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Recipes: Aromas of South India

Last updated on: March 25, 2011 12:29 IST

Recipes: Aromas of South India

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Alamelu Vairavan

Alamelu Vairavan Wisconsin-based culinary instructor and author introduces readers to the lesser-known delicacies of a Chettinad kitchen

The first thing that comes to one's mind when someone says 'South Indian food' is dosa! But the kitchens of South India are known to toss up some mean dishes that go beyond the bland white dosa and the sambhar that comes with it.

Alamelu Vairavan shares with us a few of these delicacies from the Chettinad of South India.


Kuzhi Paniyaram (Rice Dumplings)

Kuzhi Paniyaram is a Chettinad favorite. Serve it with coconut chutney or any other chutney for breakfast or at teatime.
To make Kuzhi Paniyaram, you need to buy a Kuzhi Paniyaram chatti a non-stick skillet with depressions or moulds in it.

Ingredients for the batter

  • 1 cup rice, parboiled (pulungal arisi)
  • 1 cup extra long-grained rice (pachai arisi)
  • cup black gram (urad dal)
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 green chilies, finely minced
  • For Tempering
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp black gram
  • Oil for frying

For Thakkali Chutney
Tomato Chutney

Ingredients for Chutney

  • cup onions, chopped
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 4-6 red chilies, dried
  • cup desiccated coconut, ground fresh or flaked
  • tsp tamarind, paste
  • tsp salt

For tempering

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • tsp asafetida powder (heeng)
  • tsp black mustard seeds
  • tsp black gram

Method for Kuzhi Paniyaram

  • Wash both varieties of rice and cup of urad dal. Soak them with the fenugreek seeds in water for 3 hours.
  • Drain and grind in about 3 cups of water to make a fine, thick batter.
  • Pour the batter into a bowl. Add salt and beat with your hand to facilitate fermentation. Cover the bowl and leave to ferment overnight.
  • The following morning, the fermented batter will be frothy. Stir it well.
  • For the tempering, put the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the remaining tempering ingredients. Fry over medium heat, till mustard seeds splutter and the dal is golden; about 30 seconds.
  • Add the onions and green chilies and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.
  • Pour contents of pan into the batter. Mix well and set aside.
  • Place the skillet over medium heat. When hot, pour tsp of oil in each depression. Fill half of each depression with the batter. Spread tsp of oil around each depression and cook the Paniyaram over low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Gently turn the Paniyaram with a skewer and cook the other side for 2-3 minutes, till golden. Serve warm with chutney.

Method for Thakkali Chutney

  • For the tempering, put the oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  • When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the remaining tempering ingredients.
  • Fry over medium heat, till mustard seeds splutter and the dal is golden; about 30 seconds.
  • Add the onions, tomatoes and red chilies and cook till onions are soft. Remove from heat.
  • Add coconut and toss gently to blend the ingredients.
  • Mix in tamarind paste.

Image: Chettinad cuisine on a banana leaf

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Kozhi Kurma

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Kozhi Kurma (Chettinad Chicken Korma)

This signature Chettinad dish chicken cooked in an aromatic blend of coconut and almond sauce can be served with plain rice, biryani, or accompanied by any Indian bread such as Chapati and Naan, or with Dosai and Idli.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg chicken with bones
  • cup onions, finely sliced
  • cup tomatoes, chopped
  • tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • tsp green cardamom (elaichi), powdered
  • 2 tsp fresh coriander leaves, minced

For the kurma sauce

  • cup desiccated coconut, ground fresh or flaked
  • 4 small slices fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 4 green chilies (more, if desired), roughly chopped
  • cup roasted Bengal gram (chana)
  • 12 almonds, blanched, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 2 tbsp white poppy seeds (khus khus)
  • 2 x 1 inch cinnamon sticks (dalchini)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)

For Tempering

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2tbsp oil
  • 4-6 curry leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 x 1" cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

Method

  • Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Wash, drain and set aside.
  • In an electric blender, grind Kurma sauce ingredients to a creamy consistency. Add up to 3 cups of hot water to facilitate the grinding process. (The water must be hot for the coconut to blend properly.) Grind for at least 3-5 minutes.
  • For the tempering, put the butter and oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the remaining tempering ingredients. Fry till the seeds are golden.
  • Immediately add the onion and tomatoes and saut for a few minutes.
  • Sprinkle in turmeric powder and mix well. Serve warm.
  • Add the chicken pieces. Stir well and cook uncovered over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, till chicken is light brown.
  • Pour in Kurma sauce. Add salt, garam masala and 1 cup of warm water. Mix well. Stir in cardamom powder.
  • Cook covered over low heat stirring frequently, till chicken is tender.
  • Add the coriander leaves and simmer over low heat for a few minutes before serving.

