I’m not a big fan of Indian sweets, but there is one particular dish my mom would make for pujas that were, and still are, my favorite – kadali pithas (kadali means bananas and a pitha is a sweetened pancake). Consider kadali pithas our version of banana pancakes but more decadent, delicately spiced, and just straight up better.
I thought it’d be an awesome recipe to share with you all, not because I expect you to up and make this for a puja. Hell, I don’t. I love making them as a naughty lil companion for my coffee. But my mom didn’t need to know all that. I called her to tell her I was going to share her kadali pitha recipe for Dusshera since I love it and when I think of making it, I think of her.
I wanted to do some fact-checking though so I asked her if this recipe has any variations (“it has too many MILLIONS of variations that I can’t get into now” was her answer btw). I wanted rich history, I wanted her to wax some poetry and shit, you know, take me back to the motherland. Except my mother was having none of that.
“There are different variations of this recipe but I made it one particular way because with three daughters always running around, and none of you had interest in helping me, and well, you know my joints pains, this pitha was the easiest to make on puja days. Plus, you and your sisters loved it. I would stand for hours frying it.” Then she trailed off with another “for hours… no help” for good measure.
Not quite the backstory I was hoping for. We sucked. Awesome memories. Duly noted. Needing to resuscitate a conversation that I was quickly losing control over, I enthusiastically asked if there were any tricks I could share with my readers.
“Tell them not to burn it” she casually said. Great advice. This recipe was practically writing itself. We exchanged a couple more “tips” and got off the phone. Minutes later the phone rang. It was my Mom.
“I didn’t want to call and tell you because I thought you must be busy, but your dad badgered me to call and remind you that when you write the recipe, remember to use the right name.”
Really? I mean REALLY that’s why you called I was thinking! That’s your sage advice, that when I share a recipe I should make sure I use the right name?!?
“Um, ok, thanks -” I managed to say, though with a tilted edge.
My mom cut me off before I could go further. “Your dad reminded me that you girls call it kadali pitha and that’s wrong. The real name is malpua, spelling em-aye-eleh-” she began to say. Now it was my turn to cut her off.
“Wait, wait, wait, what do you mean the name isn’t kadali pitha?” I asked rather agitated at this point.
“You girls didn’t know how to pronounce malpua. You knew it was a pitha made from kadali so you called it kadali pitha from a young age. We never corrected you and well now who has time to remember such things and correct you? There would be too many things to correct.”
Da fuuuck I thought. We couldn’t pronounce malpua but we could pronounce kadali pitha? Either our language acquisition skills were out the roof or we were dummies. But that was a conversation for another time. I couldn’t believe I never knew the real name.
What other dishes have we been made up names for that I don’t know about? I desperately asked. She assured me that she couldn’t think of any others, not on the spot anyway. Awesome.
“Next time you’re sharing one of my recipes on your Desi Sketchy, Sketchy hoo-ha, you just call and tell me like you did tonight and I’ll remember any corrections. Simple!” she said before launching into how I should call her more anyway and not just about recipes.
Then my dad piped up on the phone. “Don’t be sad you didn’t know the real name for malpua. Did you know Dussehra is victory over ignorance! Look! Now you’re not ignorant anymore about malpua!”
Um, yay me?
Look, knowing it by another name doesn’t make this recipe any less delicious or harder. As my mom said, there are shit ton variations on how to make malpuas. The interwebs can help you with that. Just Google “malpua” and NOT kadali pitha!
I’m still sharing my mom’s recipe with ya’ll though because as much as she drives me bananas, I’ll always love her version of kadali pithas best. And, I’ll always love her.