Pittu - A Popular Food Item in Sri Lanka

Pittu - Introduction

Pittu is a popular and frequently prepared food item among Sri Lankans, both Tamils living in Northern and Eastern parts of Sri lanka as well as Sinhalese living in the rest of the areas of the country. This item is prepared in some parts of South India too, but it does not seem that it commands such an important place in the food habits of people there. Traditionally the main ingradient of "Pittu" is rice flour, but kurakkan flour or wheat flour also can be used. In fact wheat flour was introduced in Sri Lanka only during the second world war. The other ingradient is scraped coconut. Now wheat flour also mixed with rice flour or kurakkan flour in the preparation of pittu.

Flours used need to be roasted first. Boiled water and required amount of salt are added to this flour and made it into a fairly tight mix. This mix is then broken into small pieces of approx. 2mm. to 5mm. diameter in size. This done either by hand, or an empty codenced milk container is used to break the flour mix in to pieces. This granular flour mix is steamed with scraped coconut inter-layered.

Steaming is done in a special cylindrical mould. Thraditionally, this mould was made out of hollow bamboo (see the picture below). Now, moulds made out of aluminium together with purpose made pots are available. In northern Sri Lanka, a conical mould woven out of leaves of Palmyra Palm. In this case, scraped coconut is not inter-layered, but mixed evenly with the granules of flour mix. In the last case, the mix can even be steamed in a normal steaming pan.

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SunSeven profile image

SunSeven 9 years ago from Singapore / India

I didn't know that Pittu is a favorite dish with Srilankans as well. My understanding was that it is a Keralite dish, mainly for breakfast. Thank you for this article. Best regards.

Rmnathan profile image

Rmnathan 9 years ago from Sharjah Author

Thanks for your comments Sunseven. I know that in Karala this is a favourite item. However, my understanding was that it is not a freaquent dish there. In UAE there is a large number of Karalite population and there are hundreds of Keralite restaurents too. Pittu is not a common item in these restaurents. May be in Kerala this is not the case. Here in Keralite restaurents, next to rice, paratta and Chapatti are popular. For Breakfast, Idiyappam, Appam, Dosa etc. are available. Sri Lankan culture has lot more in common with Kerala. You can see this in Dress habits, some art forms, architecture etc.

SunSeven profile image

SunSeven 9 years ago from Singapore / India

I think Kerala and Lanka have close relations for centuries, if not 1000s pf years. In Ramayana, there is reference to Lanka and the Dhanushkodi. But then, it is in Tamil Nadu.

Rmnathan profile image

Rmnathan 9 years ago from Sharjah Author

I think the relations between Kerala and Sri Lanka are to a large extent through informal means including low profile migraition of people, small time trading etc. Unlike in the case of Tamilnadu, Kerala has not been prominently mentioned in any ancient historical records releted to Sinhalese or Sri lankan Tamils. However, ancient Sinhalese records mentioned an event that took place in 2nd Century AD in Chera country, the present Kerala, then one of the three major Tamil countries. This was before Malayalam evolved as a separate language. According to this record King of Chera country invited tha king of Lanka for an occasion to honour "Kannaki" the heroine of a Tamil litterary work. Lanka king who visited for that celeberation took a statue of "kannaki" back home and introduced kannaki worship in Sri Lanka. Kannaki is still known as Pattini goddess among Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka have many differences between them. However, Keralites have many similarities with both of them. In fact some believe, the ancestors of many Sri lankan Tamils migrated from Chera country when it was still Tamil speaking. Although they contunue to speak Tamil, their accent has striking similarities with Malayalam.

sitashank@gmail.com 8 years ago

Hi,I agree with Sun seven that pittu or puttu as it is known in Tamilnadu,is very popular in Kerala.You may not see it in Restaurants there,but it is offered by street vendors ,in Tamilnadu at least.,and definitely in their homes.My friend is a Keralite who makes this often.In Tamilnadu,it is a common dish especially in the southern Parts.We make Pittus for festivals and special occassions,using Jaggery,syrup[Paagu].It is a Special Item at our homes.

mary  8 years ago

mary had a little lamb little lamb little lamb but she hated one of them

Mikey 8 years ago

So she ate the poor little lamb and fed the remains of its remains to her cows

Faizal Mirza 8 years ago

Pittu was introduced to Sri-Lanka by the muslims(ie Persians or Indian muslims).It's the favourite breakfast dish of many muslims in Sri - Lanka.

Rmnathan profile image

Rmnathan 8 years ago from Sharjah Author

This is a new information for me. This may be possible as it is popular in Kerala which is a an Indian state with large number of Muslim population. Thanks for the information.

jiva 8 years ago


pittu from persia - that snews to me. India MUslims are not Persian. There are many types of Indian Muslims. Some are native Dravidians, some Rajput, some Bengali. I would like to know what source you have to say pittu was introduced by Persians? The Persians introduced the first ovens to India - hence Nan bread, tikka etc. without saying which Indian Muslims or Persian and when it is difficukt to give credit to the arguement.

There is reference to Puttu with the Saiva sait Manickavasagar(c. 862 C.E. – 885 C.E)

Puttu Thiruvizha (Festival) is the one among the 64 Thiruvilayadals of Lord Sundareswarar. It is celebrated at Puttu Thoppu in Madurai city every year in the Tamil month of "Avani". In this year, this festival will be going to celebrate on September 04, 2008. The Meenakshi Amman Temple will remain closed on this occasion, since the deities will be taken out for the festival.Story behind the Puttu ThiruvizhaPuttu Thoppu is situated on the south bank of River Vaigai. It is believed that this is the place where Lord Shiva performed one of his Thiruvilayadals. The Lord gave salvation to Manickavasagar and Vanthiammai, an old lady here on the river banks. The Pandya King ordered every citizen of Madurai to build a massive bund at the banks of River Vaigai in order to protect his kingdom from the natural disasters like floods in Vaigai. The old lady Vanthiammai was ordered by the guards to carry baskets of soil for the work. But she was unable to carry out the command. So she planned to offer Puttu for those who help her. Nobody come up to help her. Suddenly, Lord Shiva appeared as a youngster and offered to work for her. Upon eating a fistful of the delicious puttu, he then slept off by the river bed while worked on. The king monitoring the progress of the work. At that time, the king watched the youngster (Lord Shiva) who slept off at the river bank. The King got angry and struck him with a cane. And a miracle is believed to have occurred. The blow on the lad landed on everyone's back including the ruler's. It is believed that Lord Shiva performed the Thiruvilayadal to give 'Mukthi (Moksha)' to the old woman.

Sathees 7 years ago

Commonly Rice flour is roasted, wheat flour steamed before preparing for pittu. Roasted wheat flour gives you a bit of a bitter taste!

Rmnathan profile image

Rmnathan 7 years ago from Sharjah Author

You are right Sathees. Roasted wheat flour gives a bit of a bitter taste, but that also gives a different taste.

sarin90 profile image

sarin90 6 years ago from India

Hey it is Much poppular in Kerala.

nithin 4 years ago

yes,i think so. we keralites looks similr to srilankans. that is because we both are from south asia south asians are very similar both in life style and in dressings

my cousine looks like marvan attapattu

Yal-Devi 4 years ago

Many of you guys need good education on the right history of Tamilians of the world. Please do some research, Specially about the country Lemuria and their culture..........and I must appreciate Jiva for writing some sensible comment...........others plz dont comment on Pittu and its tradition without knowing the history.

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