In Tamil literature, the goodness of radish tops in our diets in summer is narrated in poetic verse claiming that it helps to relieve hyperacidity, abdominal pain, oedema, dental issues, kidney stones, and anal fissures. I do know from personal experience (to my astonishment) that it does relieve hyperacidity. The other claims will have to be verified 🙂 Radish tops have very strong flavour (naturally, as radish also has a very strong flavour) and a slightly bitter taste as they are greens. Therefore they have to be combined with other mild spices to please your palate. Combining with dhal also reduces the strong flavour of the leaves. In Tamil Nadu, combining dhal with any vegetable without the addition of tamarind is known as koottu, and that is what I have presented here.
Coorg cuisine is famous for pork dishes. I have already posted Chillikana Pandi. A friend from Coorg told me that pork dishes are a must in their wedding feasts. This curry uses a variety of dry and green spices, and also kokum (Garcinia indica), which is a type of tamarind substitute. Kokum has a smoky flavour which usually appeals to those from the West Coast of India, and is not part of Tamil cooking. I had tasted kokum in some fish curries which my colleagues brought, and I was intrigued by the flavour, though my family didn’t really care for it. Pork blends very well with the flavour of kokum, and we all love it.
Thirunelveli’s knowledge of kovai kai, in the ’60s, was limited to a story where two men appeared before a judge claiming that a parrot was theirs. The judge asked them to prove it and the parrot’s owner took some kovai kai from his pocket, which immediately attracted the parrot, convincing the judge that the parrot was his. We always believed that kovai kai was only for parrots and it was not available there in stores. For all I know it is still not available. When my father was transferred to Chennai, my mother spotted this in a store and came home and said, ‘They are selling kovai kai which only the parrots eat!’ We didn’t buy it because we didn’t know how to cook it. When my sister got married she found that her in-laws, who had been posted in Andhra Pradesh, cooked kovai kai at home. I had eaten that once in their house and started cooking it once I had my own establishment. I do not know if this is the exact recipe, but it is fairly close to what I enjoyed there.
This is one of 3 recipes that I managed to get from my husband’s friend’s Mangalorean bride, Grace Bhasker, who was renowned for her cooking. I am very pleased with this recipe because it has a rich, enticing flavour. I have maintained the ingredients as given by her but extensively simplified the method to improve cooking time.