren’t childhood malapropisms hilarious (and cute) ?

    sra: Yes, I am glad this milk wasn’t yet spoilt, despite being past expiry. Maybe it lasted longer because it was an unopened can..

    mekhala: Yes, I should try badam halwa too.. now that I am trying out sweets. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and usually don’t bother eating or buying sweets!

    ??!: I have managed to milk that gallon to make 2 sweets and write 2 blog posts 😉

    harini calamur: I would have said exactly the same thing, if not for said expired gallon staring me in the face. As I think about it now, the ideal time to make it is during a 20-20 cricket match. Simmer the milk, get up after every over and stir it. It should be ready by the end of the match 🙂

    Hawkeye: Agreed, and condensed milk might work if someone actually sets out to make theratti paal. Speaking about 20-20 and theratti paal, read comment above. It does seem a made for 20-20 dish, what?

  9. kavi: I personally don’t believe in avoiding any food. Eating smaller portions and exercising works better in the longer term, what? So indulge 🙂

    maxdavinci: You mean you have made theratti paal multiple times? I’m impressed !

  10. So when the milk boils doesn’t it pour out of the container? How do you get it to not do that if you are continuously boiling?

    – a novice who is just 2 days away from learning to make tea – with teabags – in a microwave

  11. blib: No, it won’t boil over 🙂 After it starts to boil, you should simmer the gas. The milk will then continue to boil, but at the bottom of the saucepan. Let me know how your experiments go!

  12. mm, looks delicious indeed. I just told my mom to make it tmro 😀 Its been quite a long time since I had it….

    P.S: I have the sweetest tooth ever!

  13. That’s like one of the cutest recipes I’ve read! I haven’t made theratti paal yet, and am not sure when I’d do that, but reading this recipe sure did make me smile. Thanks a ton Lekhni!

  14. Pingback: Self-improvement lessons from gulab jamuns | The Imagined Universe

  15. I read this blog as the milk for my theratti-paal is boiling (and boiling.. and boiling…). I have to take my husband to task for tellin me “why don’t u simply make theratti-paal?” for a Diwali get-together!!!

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