On a recent trip to Kerala, certain dishes from the kitchen tasted a lot better. On enquiry, these little beauties emerged as the taste boosters. They are hot and the heat they offer is unlike any other. It is something that makes a malayalee homesick. This is kaantari mulaku.
I have always known upma to be a little fluffy. When I started my hostel life, the upma served at the canteen didn’t look anything like the upma I grew up with. It was cooked into one big mass and you could took a scoop of upma rather than a spoonful of upma. I blamed the cook for not knowing how to cook but little did I know this is how upma is supposed to be for many others.
Even after 4 years of eating canteen upma, I couldn’t get used to it. I love my fluffy upma with a sprinkle of sugar and a banana.
Coconut shredded- a handful, Ghee- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Heat oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the onions/shallots, ginger, chillies and curry leaves. When the onions start to turn brown, add the rava to the pan. Keep stirring till the rava is slightly roasted.
Then comes the fluffing part. Sprinkle a handful of water into the rava and keep stirring. Break up big lumps. For one cup rava, you might need about 1.5 cups of water. The important tip is to add water in handfuls and to keep stirring. Towards the end, you can just close it with a lid for a few minutes to cook it through. Stir in shredded coconut and ghee. Serve warm.
Chembu is used widely in Kerala in a wide variety of recipes.This is a starchy vegetable and is quite delicious steamed, fried or smothered with seasonings. This is found growing in most homes in Kerala and thrive without any attention.
This is a simple recipe that goes well with rice.
Chembu – 1 cup ( Remove the skin and cut into small pieces)
Turmeric powder- 1/3 tsp
Salt- to taste
Coconut grated- 1/2 cup
Green chilies- 4 (Add more if you like it with more heat)
Cumin – 1/3 tsp.
Tamarind- one tablespoon. Mix well with some water to obtain tamarind extract. Discard the seeds.
Cook the diced chembu with the turmeric powder and salt with about 1 cup water, over medium flame.
While the chembu is cooking, grind the coconut, chilies and cumin to a smooth paste.
Once the chembu is cooked, add the coconut mixture to it and cook on low heat.
When the chembu curry starts to boil, add the tamarind extract and mix well. Turn off and keep covered for a few minutes.
In a seperate small pan, add oil. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds.
As mustard seeds start to pop, add the shallots and curry leaves and fry till they turn brown.
RP blogged about kale thoran last year. Ever since, it’s been a regular at our household. Coffee’s MBP ( Monthly Blog Patrol) is the perfect event to give thanks for the recipes from fellow bloggers. The theme this month is Going Lite. This was the perfect oppurtunity to thank RP for this wonderful healthy and lite recipe.
The beautiful leaves of the kale plant provide an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around ( Link)
Add oil to the hot pan. Add mustard seeds and when they start to splutter, add the rice. The rice will start to puff up. Add the kale and give a quick stir.
In a small mortar, mix the shallots, green chilies and coconut. Just a coarse mix is fine. Make a small area in the centre of the pan and add the coconut mixture. Cover it with the kale like this. ( You can add the coconut to the kale and give a mix but my aunt used to make thorans this way. I happened to think of her and followed her method)
Cover and cook for 5 mins on low medium heat. Stir, add salt and cook covered again till the leaves are at your desired texture. Kale leaves take longer than other leafy greens.
Fish is indispensable in Kerala. The way it is made varies from place to place, but it always make it to the table for lunch or dinner. This is how fish curry is usually made in the households in Kottayam. When my grandfather was alive, we had fish every single day. That’s right. Every single day!!
When I blogged an okra recipe recently, I got a lot of requests for the fish curry that was shown in the post. The truth of the matter is that until recently my fish curries never tasted as they should. We started writing down the recipe every time we made it, and made changes to adjust the taste. We believe this recipe comes closest to the fish curry back home. Thanks to Manisha whose initial request started this whole post.
