Monday, March 17, 2008

1001 Kerala curries

Kerala curries can be divided into the meat based Malabar cuisine of North Kerala and the predominantly vegetarian Travancore/ Palghat / Thrissur cuisine of south Kerala. The Non vegetarian curries of the Syrian Christians and Moplah Muslims form the bulk of Malabar cuisine.

Christians fleeing persecution in Syria landed in Kerala in the first century. Their cooking styles mingled with the spices of Kerala creating the unique cuisine of the Syrian Christians. Unlike western cuisine, Syrian Christian curries use coconut oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and coconut milk extensively.
Arab traders have been trading with Kerala for centuries. Some stayed back, married local women and became Mappillai (Son-in-law), or Moplah muslims. Their cuisine has more in common with Arab cuisine than with South Indian or Mogul cuisine. Unlike Mogul curries, the moplah curries do not use rich ingredients but rely heavily on spices of the south like coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric and cumin. Like Syrian Christian cuisine, it uses meat extensively.
The meat based Malabar cuisine is not covered here. We’ll instead concentrate on the vegetarian curries of Palakkad, Thrissur and Travancore.

Kerala has been a home to Brahmins since the earliest times. Over time, Brahmins evolved a separate identity, lifestyle and cuisine and came to be called Namboodris. They created some very unique curries with minimal spices. The delicious Olan and Kaalan are Namboodri curries. Namboodri curries prefer the use of pepper over chili. Spartan simplicity and elaborate rituals are a hallmark of Namboodri cuisine. Their feasts (sadhaya) display the rich array of curries they can magically cook up with very few ingredients and with the use of very little spices.

A few centuries later, Tamil Brahmins from Tanjore, Madurai and Tirunelveli migrated to Kerala through the breaks in the mountain chains in the north and south. They created major Brahmin settlements in Palghat, Thrissur and Trivandrum. The Tamil Brahmin cuisine morphed under the influence of Namboodri cuisine and the non availability of key ingredients. Sesame oil and tamarind, used in Tamil Brahmin cuisine were not easily available in Kerala. So they were replaced with coconut oil ,yogurt and Kodumpuli. Over time, these factors lead to the evolution of Kerala Brahmin cuisine.

Kerala curries are built around coconut and yogurt. Unlike other south Indian states, tamarind or lentils play only a marginal role. Coconut meat, coconut milk, and coconut oil are combined with chili, cumin and yogurt to create a variety of lightly spiced, easy to prepare curries. It is in Kerala we see black pepper jostling chili aside in many curries. Unlike the rest of south India, tamarind, cilantro or tomato are not extensively used. Use of raw coconut oil as a garnish, use of Jackfruit seeds and baby jackfruit as vegetables are unique to Kerala curries. All these curries are eaten with hot cooked rice. Unlike the thin, white rice eaten in other South Indian states, fat grained, red rice is preferred in Kerala. Let us now take a bird’s eye view of Kerala’s major curries.

0.: Parippu ( Plain Lentils) Paruppu is a thick curry made from boiled and mashed lentils. It is the simplest curry of them all. Just boil split green gram/ tuvar dal with a pinch of turmeric and parippu is ready. Drizzle with ghee, mix with hot rice and dig in ! Parippu is normally spiced up with a variety of elaborate flavourings. Check the model recipes below for details.
Bharathy’s Spiced up Tuvar dal with Coconut, Ashwita’s Parippu with roasted Mung dal,
Anu’s spiced up Parippu with garlic and onions

1.: Olan (Coconut milk curry). Olan is a chunky curry made from coconut milk and flavoured with coconut oil. Boil vegetables, add coconut milk and coconut oil and presto! Olan is ready. Though a variety of vegetables can be used in this lightly spiced curry, ash gourd and black eyed beans are the favourites.
Olan with Coconut milk, Ammupattis Olan sweetened with jaggery ,Sheela’s westernized Olan
Viji’s Olan
, Inji Pennu’s Papaya Olan, Prav’s Zucchini Olan

