Avalose Unda, The Traditional Christmas Sweet From Kerala
Image Credit: Avalose Undas, lachus_magic_treasures@Instagram

God's Own Country turns into a decadent food heaven with the arrival of Christmas. Local kitchens become busy preparing traditional indigenous delicacies. One such Christmas special Kerala sweetmeat is Avalose Unda. Also known as Ari Unda and Avalosunda, its native translation means rice balls. It is one of the favourites in Kerala's Christian households.

Ingredients that make it striking

The recipe of Avalose Unda calls for minimal ingredients. The traditional sweet has a pleasing fragrance that comes from roasted rice, cardamom, and coconut. Jaggery works as the sweetener adding to its health quotient. The authentic recipe uses chemba or matta rice, which is dry-roasted until it develops a brown hue. It is followed by pounding to a fine powder.  

Connection with avalose podi

It is associated with Avalose Podi. This podi or powder is usually consumed as a "four o'clock snack" or "naalu mani palaharam." The ingredients are roasted cumin seeds, fresh shredded coconut, and rice powder till they are lightly golden. This gives the Avalose Podi a very long shelf life, lasting up to 6 months and possibly longer. Keralites eat this podi with sugar to make it more palatable as a satiating and nutritious evening snack. Some people like it with honey or banana. 

Freshly rolled ariundas, Image Source: the_mannchattis@Instagram

This podi or flour is used to produce Avalose Unda for festivities throughout the year in Kerala, especially Christmas. This simple sweet delicacy necessitates only a few ingredients. To begin, roast the Avalose Podi slowly and evenly on medium heat. The jaggery syrup should not be cooked any further than one string consistency. Otherwise, the unda/laddoos would harden and become hard to chew.

A fading tradition

A plate full of avalose undas, Image Source: Marias Menu@Facebook

In the olden days, preparing Avalose Unda sweets was a family affair. Often the women of the house, especially the older ones who were seasoned cooks, would take the lead in making avalose undas. The younger ones would patiently watch the elders roast, pounding the rice and blending with other ingredients to hand-roll round balls or laddoos. Often, they were prepared in bulk to distribute among friends and family members. These sweets have been a festive staple in Kerala. With the advent of modern baked treats, the humble ari unda mostly took a back seat. But a few keep the heritage alive by making it during festivals like Christmas.

Part of festive gifting

Around the world, a few edibles and potables have been considered excellent presents during festivals and special occasions. It perfectly applies to Avalose Unda. Often this traditional Kerala sweet goes into the Christmas hamper along with authentic fruit cake, Kuzhalappam, Achappam and Panchasara Varatti.