Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Feeding My Inner Malayali

I should have known there was a Malayali in me when, ages ago, I got off the train and a woman came up to me and started speaking in Malayalam ...

I should have known it when, six years ago, in a boat on Vembanad lake, I found myself speaking to the boatman in Malayalam, quite oblivious of the fact that I didn't know the language ...

I should have known when we went shopping and all I remember buying is the kodampuli and an umbrella from a locally famous umbrella store for the gadget-loving Spouse - this brolly came with a light!

I should know, because I often get mistaken for a Malayali, though I don't know what it is about me that is Malayali!

I know there is one in me because I quite like the food from Kerala, and I was inspired to make a curry with something that only Malayalis use, as far as I know.

The inspiration also owed to other factors:

- A 6-year-old stash of kodampuli - yes, from the same trip that took me to Vembanad and had me speaking to the boatman in a language I never knew I knew

- Rediscovering that said stash a few months ago after having thought I had cleaned it out

- And most recently, a non-Malayali friend's experiment with yam, coconut milk and kodampuli which I tasted and really liked last week. Her kodampuli too owed its existence in her home to a trip. Not to Vembanad, but to Thekkady. And while both of us bought it with fish curry in mind, we also used it for non-fish curry. (And no, I don't think she can speak Malayalam or spoke to the boatman in Malayalam and if she did, I don't know whether she knew she didn't know the language.)

I had two green bananas I wanted to stew, and I decided they were 'It'. I didn't check for any further Malayaliness, but decided to adapt a hazy idea of a green banana and tamarind gravy to this recently rediscovered delight. Usually such gravies, much relished in Telugu families such as mine, are made this way. I was too lazy to check, so went by memory and imagination.

This way:

Green banana – 2 medium, boiled but not mushy, peeled, diced
Tomato - 3, chopped as fine as possible
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Chilli powder - 1-2 tsp *

Kodampuli – 3-4 pieces, soaked in about a cup of water

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 3-4
Fenugreek seeds – 4 (yes, 4 seeds)
Cumin seed - 1/2 tsp
Split and hulled black gram/urad dal - 1 tsp
Split and hulled chana dal - 1-2 tsp
Dry red chillies – 2, broken
Oil – 2-3 tsp

1 Heat oil, add the fenugreek seeds and then the urad dal. As the urad turns colour, add the mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the rest of the ingredients under 'Tempering' and fry well.

2 Now add the tomato and saute well. Add a little water, if you like.

3 Now add the green banana and mix. Add the salt, turmeric and chilli powder, mix well.

4 Now tip the kodampuli and the water in which they were soaked into the banana. (At that moment, I hadn't known if that was how it's used; I just did it because the kodampuli looked hard and unyielding even after soaking for 30 minutes, and the water didn't look very different either.)

5 Let it boil, checking now and then to ensure the gravy doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Add water if the consistency is too thick.

6 At home, tamarind gravies are finished off with a final addition of jaggery. I resisted the urge to do that with this experiment.

I will try this again, with other vegetables.

* Note: I added the third tomato and some more water and boiled it a little more after finding the gravy too hot.

What are the inner 'others' in you - and why do you think they are?

A Reminder: Desi Soccer Mom's Back to Basics is being hosted here - the deadline is October 17, so send in those entries!


  1. You spoke in a language that you didn't know you didn't know.. :D :D Lol! :D Nice post and that curry looks very tasty.

  2. What did you say to the boatman, Sra??? Liked reading this post.....

  3. So what did you speak to the boatman in the language you didn't know you knew? And what have you named this curry? :)

  4. The kudampuli was a very well kept secret until de end....i kept guessing it as kokum or may be tamarind or may be choko or donno wat??? but was laughing at de end tat it was de poor fella- banana...de puli word at de end tricked me.
    And did i forget to mention lovely article...

  5. Is Kodampulli is the same as Kokum, Sra?
    You took me to Kerala by the time I finished reading your post. Authentic and spicy treat from the 'city owned by the Gods!' Thank for sharing it.