Simple Olan
Simplicity is a hallmark of Kerala cuisine. So we have versions of Olan which are even simpler and omit coconut milk altogether, relying on the vegetables and coconut oil to provide the flavor. Just boil vegetables (usually ashgourd) in water with a pinch of salt. Cook till done and serve with a dash of coconut oil. Can a curry get any simpler?
Deepa’s olan without coconut milk

2.: Pulingari (Coconut - Tamarind curry) Pulingari is a medium thick sour curry, made from coconut and tamarind. Roast grated coconut, mix in tamarind water and sambar powder, add boiled veggies and pulingari is ready. This is very similar to a Tamil kulambu, but for the addition of coconuts. Instead of Sambar powder, if a masala made from roast and ground tuvar dal, Bengal gram, dhania, red chili, asafetida, fenugreek and coconut is added to Pulingari, we get a variant called Podi pudicha pulingari. Some versions of Pulingari have boiled and mashed tuvar dal mixed in, thus making it almost a sambar. Pulingari can be thickened by adding a couple of pinches of rice flour mixed with water.
Muthu’s pulingari, Vasantha’s Pulingari with tuvar dal, Latha’s pulingari, Pulingari variations

3.: More Koottan / Pulissery (Coconut - cumin - Yogurt Curry) More Koottan or Pulissery is a medium thick curry made from coconut- cumin- green chili - yogurt paste. Take a handful of grated coconut, a couple of pinches of cumin and a green chili. Blend to a smooth paste , mix in boiled vegetables and Pulissery is ready. This is very similar to the More Kulambu of Tamilnadu. Various versions of this curry exist, but all have coconut- cumin- yogurt paste at their base.
Aparna’s Ripe plantain More Kootan, Deepa’s pineapple pulissery, TBC’s pineapple pulissery
Anu & Veena’s Mango Pulissery with garlic
, Chitra’s Pineapple – cucumber pulissery

4.: Erissery (Coconut - cumin curry) Erissery is a thick curry made from vegetables simmered in a coconut- cumin paste. Take a handful of grated coconut and a couple of pinches of cumin. Blend to a smooth paste with a dry red chili. Mix in boiled vegetables and Erissery is ready. Though coconut and cumin paste forms the base for all Eiisserys, various versions exist in which turmeric powder, green chili, garlic, shallots etc are blended along with coconut- cumin. In some versions, chili is replaced by black pepper. Erisseries are normally garnished with grated and roasted coconut.
Nupur’s Butternut squash Erissery, Annita’s Yam & Plantain Erissery, Prav’s Green gram – Plantain Erissery.

5.: Kalan (Coconut – cumin – pepper-yogurt curry) Kalan is a thick curry made from coconut- cumin – pepper - yogurt paste. Blend grated coconut to a paste with cumin, black pepper and a little water. Add yogurt and mix in a boiled vegetable and Kaalan is ready. Kalan is very similar to Aviyal, but usually has a single vegetable in it instead of the medley that Aviyal uses. Unlike the Aviyal, Kalan uses black pepper and not chili.
Sadhaya Kaalan, Kaalan for Oonam
A version of Kalan called Kurukku kalan (literally evaporated Kalan), cooked to last, is made by slowly simmering away the water from the coconut- cumin- pepper – yogurt paste, leaving behind a thick paste. This is then mixed with boiled vegetables. This keeps well for a couple of days without refrigeration or lasts for a month refrigerated (getting tastier as it ages).
Seena’s kurukku Kaalan

6.: Aviyal (Coconut- cumin - chili - yogurt curry) Add more vegetables to a Kaalan, replace black pepper by green chili and you have the Aviyal. Aviyal is a thick curry made from coconut- cumin – chili - yogurt paste. Blend coconut, chili and cumin to a paste, mix in yogurt and boiled vegetables and Aviyal is ready. This is easily the most popular Kerala curry. For detailed recipes and scores of Aviyal variations, see 1001 Aviyals.

