Dry vegetable curries are an integral part of South Indian cuisine. In
The easiest way to cook poriyals is by using boiled vegetables. And the easiest way to boil vegetables is in a microwave. Just cut up a vegetable, sprinkle it with water and microwave it for 2 to 5 minutes in a covered container. You can use one master podi for flavouring all your poriyals. Just mix in the spice mix with boiled veggies and your basic poriyal is ready.
If you cook sambar / kootu / aviyal long enough so that all the water evaporates away, what you have left is nothing but a poriyal. You can think of poriyals as dry sambars / kootus. This is why you can flavor poriyals with exactly the same techniques you use to flavor sambar / kootu / kulambu. Sambar powder , kootu podi, rasam powder, kulambu powder – all can be used to flavor poriyals. Experiment with any of the flavouring techniques listed in the sambar / kulambu / kotu / aviyal cookbooks to flavor poriyals.
To illustrate, if you cook a kulambu long enough so that all water evaporates, you’ll end up with puli kuthi poduthuval. Cook up a sambar long enough to dry it and you have paruppu potta poriyal. Cook up a kootu long enough and you have thenga araichu vita poriyal. In many households, thick kootus / sambars are actually used as poriyals.
Most traditional poriyals are cooked by braising – cooking the vegetables in a covered pan, with a little bit of water. This always takes time and so I’ve called for boiled vegetables in most poriyals listed in the cookbook, except for quick cooking veggies like mushrooms. Stir frying vegetables is sometimes done, with a lot of oil. But this requires constant stirring and takes a while. Andhra cuisine deep fries the vegetables dipped in batter of spicy gram flour and serves them as poriyals. Andhra also has a wide variety of poriyals built on vegetable – boiled pulses mixture. Kerala uses very simple flavouring – just a drizzle of coconut oil poured over the boiled vegetables and served as mezhugu peratti. Or roasted coconut flakes are mixed in with the boiled veggies to make a thoran.
Like all curries, changing the building blocks gives rise to different classes of poriyals.
Change the base and you have a range of poriyals. Instead of veggies, use spinach and you have varieties of Keerai poriyal. Use boiled and mashed potato / mashed banana and you have podimas. Use boiled pulses and you have Sundal. Use fresh veggies and soaked mung dal and you have the Kosumalli. Use sprouts and you have sprouted poriyals. Use mushroom and you have mushroom poriyal etc.
Add tamarind and you have Pulikutthi poduthuval ( Poriyals with tamarind), add steamed, spiced lentils and you have the usili. Add boiled tuvar dal and you have paruppu poriyal and so on.
Kerala uses very simple flavouring – just a drizzle of coconut oil poured over the boiled vegetables and served as mezhugu peratti. Or roasted coconut flakes are mixed in with the boiled veggies to make a thoran.
Change flavouring and you have another class of poriyals like podi potta poriyal, araichu vita poriyal or thalithu kottiyae poriyal.
Though not listed here, change the cooking technique and more poriyals appear. Try baking, grilling, steaming veggies. Experiment with a wide variety of locally available goodies to cookup a range of poriyals.