With the monsoon still continuing, cooking with dried legumes becomes very useful. Those in Chennai are very familiar with dry peas sundal (pattani sundal) that is sold on the beach. Here you can use the same dry peas to make a curry and serve with chappati or bread. A steaming hot and fragrant curry will cheer people of all ages when it is raining heavily outside.
Markandam means thoracic cavity in Tamil. It consists of the ribs and the muscles on them. My grandmother used to prepare this breastbone curry whenever we were recovering from an illness. She believed that the minerals from the bones helped to build immunity. That is why it is called ‘Rasam’ meaning extract. Because it is rasam, the gravy is quite thin in spite of the coconut added to it. It is my favourite mutton preparation, and I used to pester my mother to make it even when we were not ill. Having piping hot markandam rasam with piping hot rice in winter is absolutely divine 🙂
We have a joke about Chennai rain: January-October – water scarcity; November & December – water scares city :). On some days we are unable to shop due to flooding. It is wise to stock different kinds of legumes to make curries when vegetables are not available. I created this Dry Butter Beans Curry as it is easy to prepare, can be served with chappati or rice, and has an interesting flavour.
In the early ’80s, I had a Mangalorean student called Sudha who then managed the WCC Canteen for some time, when she introduced this dish on the menu. I was fascinated by its unusual combination of ingredients and flavour that was unique to Tamil taste buds. This is her recipe, which I’ve modified to suit the modern Indian kitchen and shorten the cooking time.