We make our fish curry in a chatti. The chatti in our home has a story to tell. The story that ends with, ” Wives know better”. When we were in Kerala last vacation, I mentioned that I would like to take a chatti back with me. Satish had a big problem with that, and was making all kinds of excuses. He was confident that the chatti wouldn’t make it home in one piece. Thanks to my persistence, the chatti made it home with us. Guess what he wants to bring back this time!! Ha-ha..
Now to the fish. Fresh fish is hard to come by, unless you have a Chinese store with fresh fish. We usually buy catfish from the local grocery store. Mallu stores have frozen fish from Kerala, but some of them lose their taste when frozen. This time we used salmon fillets. Back home, we have meenkarans ( fish monger) that brings fish right to your doorsteps. When I was a kid, they used to come on a cycle, with a basket of fish tied to the back of the cycle. They would honk their horns as a signal, and I was often made to run out of the house to flag him down. Then my mother would look and choose the fish, and sometimes neighbors all gather to discuss fish. If you had a cat, it would be close by, sniffing and rubbing against your legs, hoping to get some heads and tails.
Fish – 1lb. We used salmon fillets this time. We added some salt to the fillets to make them firmer, so that they don’t break easily. If you do this, be careful when you add salt to the curry.
Oil- 2 tbsp ( I use coconut oil)
Curry leaves- 1sprig + 2 or 3 f0r layering in the chatti
Mustard seeds, Fenugreek seeds- 1/4 tsp each
Shallots- 4 or 5 , sliced fine
Ginger- 2 tbsp , finely minced
Garlic – 15 cloves( if the cloves are small, leave them whole)
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder- 2 tsp
Paprika – 3 tsp
Kudampuli- 2pieces ( clean in running water and soak them in water with some salt added to it)
Water- 1cup or more, as needed
Kudampulisoaking in salt water
Layer a few sprigs of curry leaves at the bottom of the chatti. Layer the raw fish on top of that.
Step2: Making the gravy
Heat oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the fenugreek seeds. When the fenugreek seeds starts to change into a deeper color, add the shallots, ginger, garlic and curry leaves. Cook on medium heat till the shallots turn dark brown. Then add the chili powder and turmeric powder. Stir to combine with the oil.
Lower the heat and add paprika. Stir quicky. Paprika burns fast, so don’t leave on fire too long. Add water and the kudampuli which was soaked in some salt water. I usually add the salt water also. It looks muddy from the puli but I think it adds to the taste. Add enough water to make a watery gravy. Bring to a rolling boil.
Step 3: Bringing everything together
Pour this into the fish that has been arranged in the chatti. Cook covered on low medium heat till the fish is cooked ( 15-20 mins). Every 5-8min grab the chatti with mitts and give a slight swirl. This is the best way to make sure the flavors blend without breaking the fish pieces. Cook till the fish is cooked and the gravy is lightly thick. ( some people prefer a watery gravy)
Taste for salt . Just before serving, add some coconut oil on the top and fresh curry leaves to garnish.
The curry is good right off the stove, but the flavor intensifies after a day.
The curry can be left out in room temperature, especially in winter. Every night it is slightly warmed over the stove. During winter, our fish curry stays outside for atleast 3 days.
Coriander powder is omitted to increase shelf life.
Adding coconut oil over the fish curry after it is cooked can add a wonderful aroma, and I don’t recommend missing this step.
To serve : My favorite way is to eat this with rice and a thoran.
Also goes well with chappathi, puttu and the perpetual favorite, kappa and meen ( here and here).
We recently tried a recipe from this blog and it turned out great. And last week we tried this dish from the same blog. It was spectacular. Thank you Shiny for posting these favorite dishes. Her blog is like a cookbook dream come true for me.
The dish is made of dried shrimp. This is available in Kerala grocery stores in the US. Fish and coconut are integral to Kerala cuisine, and this dish is a happy combo of the two. Dried fish are stinky, but taste great. The prepared dish doesn’t smell of the dried shrimp at all. Dried shrimp is cooked with some water and mango, coconut ground to a silky paste is added to it and finally dressed up with shallots and curry leaves in coconut oil.
