Meet the multi-talented Amma

Despite being an accomplished cook, National-award-winning actor, Saranya Ponvannan, says making a simple meal is her greatest challenge

October 16, 2017 08:40 pm | Updated October 17, 2017 03:46 pm IST

Saranya Ponvannan is flipping through the pages of an old handwritten recipe book, and laughing out loud. Most of the recipes, dictated by her mother, have been marked “To serve 20” or “To serve 50”.

“I can’t believe I cooked such large quantities in those days,” she says. “My passion for food started way too early: from the age of 11 or 12, and by the time I was 15, I had learnt all the nuances from my mother. I could cook everything, from starter to dessert, confidently.”

Successful innings

Saranya won the National award for best actress in 2011 for her performance in Thenmerkku Paruvakkatru . She made her entry into Kollywood as the female lead in Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan (1987). She has made her mark as the Amma of Kollywood, predominantly playing mother roles with élan.

“I hate missing meals, and make it a point to eat on time. On days we shoot without a break, I’m the first person to protest,” says Saranya. She says she plans her meals meticulously. But when she is on the sets, she enjoys what is served by the unit.

While shooting for Kodi , she says Dhanush once requested her to make him rasam and roast potatoes. Although she agreed immediately, she admits that she was nervous. “Even though I make all kinds of food and have mastered even the most difficult recipes, I am still not confident about making rasam ,” she says, adding, “I finally made kathirikka kaara kulamboo , muttai thokku , rasam and potato.” As her husband, actor and director Ponvannan, loves Mysore rasam, she says she finally learnt how to make it from Mallika Badrinath’s books.

Saranya Ponnvannan’s family recipe: Chicken Deviled FryIngredients: Country Chicken (washed and cleaned) 1 kilogramsRed chilly: 20 to 25 depending on spice levelWhite Vinegar: 10 mlBig onions: one kiloGinger-garlic paste: one tablespoon (optional)Thick coconut milk: 100 mlOil for cookingturmeric : 1.4 teaspoonSalt: as required For Garnish: Cardamom: 2Clove: 2Cinnamon: One inch piece Method: Marinade the chicken in vinegar and salt for one hour. Then heat the pan, and add oil and add the garnishing, and add sliced onions and when it turns brown, add red chillies and fry well. Then add chicken and fry on slow flame. When chicken is cooked add coconut milk, and cook. The coconut milk will transforms into oil and then keep on high flame and fry till it absorbs all oil and is roasted.

Saranya says her father AB Raj, a well-known filmmaker in Malayalam is a perfectionist and insists on good food at every meal. “My mother was an excellent cook. So my father was pampered with good food every day, and after a point he refused to adjust or compromise,” says Saranya, adding that she likes trying out recipes by Mallika Badrinath and Revathi Shanmugam. “Writing recipes is an art. Only those who have experience and expertise can come up with a workable recipe.”

The actress is currently shooting for Mannar Vagaiyara , directed by Bhoopathy Pandian. In her spare time, she designs and makes clothes for herself and her two college-going daughters. “I have been running DSOFT (Designing School of Fashion Technology) since 2014. I started off with five students, and today I train 80 students in a batch. My idea of starting such an institute was to teach tailoring in a way students can easily understand.” She says one of the best meals she’s eaten — outside of her home — was at the residence of the owners of RNS Foods, in Erode. “On a huge dining table, they served food on four mega-size banana leaves. All variety of non-vegetarian food” she says, adding, “Also unforgettable is the fish pasta which I had in Beijing many years ago.”

She says she hopes to write down all the recipes she has collected, tried and tested over a period of 35 years, and bring it out as a book some day.

“Everyone must cherish and pass on family recipes to the next generation. In our family, one particular dish qualifies as family recipe, our parambarai sothu and it is chicken devilled fry,” she says with pride. A recipe that was passed on to her by her father’s family, it is a easy to prepare with minimal ingredients.

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