Image: Kozhi Kurma

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Murungaikkai Sambhar

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Murungaikkai Sambhar (Drumsticks in Seasoned Lentils)

Ingredients

  • cup split red gram (toover/arhar dal)
  • tsp + tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  • cup onions, finely chopped
  • cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 drumsticks, peeled and cut in 2 inch sticks
  • 2 tsp sambhar powder
  • tsp tamarind paste
  • tsp salt

For tempering

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 dried red chilli, whole
  • 1/8 tsp asafetida powder (heeng)
  • 4-6 curry leaves (optional)
  • tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1 tsp back mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp black gram (urad dal)

For garnish

  • cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Method

  • Wash the toover/arhar dal and drain.
  • Cook the dal with tsp of turmeric powder and 4 cups of water. Set aside without draining.
  • For the tempering, put the oil in a pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the remaining tempering ingredients. Fry over medium heat, till mustard seeds splutter and urad dal is golden; about 30 seconds.
  • Add the onions and tomatoes and saut for a few minutes.
  • Sprinkle in tsp of turmeric powder and saut for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the drumsticks and stir-fry for a minute.
  • Mix in sambhar powder, tamarind paste and salt. Cook covered over low-medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the cooked dal with 2-3 cups of warm water. Stir and cook covered over low-medium heat for 7-9 minutes, till drumsticks are tender.
  • Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve hot.

NOTE: Canned or frozen drumsticks can also be used. You would need about 1 cup of cut drumsticks.


Image: Murungaikkai Sambhar

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Muttai Kose Urulaikilangu Kootu

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Muttai Kose Urulaikilangu Kootu (Cabbage and potato in seasoned Lentils)

Serve this thick, lightly seasoned vegetable kootu as a side dish with rice. Shred the potatoes and cabbage to the same size.

Ingredients

  • cup split red gram (toover/arhar dal) or green gram (moong dal)
  • tsp + tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
  • cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, minced (more, if desired)
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced fresh
  • cup potatoes, coarsely shredded
  • 2 cups cabbage, coarsely shredded
  • 1 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
  • 1 tsp salt

For tempering

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp black gram (urad dal)

Method

  • Wash the toover/arhar dal or moong dal and drain. Cook it with tsp of turmeric powder and 2 cups of water, till creamy. Set aside without draining.
  • For the tempering, put the oil in a pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the remaining tempering ingredients. Fry over medium heat, till mustard seeds splutter and urad dal is golden; about 30 seconds.
  • Add the onions, green chilli and ginger to pan. Stir well.
  • Add the potatoes and stir-fry for a few minutes before adding the cabbage Stir-fry for about a minute.
  • Sprinkle in tsp of turmeric powder, cumin powder and salt. Mix well and immediately add the cooked dal.
  • Stir in about 1 cup of water, just enough to cover the contents of the pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Remove from heat when vegetables are tender.

 


Image: Muttai Kose Urulaikilangu Kootu

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Pisinarisi Payasam

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Pisinarisi Payasam (Tapioca Dessert)

This payasam is made with tapioca and milk. Serve it in cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp butter
  • cup raw cashew nut halves
  • cup tapioca
  • 3 cups milk
  • A pinch of yellow food coloring optional
  • tsp green cardamom (elaichi), powdered
  • 4-6 saffron (kesar) stands
  • 2 very small pieces crystalline camphor (optional)
  • cup sugar (more, if desired)
  • 1 tsp seedless raisins

Method

  • Put 1 tbsp of butter in a small pan over medium heat and fry the cashew nuts, till golden brown. Remove the cashew nuts from the skillet and set aside.
  • Melt 1 tsp of butter in a deep pan. Add the tapioca and fry for a few minutes, stirring continuously.
  • Slowly add 1 cup of milk at a time stirring all the while over low-medium heat. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring continuously, till the tapioca is tender. The tapioca will have increased in bulk and become softer.
  • Add the food coloring along with the cardamom, saffron strands, crystalline camphor and sugar. Stir well over low heat.
  • Add the cashew nuts, raisins.
  • Remove from heat and keep covered.
  • Serve the Payasam at room temperature or as a cold dessert. If it gets too thick before serving, add 1 cup of milk to thin it down. Warm the milk if you are serving it at room temperature and chill it if serving cold.  n

Alamelu Vairavan is a Wisconsin-based culinary instructor and author. The recipes have been excerpted from Chettinad Kitchen: Food and Flavours from South India, with permission from the publisher, Westland-Tata, India. This book is available for purchase on Rediff.com and flipkart.com


Image: Pisinarisi Payasam

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