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.
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.
Thirunelveli meat curries are always extended with vegetables such as drumsticks, brinjals, broad beans and, of course, potatoes. This is a family recipe my mother used to make with mutton and radish; we used to love the strong flavour. Now I make this with beef instead of mutton as the rich flavour of beef blends better with radish. I have also simplified the recipe extensively, using a pressure cooker to cook all the ingredients in one shot. I use white radish because that is freely available in Chennai, but in Thirunelveli, my mother used pink radish. This curry is usually served with rice and chappatis.
Keerai Chaarru means greens extract, but it is a misnomer as the juice of the greens is not extracted. It is a simple soup-like curry using very few ingredients – for an Indian recipe 🙂 This is an authentic Thirunelveli preparation. My students, friends, and acquaintances have not heard of this dish at all. Though it is a very simple recipe, one can go wrong in the consistency and sourness as I did when I made it first. I had watched my mother make it but somehow hadn’t registered the proportion of the ingredients. I have now standardised the recipe and get it right every time with this method.
The vegetarians of Thirunelveli prepare this Ennai Kai Kuzhambu as a speciality dish. The name Ennai Kai is derived from Ennai Kathirikai because the same masala is used. The flavour is very grand and delicious compared to Vendhaya Kuzhambu. It is served only with white rice, though the name may suggest being served with biriyani (biriyani goes better with Khatte Baingan or Sweet and Sour Brinjal Masala). I usually serve this with keerai kootu or Urullaikkizhangu Pittu.
The tiny freshwater fish Ayirai is made only into a kuzhambu, or curry. It is the most delectable fish curry I have tasted. My grandmother used to prepare it especially for me when I visited Palayamkottai during summer vacations. Though my mother did not record this preparation, I have reconstructed the recipe from my evergreen – and ever hungry 🙂 – memory of this delicious treat. It was always served with Keerai Kadaiyal.
In Tamil Nadu, the gourd family is used in several dishes perhaps because of the high water content and easy availability in all seasons. Ridge gourd is used with dhal in vegetarian cooking. I obtained this recipe from a Burmese repatriate friend, who said this dish was prepared by Tamil people who had settled in Burma but is not native to Burmese cooking. I was amazed as I had never come across ridge gourd being used in non-vegetarian cooking. I lost no time in trying it out at home and was very pleased with the result.