Thursday, August 2, 2007

Kambu Saatham (Cooked Bajra)

No summer meal lunch or dinner in my grandparents house was complete without a earthenware pot holding some Kambu saatham balls swimming in water. It was a favorite of my grandfather and the ritual involved breaking one of the balls and mixing with some freshly churned buttermilk and a pickle on the side. I have to confess though, even having watched this countless times I never ventured out to try. It simply did not occur to me to take a taste. The reason perhaps was its plain looking appearance and lack of pretense. Oh the fool that I was.

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This is a quintessentially Kongu preparation, especially during the summer moths because of its cooling effects. Kongus being a farming community and long before rice became a staple, Kambu was part of the daily diet, cultivated primarily during the drier months and rich in minerals and fiber, which as we all know is what we need more than carbs. A diet rich in these cereals is essential for a healthy diet and a rice free meal was not uncommon in a lot of Kongu homes. I hear doctors in India are advising increasing the use of these cereals and reducing the rice consumption especially for people who have diabetes or gluten allergy. Our fore fathers were much smarter than we give credit for.

Kambu Saatham is also one of my recent interests. I love the Kambu dosai MIL made once with the Kambu she found lying around my pantry. I have been hooked and try to bring some whenever I visit India. Nothing fancy, cooked just like rice and primarily eaten with yogurt and pickle on the side, I got reintroduced a few summers ago. Especially on hot and humid summer days there is nothing cooling and at the same time comforting. I have seen Kambu sold as bird feed in the US.

Kambu that my mother brought here was already pounded and the outer skin removed.

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Kambu Saatham

1. 1 Cup Kambu
2. 3 3/4 cups water

1. Pick out the stones and break the cumbu coarsely in a blender
2. Heat the water in a pressure cooker, mix the cumbu and cook for 5 whistles. When the pressure is gone open the lid and if slightly watery, keep the heat in a low flame and mix it, till it thickens a bit.
3. Make them into balls and drop them in water.

Serve with yogurt or buttermilk with a favorite pickle on the side.


  1. ISG, I must look this up -- it looks like millet!? If that is so, I am extra-happy to see this recipe. I see the grain all the time, but never know how to cook it. Sometimes the simple things are best after all... especially in summer's heat.

    A really great post! :)

  2. I have heard my dad and grand dad speak about this saying it tastes very nice. I have never had it but want to have it sometime in my life. at least I got to see its pic here.

  3. wow thats interesting i never knew of cooking bajr, i always wondered why they sell whole bajra. nice one i think we can serve as we do for ragi balls right!

  4. We never realise all these, don't we? There are countless dishes I wish I had tasted then... Are you from Kovai? or Nellai?

  5. Indo, good post! Kongunad is picking up only very slowly as a cuisine here in India - we went for a food fest a few years ago(and didn't notice anything Kongunad after that till this year again!). It was so different from the rest and quite worth the money!

  6. Linda, yes it is a type of millet.
    It is almost like coming full circle, now the popularity of millets and other cereals are on the increase mainly for health reasons.

    Sharmi, I think you can find them in Whole Foods kind of stores, ask for millets.

    Certainly Roopa, pound it or run it through the blender so it is easier to cook. People make rotis with the flour, I make dosas.

    Suganya, sure and without the side effects of the calrofic rich foods.
    Yes from the Kovai area.

    Sra that is interesting to note that Kongu cusine was showcased as a category by itself and gladder that you think it was worth the money.

  7. You know of the things I love about blogging and writing about food is that one gets to re-discover so many things from our childhood... Good for you!

  8. Hi Indo,I do get Bajra flour but not the whole grain.Sounds interesting.
    These days I am thinking hard too to remember what my grandparents ate.I have lost 3 grandparents already and just one left.It makes me anxious that some of the recipes will die with her.My mom is not very interested in those much.
    Great post Indo,dig out some more to record here.Looks like a comfort food with memories attached!:))

  9. never heard about it and trying hard to imagine how it must tatse.

  10. what all we do in the name of eating healthy!!! its really pity that we never understood the importance of simple and humble food like these which our grandparents used to eat everyday.
    thank u for cumbu recipe indo. i see that you didn't add any salt while cooking bajra.

  11. This looks like a great recipe...I remember my mom making bajra roti but only in winter as it was considered to have a lot of heat...i think it must be a different variety as it was slightly greenish in colour.

  12. Cynthia so true and only now starting to realize the wisdom in those simple humble foods like Sia says.

    Asha I do understand your anxiety, I try my best to learn as much as possible, but it is different when they were young and ruled the kitchen.

    Sia, what a pity right? We would all be healthy if only we followed what our ancestors did. I also hear that the severe water shortages would have been much lower if people had rotated with these millets which are very drought resistant instead of growing rice all the time.

    No need to add salt, the taste is good even without that.

    Tee, it could be a different type of millet, this one is called Pearl Millet and it is made for its cooling effects during the summer months in my parts.

  13. I'm very very impressed. Wow! You made it yourself. :) Do also store the balls in water and drink it the next day and the day after mixing with curd and salt and some of the water that it was stored in? We drink back-home like that and it's awesome.. Thakkali oorugai is my fav combo with this drink.

    Indo, Is it necessary to remove the skin? I saw some kambu in one of the ethnic markets here and wanted to try.

  14. Kay, don't forget my mom is here for the summer so I have some expert advice on hand. Oh yes DH loves to drink that water. Me not so much.

    Kay only if there is husk on the grains you have to remove that, if that is removed just break it coarsely using the blender.

    Here is what my mom says that might work if you have husk.
    Send it through the blender and if you have the pulse setting use that and then முறம் வைத்து புடைக்க வேண்டும். If that is not possible just soak it in water and husk will float on top.

  15. Sandeepa if you have cooked broken wheat like cooking rice, the texture is almost like that but the taste is unique, bajra and other millets are common in Rajasthan also. It is mostly common in semi arid regions.

  16. Coool! :) Let me try it and tell you how it went. I might pick a packet from the store, today or tomorrow. Thanks for all the tips (thanks to your mom too!)

  17. When the Cumbu Saatham is hot you can also mix it with ghee and sugar for a sweet treat. I use to love this as a Kid.

  18. My friend from Erode gave Kumbu to me when she came back from India.
    I will try it out.


  19. I finally tried it yesterday using store bought broken-kambu. Thanks Indo for the recipe and the encouragement!

  20. I am going to try this in home today .

  21. I am going to try this in home today .

  22. What to say? just today I had this and of my fav food!!!


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