7.: Thoran (Dry vegetable curry with coconut - chili) Take half a handful of grated coconut. Blend with a green chili (and optionally a garlic clove) to a coarse paste. Mix with boiled vegetables and Thoran is ready. Though any vegetable or combination of veggies can be used, Thorans made from Green papaya or long string beans (payar) are signature dishes of Kerala.
Nag’s patriotic Beans and Carrot Thoran, Rajitha’s Beans Thoran, Jayashree’s Papaya Thoran
Vini’s Cabbage Thoran
, Jyotsna’s Beetroot Thoran

8.: Mezhukku Peratti (Dry vegetable curry with Coconut oil ) Curries don’t get simpler than this. Boil veggies in water with a few pinches of turmeric, slit green chili and salt, drain water, mix in raw coconut oil and Mezhku peratti is ready. Variations call for different seasonings like fried mustard, lentils etc,.
Recipe for simple Mezhukku Peratti from the Palakkad Iyer forum. Another one from Palakkad recipe hub and Sheela’s plantain Mezhukku Peratti - an unusual, spiced up version with tamarind, brown sugar and surprisingly, peanuts! And this is how new cuisines evolve - by substituting locally available stuff in traditional recipes like Asparagus Mezhukku Veratti.

9.: Mulagootal (Spinach - lentil - coconut curry) Mulagootal is a mild, thick curry, made from spinach , lentils and coconut . Take two handfuls of chopped spinach, half a handful of tuvar dal and half a handful grated coconut. Add a cup of water, two pinches of turmeric powder and pressure cook for 2 whistles and Molagootal is ready. Other versions call for mixing in roast and ground powder of coconut, cumin, urad dal and red chilies.
Aparna’s Molagootal, KPR’s Molagootal, Ammupatti’s Molagootal, Molagootal – with a double twist – using two dals and vegetables.

If you have a traditional Kerala recipe, unlisted here, please comment / mail me (siramki at gmail) to have it included. Thanks !


Pravs said...

thanks for linking 2 of my recipes :)

Bharathy said...

A great round up of kerala recipes,including and encouraging so many bloggers in one post as always!!!
Clap clap Clap!!
BTW,ramki I am co-ordianting with srivalli(cooking4allseasons)for the friendship chain of arusuvai.It is about passing ingredients among the bloggers in India..already 40 have been a part of the fun..are you intersted to join?(you may not cook with the ing if it is a trouble for you..if you can cook and post well and good)just receive the ing from a donor in India..would you??
Details are there in my blog side bar..drop a comment somewhere there or mail me at :)

Jayashree said...

Thanks for the mention....

TBC said...

Hey Ramki,
Thanks for stopping by my blog.
Thanks also for linking my recipe. This will definitely be of great use to a first-time cook.:-)

Mrs. Iyer said...

Thanks for linking my blog:). I had been through your blog twice or thrice when i was reading a post in Ammupatti's blog. Cool Work.

bee said...

a very comprehensive and unque roundup a technicality - palghat is not south kerala. plus, cochin in central kerala has its own cuisine. while keralites use tamarind only occasionally, the use of kodampuli as a souring agent is prevalent. is a great source of recipes from kerala.

Ramki said...

Pravs : Thanks
Bharathy : Thanks again !
Jayashree, TBC and Mrs. Iyer : Thank you !
Bee :
You are right. Geographically, Palghat is very much to the north. But cuisinewise, I guess it is closer to Thrissur and Trivandrum. ( And this is what I'd tried to do with the map, showing North Kerala separately).

Reg : Kodumpuli. Thanks. I've highlighted it better now.

I'd love to have any information on central Kerala's cuisine.

foodwithapinchoflove said...

Thanks Ramki for linking my recipe to your 1001 1001 Kerala curries list. And thanks for motivating me (and other such food bloggers) by linking recipes to your site.
These one page cookbooks and the 1001 lists are really handy! Great work...

veena said...

Great Work Ramki..thanks alot for linking my recipes ..

anubhavati said...

Hi Ramki,

Was interesting to see your page for new bloggers like me. I am also a kerala iyer, from Chennai, currently in the U.S and I welcome you to visit my page and leave your comments.

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