Although I didn’t have fresh mango, I substituted amchur powder as the recipe suggested. It worked quite well.
Payasams are the major Kerala dessert. Before the bakeries started with the fancy birthday cakes, this is the dish that made birthdays special. This was the dessert course that followed elaborate sadyas that followed wedding ceremonies.
In the days before the instant ada, ada was made from scratch and this is where a lot of work was involved. Then the ada is cooked, and added to a jaggery- coconut milk mixture. The coconut milk making is also elaborate, but I took the aid of canned coconut milk. Worked just fine!
Final toss in some coconut pieces fried in ghee and cardamom powder. Let it cool before serving.
This dish is such a nostalgic one!
I am not alone in this nostalgia. Other memories about ada pradhaman from fellow Malayalis on the net:
And achamma’s ada pradhaman, rich with pure ghee and whole green cardamom. Oh! That taste. ( Read here)
Payasams, mmmmmm, I love that especially ada pradhaman. ( Here)
Theeyal was made at our house only ‘ on demand’. It does take a bit of time and is not suited for those ‘curry in a hurry’ moments. When we think of coconuts and some delicious Kerala dishes to go with it, theeyal definitely is the one for me.
We make this with shallots, bittergourd or brinjal. I am sure there are more variations, but these are all I know. I decided to use whole baby eggplants instead of slicing them, only because I thought the baby eggplants would look very cute dressed up in a dark brown coconut sauce. And it did!!
Recipe source: by Mrs. K.M.Mathew
Step 1: Making the coconut paste
Coconut – 1 cup
Shallots – 1 small sliced
In a pan, add a bit of oil ( 1 tsp). Add the coconut and shallots and fry till dark brown in color. You might need to stir frequently and keep a close eye on them. Add the browned coconut to the blender.
Dry coriander seeds – 1/2 tsp
Dry red chilis- 3
Fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds – a small pinch of each
In the same pan, dry roast the above ingredients and add them to the blender also. ( You could definitely add these to the coconut as it is turning brown and roast them)
Grind all these to a smooth silky paste. Add water as necessary to help with the grinding.
Step 2: Dressing up the brinjals
Brinjals – 9 baby brinjals.( Substitute with 2 larger slender asian eggplants)
Turmeric – a small pinch (optional)
Tomato- 1 plum tomato, sliced.
Green chilies 5 small slit.
Tamarind water – add a small piece to 1/4 cup water, use your hands to extract the tamarind.
Make slits on the brinjal ( make the slits as if you were stuffing the brinjal, but leave the stem intact).
Add a teaspoon of oil to the hot pan, add turmeric (optional), followed by brinjals. Then add green chillies and tomato and saute for a few minutes.
To this add the ground coconut paste, tamarind water, salt. Add more water if needed to make enough gravy.Cover and cook till the brinjals are cooked.
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – one sprig
Fenugreek seeds- a small pinch
Sliced shallot- 1
Dry red chilies – one, cut into small pieces.
Take some oil, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, shallots, and dry red chilis. Fry till the shallots are dark in color. Add to the brinjals. Stir well and serve.
Sammanthi or chammanthi – this was a debate that was always going on in my head, but till now it hasn’t surfaced to the open.
Coconut sammanthi (thenga sammanthi ) is how we call it in our house, but I strongly believe the real word is chammanthi. All I can say with 100% surety is that this dish is perfect with idlis and dosas.
I was determined to participate in JFI coconut hosted by Ashwini. I felt like I would let myself down if I didn’t participate in it as coconut is something I absolutely can’t imagine living without. For us Mallus, it is a taste you just can’t resist. Anyone who did their schooling in Kerala must have dealt with this question in school:
Write a short essay on coconut
You start writing….Coconut tree is a kalpavriksham ( a malayalam word indicating that all parts of the plant can be used). And then you go on to describe eloquently all the different uses of coconut that you crammed the night before.
This essay writing, for strange reasons, had left me with the notion that coconut was available only in Kerala. When I found out later that it wasn’t the case, I tried to comfort myself thinking that Kerala coconut was the best. It is:)
Anyways, here is a breakfast known to every mallu- idli with cha(sa)mmanthi.