  6. I knew we were connected somehow but didnt knowhow :-) Welcome my malayali sister :-)))))
    You spoke Malayalam even when you didn't know it, i am sure in you past life you was a mallu then.
    I too jave a sash of kudampuli from well 4 years ago, and i still use them for prawn curries etc...
    Love the curry looks spicy yumm.

  7. Very funny!

    Your dish looks delicious. And I like that you added the green bananas. I love green bananas.


  8. With banana and "kodampuli" in your cooking, you're defintely a Malayali. And you have enough friends from Kerala to bear that out! ;-)

  9. Notyet, it was - it had a nice smoked flavour, too!
    SS, er ... I didn't know I didn't know or didn't know I knew - too confusing, I know, it doesn't matter - thanks!
    Jayashree, I think it was something about where we were getting off and whether he had been informed or not, something of that sort. :)
    Jyothsna, pls see reply above. And I haven't named it anything, like most of the food I talk about! :)
    Chetana, Kokum is a cousin. Thanks!
    Sanjeeta, it's different, but related. Thanks!
    Happy Chechi, thank you! I used to tell a lot of tales earlier, and when I told someone I found out I was a Himalayan princess in my past life, they believed me!
    Paz, yes, I remember, we tried those too! How are you?
    Aparna, yes, I wondered if I should cite that as proof of my inner Malayaliness, but I'd already spent two hours on that post! Some of the nicest people I know are Malayalis, including someone closer home - closer to yours, I mean ;)

  10. speaking to the boatman in malayalam!! wow, sra, i always knew something connected us.:)

  11. for some reason my brother always used to say i looked like a Syrian Christian Malayali (roll yes)- yes that specific. he used to annoy me by calling me Rosamma or some such name...:)

    the stew looks delicious!

  12. Hi,

    A blog for soups and curries...hmmm..



  13. Delicious!! Looks Yummy!!

  14. This truly is intuitive cooking at its finest! So intuitive that it even brought to speak another language...now if that isn't serendipitous then I don't know what is. Sounds like a delicious curry!

  15. Sra,
    People used to mistook me being a Punju , I guess I too like feeding my inner Punju with some choley bhaturey occasionally :-D..anyways kodampuli, never saw it I guess ..Curry looks inviting ..hugs and smiles

  16. Sra, Is the black thing in the pic the puli?
    It was fun reading your inner mallu:)

  17. Mallugirl, :) I'm sure there's more!
    Miri, :) You need to confirm something, remember?
    Sameena, Oh, I hope it's much more than that!
    Apu, thanks!
    Joanne, :) I borrowed the idea from my friend. I ate a prawn curry with the same stuff yesterday, it was good!
    Jaya, all of us have inner others, for sure!
    Sharmi, thanks! Yes the black thing is the puli!

  18. oh by the way... you just made something that's almost like a dish an aunt of mine makes called 'sankalpa meen curry' meaning imaginary fish curry!!!

  19. Rajani, that's v poetic - sankalpa meen curry - wishful thinking, in a way, right? :-D

  20. Reading the first line, I almost thought was the beginning of another food fiction. Maybe the "inner writer" in you can still whip something up. :)

    As to my "inner" I have been mistaken for "South Indian" and Punjabi. I know not any of the other languages besides my mother tongue, Hindi and English, as far as I know. :)

  21. Thats a comfort food for the Fall weather, with the nutrition of the dals. I am sure your inner Malyali was satiated with this. Fun writing.

  22. For years I have had an inner Italian. I can never speak like one, with some sartorial changes I can try to sneak off as one, but I can certainly eat like one!

    Haven't been reading much online lately. How are you?

  23. Love these posts. So makes me want to travel to SE Asia. I have a friends who went for 3 months last year (Dec to Feb) to rock climb. They said the food was the best part (obviously) and are constantly trying to recreate it!


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