Christmas is the special time of year when people suddenly remember you and drop in hoping for a tasty bite or two 🙂 Carol singers may also pop by to delight you with their enthusiasm if not their talent 😀 This Kari Vadai is my grandmother’s recipe, which I used to enjoy in my Thirunelveli days; it is easy to make and a delight to consume – a guaranteed guest pleaser! It can be served as a snack or as an accompaniment to the Christmas feast along with onion rings and lemon wedges.
Tiny shrimps are referred to as Chenna Kunni in Tamil Nadu. They are salted and dried whole i.e., with the head and shell intact. These are combined with vegetables and prepared as poriyal (fry). I came up with this recipe as I wanted to prepare a very high protein side dish, and dry shrimp has very concentrated protein. I used broad beans as their water content is not very high, and that goes well with the dry shrimp. Chenna kunni is usually combined with drumstick leaves in Tamil Nadu.
Thuvaram is a kind of a fry or poriyal which is popular in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. There are 2 varieties of thuvaram: one uses the vegetable and very few seasonings; the other includes a small amount of red gram dhal and coconut ground with garlic and cumin seeds. Pudalankai (Podalankai/Podalangai) or snake gourd is suitable for the first type. Later on I’ll be posting the second variety also.
The Northeast monsoon is expected to commence towards the end of October. That means there will be days when one will not be able to set out shopping. My mother used to make vattral of vegetables (sun dried at home) and also stock dried fish as even my father would not be at home to go shopping. My mother would make this Karuvadu Kuzhambu when it was raining heavily outside and serve it with Urullaikizhangu Pittu (and with white rice).
The yam that is commonly available in the markets here in Chennai is Elephant Yam, cut into large chunks. Yam is sliced into thin pieces and made into chips in most households. My mother also used to make that, but I used to dislike it 🙂 It did teach me that yam could be diced and fried, and I developed my own, simple yam fry that is easy to make. I am sure there are several recipes with various spice combinations available, but mine uses the minimum of spices for a mild flavour.
Back in the day, a Christian wedding in Thirunelveli would last 3 days: the day before the ceremony, the day of the ceremony, and the day after the ceremony. Only vegetarian food was served on the first two days, with meat being reserved for the day after the ceremony. Guests sat on jamakkalams (Tamil Nadu cotton carpets) laid on the floor, and the vegetarian feast was served on a plantain leaf. Generally, the salt is always served first, and a tablespoon of this dhal is served after it. The other vegetables, pickles, appalams, etc., are served only after these two. When sambar is served for the rice, this dhal is again served in large quantities. The first tablespoon of dhal is served as a nod to its significance as an important source of protein in a vegetarian diet, and is therefore served immediately after salt even though its actual role in the meal comes later.
This dish is a family specialty. A Keerai Kadaiyal is usually made with mashed greens tempered with mustard, red chillies, and asafoetida fried in oil. I feel that it takes away the flavour of the greens compared to this recipe. The onion, garlic, and green chillies boiled with the greens not only bring out the flavour of the greens but also enhance the taste of the kadaiyal. It is always served with fish curries like Live Viraal Meen Kuzhambu, Ayirai Meen Kuzhambu, and Unripe Mango and Katla Curry.