South Indian Soul Food: Fall In Love With The Delightful Panai Olai Kozhukattai

South Indian Soul Food: Fall In Love With The Delightful Panai Olai Kozhukattai

While extravagant desserts like cheesecakes, red-velvet and other trendy desserts might lure you with layers of rich cream and their sinful sweetness, the humble steamed Panai Olai Kozhukattai has a distinct charm to it, captivates you with its unique blend of flavours and textures that won’t weigh you down. Amongst all the varieties of Kozhukattais, something that majorly caught my fancy is the Panai Olai Kozhukattai, a treasured down South delicacy steeped in tradition and passed down by grandmothers’ loving hands keeping Tamil Nadu’s cultural and culinary heritage alive. 
During these two festivals – Chithirai Thiruvizha/Chithirai Pongal (April-May) and Thiru Kaarthigai, across the districts of Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari, tender palm leaves are easily available. The streets are festooned with lights, cut-outs of Gods and loudspeakers blare devotional songs. Houses are filled with relatives, good food and laughter and the aroma of these Panai Olai Kozhukattais makes the festivity even more special. Many households have different recipes, some even use sugar syrup, but the magic of this delicacy lies in the heavenly combination of palm jaggery and palm leaves. The tenderness of the palm leaves shares its earthy aroma and passes its flavour to the dumpling, making it a sacred offering to God. 
Also Read: South Indian Desserts: 7 Dessert Recipes You Can Make Under 30 Minutes

Photo Credit: Deepa Shri Rajan

As a kid, I have always waited for the pooja to finish, so that I can enjoy these soft, sweet, aromatic and tender Kozhukattais. The fun lies in unwrapping these from the palm leaves and is best enjoyed with coconut chunks as a side, thereby making use of the coconuts to the fullest after having performed the rituals at temples and homes. The nuttiness of coconut chunks, the aroma of tender palm leaves and the sweetness from the palm jaggery is honestly one of the best flavour combinations and I bet, one can just keep indulging in this addictive combination. 

Panai Olai Kozhukattai Recipe | How Toi Make  Panai Olai Kozhukattai


  • 1.5 Cups Rice Flour (Soak the rice in water for 2 hours and shade dry it. When the rice is slightly moist and doesn’t stick to each other, grind it into a fine powder).
  • 3/4 Cup Palm Jaggery
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Coconut
  • 1 tsp Cardamom and Dry Ginger Powder. 


  1. Crush the palm jaggery with a mortar and pestle. Boil the jaggery with little water, thereby making it easy to melt. Filter it to remove impurities. 
  2. In a wide bowl, add the hand-ground rice flour, cardamom, dry ginger powder and coconut gratings. Mix it well. 
  3. Slowly add the palm jaggery syrup to the above mixture and make it a smooth dough, like a chapati dough. 
  4. Wash the palm leaves and cut them into 4-5 inches leaflets, smear oil to the inside of the palm leaves, then carefully stuff the dough lengthwise and close it. 
  5. Steam the prepared palm leaves in an idli steamer for 10-12 mins. 
  6. Now open one of the palm leaves and see if the dough doesn’t stick to it. If it doesn’t, it’s cooked right. Remove them from the steamer and enjoy. 

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