We Tamilians love our drumstick trees, and in villages every house would have one. In Chennai, however, only those with large plots of land have them and the rest of us have to buy drumstick leaves from stores. Drumstick leaves are used to make poriyal (fry). They are not usually combined with other vegetables, but non-vegetarians cook these with either fresh or dry prawns (karuvadu).
The unique flavour of prawns lends itself to be combined with different kinds of vegetables. I have already posted a few such recipes (Prawn and Colocasia Curry, Prawn and Cabbage Curry, Prawn and Snake Gourd Poriyal). Another advantage in combining prawns with vegetables is that it has no skin or bones, and the flavour does not vary with the type of prawn. I created this recipe combining prawns with capsicum and a different combination of spices from the others.
Another prawn and vegetable combo! This time the vegetable I have chosen to go with the prawn is cabbage. Cabbage is available plentifully throughout the year in Tamil Nadu. The variety that we get is locally known as Muttai Kose, referring to its round shape, but nothing to do with egg. The masala (spices) I have used here is different from the usual of combination of spices used in Tamil cooking. This is a very mild and delicately flavoured dish which can be served with Potato Pulav, Peas Pulav, , biriyanis, and Indian breads such as Khamiri Roti, Naan, Pooris, and chapathis.
Though we’re past the Spring Equinox, good quality cauliflower is still available. The tomatoes are also luscious. In Tamil Nadu, cauliflower is rarely combined with prawns, so I decided to experiment combining the two with tomatoes. The crisp texture of the fried prawns and the turgor of cauliflower add an interesting mouthfeel to the dish.
Another prawn dish extended this time with a root vegetable, colocasia (seppangkizhangu). Colocasia is available all over India, like the potato. When boiled they develop a slimy texture. In Tamil Nadu colocasia is combined with prawn as the sliminess acts as a thickening agent so that we don’t have to use coconut, which is quite often used in prawn preparations and is the most common thickening agent. Also, the neutral flavour of colocasia does not dominate the dish and brings out the flavour of the prawns as well as the spices used.
In Tamil Nadu we use the term ‘thokku’ to refer to chutneys fried in oil and made of either vegetables or fish. This particular recipe was given to me by my friend Jacintha whose family returned to India from Burma in the ’70s. Her mother, Mrs. Vimala Joseph, is a talented cook and this recipe is from her. I have standardised the quantities and the procedure from the rough sketch given by her daughter.
In Tamil Nadu we combine prawns with various vegetables and greens to provide the most delicious and nutritious dishes. Today I have chosen to present prawns cooked with brinjal (eggplant), which is a vegetable available through all seasons. The addition of vegetables to prawns extends the dish so that many people can enjoy it.