Nook addae machine press rice noodles Udupi karnataka

Making Semai Adde

I mostly go home only once a year, usually for Christmas. This is also when I grill the poor old things at home for posts for my blog. I hate to do this as this kind of information is passed on during casual conversation or while doing something related together, rather than through interrogation. Many times it ends up causing a mental block in the interviewee as I try to make the most of my available time. Mum and her sisters are so used to doing things without recipes and measurements as repeating them again and again over 60 years has made it part of themselves.

The best way to go about things and refresh the memory however is to do it practically, as it rekindles old memories and gives momentum to the flow of information trapped in those wise old heads. The reason for presenting this post out of order is that I received at least four hits from Google with people looking for the recipe for this dish and I felt guilty  for withholding this information as it was more or less ready for publishing.The Nook adde (yeah that’s what the semai adde is also called) press has already been described in a previous post and I must confess that I have never had an opportunity to witness a hand operated press in operation apart from faint childhood memories. This post is written to preserve for posterity how it was made in my mother’s family. I’m sure some of my nephews and nieces would want to know about it when they come of age.

I borrowed the press from my aunt who rescued it from ending up with a scrap dealer, and her daughter graciously assisted my mother in demonstrating the technique. From my mother’s side there was only one condition -that I should do the grinding. This seemed simple enough until I actually sat down to do it. Grinding half cooked rice without adding any water is a nightmare in any generation -especially for the poorly built sedentary workers from mine. Not much writing to do here, hope you are ready for a lot of pictures!

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This is some par boiled rice into which boiling water was poured and left to stand overnight.
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Surprise!! -Nasty surprise actually. I learn that I have to grind only small quantities of rice at a time
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My poor aching back! This is torture, all the rice comes out of the grinding pit and it is quite difficult to put back as it has acquired a thick pasty consistency. Like I said before, no water is allowed to be added.

 

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Over at last! Every time I thought it was done, mum kept saying that it wasn’t fine enough. Now I know why truck drivers drink! Man that was hard work!

 

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Turned it over to mum and she shaped it into two oblong cakes or whatever you want to call them… I’m past caring at this point.
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Off to the garden to fetch a leaf from the plantain/banana tree to roll up both the “cakes”
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There they are -ready to be steamed. The only thing not traditional here is the lousy aluminum copy of the traditional copper steamer. Put a lid on the steamer, and its off to the plantain tree again. Remember that the water must be at a rolling boil BEFORE you put in the “cakes”.
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In the garden, strip a section of the outer layer of the plantain/banana tree about two feet in length. This doesn’t harm the tree in any way. However don’t cut the layer all around the tree!!
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Cut it in two breadth wise and wash and wipe it dry. You now have two trays for receiving the noodles from the press.
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Oil the wooden dowel on the press and also the spiral groove cut from the handle to the press . Remember to use cooking oil, or you might end up with a bout of the loosies or maybe something worse.
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By now your “cakes” must have been steamed well. Test it with a wooden toothpick and make sure it is well done. Remember that the “cake” must go to the press piping hot, so the steamer is kept simmering and only one cake is taken out at a time and the lid put on between uses.
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One more step, something to place the noodles on. This is a tatti kudpu, a tray/plate woven from a creeper which has been covered with a thin cotton towel. This lets the hot noodles air and cool without becoming soggy on account of the steam. We use the tatti kudpu for receiving hot dosas’ from the griddle as well.
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Here comes the first one, piping hot and straight from the steamer
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This is leveled off -in this case with the rice serving spoon that my mum is using. Sorry about that stuff stuck to the piston. This was taken during the second run as the picture shot during the first run did not come out well.
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Next the wooden piston is positioned properly and the handle is then cranked. Mum must have done this many many times when she was younger, as she was part of a large family; the size of the cake fits the noodle press exactly in spite of her shaping the cake by estimation without measuring the actual container.
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The noodles are collected in the tray that was made from the plantain tree. Note my cousin sister’s foot holding down the press -that is mandatory as the press is not bolted down.
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The noodles are inverted onto the covered tatti kudpu
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Excess matter is removed from the wooden ram using the fingers (not everything will come off) and it is moistened with water to make it non stick before proceeding with the next “cake”
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At last, all that hard work finally paid off. The old folks sure were tough!

Observant people must be wondering why we prepared two trays for receiving the noodles. When I asked mum, I realized that she accidentally did it from habit. In her time, it was a high speed operation consisting of a team of members from the household as hardworking farm hands would need to eat a large quantity of these noodles to fill their stomachs. So while one person was cranking the press, two were ready to collect the noodles turn by turn and transport them to the table. Probably someone who finished eating would then come and relieve the person who was part of the team so that they could catch up with breakfast.

Don’t confuse these with Idiappams’ in which the steaming is done after pressing the noodles.

This tastes best with coconut milk sweetened with jaggery, just like steamed sweet potatoes go well with lightly salted or sweetened coconut milk. It should also have no trouble teaming up with any of our gravies/curries in coastal south Karnataka. I heard that it was sun dried and stored up in Mudi’s (A round package created by wrapping either rice or in this case dried semai adde in hay) in the rafters above the hearth where smoke from the cooking fire kept it safe from pests. It was used as a snack for kids and also used during lean times and probably carried along when travelling.

There is some folklore which goes along with this dish as its name “nook or nooku” means to push (In Tulu). It was common practice for folks travelling to stay with friends or relatives on their way as there were no Hotels in the old days. Hence when guests overstayed, they were served the Nook adde and they were supposed to take the hint and leave. It was synonymous with pushing the guest out of their house. Hope you enjoyed this post!

CREDITS: | Manorama Soans | Prabhavati Kunder | Rohini Mathias | Sumana Pramodan

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