The sammanthi routine in our home always went like this- do you want red or green sammanthi?
Green meant mother would use green chilis and if the answer was red, she would get dried red chilis. They taste different, but as kids our decisions were based on which color we thought was more cool at the moment.
Recipe for chammanthi
Coconut – 2 cups
Dried red chillies – 6 0r 8 . Roast them over flame. They will develop black spots all over. Sometimes they catch fire while you do this, but just snuff the fire and use the chilis.
In a blender, grate till very smooth the coconut, shallots and chilis. Add water in small amounts, just enough to make a thick paste.
In a pan, add some coconut oil. Add mustard seeds. While they splutter, add curry leaves and thinly sliced shallots (1 shallot). Fry till dark in color. Lower the fire, and add the coconut mixture. Mix water ( usually we pour the water into the blender and give a nice whirl to get all the coconut remaining in the blender), and add salt.
Do not let it boil. Just warm. If you boil, the sammanthi will look curdled.
Traditionally, the chilis are roasted by adding them to the wood burning stove. And then all the ingredients are ground to a smooth paste in an arakallu ( a grinding stone).
Kid favorite: Add some sugar when you eat the idlis with sammanthi. Use fingers to mix everything. Tastes divine!!!
Chicken biryanis are no longer a lot of hardwork. This was not always the case.
There used to be a time when cooking a biryani at home meant someone special was invited or something special was happening in the house. We would wake up in anticipation of the big day. “Today we are having biryani for lunch”- I would tell this to anybody who would care to listen. Then my father would go the market with the grocery list, of course, accompanied by me. See, it’s different in India. You have to travel a bit to get good quality Basmati rice.
“What?”, you say,”You don’t stock the biyani rice?We usually just buy a big bag from Costco.”
Ah! yes! But Basmati rice is quite expensive in India and unless you are really rich, you usually just buy enough for that one meal of biryani. A few years ago, there weren’t that many supermarkets. So you had to stop at one shop for the rice, another one for the chicken and then another for the herbs and lemon. It would take atleast an hour or more to get back home after a round of shopping.
Of course, things are different now and you can get all you want at any one of the many super markets that are popping all around. Sure is convenient but then you miss the walk in the chantha ( market), with all its varied smells and great display of veggies.
If Mastercard used this theme they would have said:
Biryani rice Rs. 50
Fresh chicken Rs.100
A walk in the chantha ( market ) Priceless
Making chicken biryani is a breeze after coming to the US. Take a few cups of rice from the Costco rice bag. Cut up the chicken in the freezer. Use the herbs that you have stored in the fridge. Chicken biryani is ready in an hour or so. And this is exactly what I did last Friday – actually Satish did go to the store for chicken.
I have had a brief touch with Malabar cuisine. My mother once worked for some time in Kozhikode. She stayed there for a few months or so. We went to visit her once and I had some amazing food at one of my father’s friends. I was convinced Muslim hospitality was the best. There was a whole table of food and all their relatives were in the house to welcome us. Made us all feel real special! I was really young but this episode is still clear in my memory.
Thanks to fellow bloggers Shaheen and Shynee, we are getting to know more about this cuisine.
Once you have made biryani you will see that it is more of a method than exact measure ( except for cooking the rice).
Here are some pictures to get you inspired.
Cooking the rice:
Soak the rice in water for 30min or so prior to cooking. Drain off the water.
Add ghee( a must for authentic taste), cloves, cardamon and cinnamon. Add the rice. Stir well. Add water and salt. ( For 3 cups of rice, I used 5 3/4 water). Cook covered. When all water is evaporated, shut off the flame and keep covered for a few more minutes. In the meanwhile avoid stirring. You can fluff with a fork after it has finished cooking
Cooking the chicken
Layering the rice and chicken
Frying herbs to decorate the top
Also fry onions, raisins and cashews.
Bake for 15- 20 minutes.
Serve warm with raita, achar, ulli surka and pappadam.