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Monday, May 11, 2009

Exploring Food - Mooru Kozhambu

Internet is brewing and bubbling with a number of blogs, sites, tips, discussion groups and snippets about food. Food will be a matter of passion and may be, an obsession for many like me. Day in and day out, I see chefs rolling out anything between an exotic to a basic recipe via TV, radio and the internet. Let us not forget our traditional print media.

I am reminded of a famous question...Do we eat to live or should we live to eat? I take pride in the fact that I belong to the latter breed! The passion with which a select few like me walk, talk and breathe food, is in itself a topic for discussion and debate.

I was watching an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the food network. This is a series in which he challenges a restaurateur, chef or a home cook in a "cook down". One common factor I see in the series is the champions beat Flay. It is interesting to note that each cook has definite unfazed ideas about the ingredients, recipe and the the effort which goes into the dish and doesn't mind chiding Bobby if he deviates from the actual recipe!

Thinking of it, I may be a fanatic myself. At least when it comes to food,ingredients, a recipe, or the name of a dish. A typical example would be the "Saambaar". I definitely have my blood pressure up when people confuse it with kozhambu, pappu chaaru or in worst case scenario, with regular telugu pappu.

It is just that each dish has its origins to a set of staple ingredients native to the region the dish belongs to. A classic example would be the mooru kozhambu. We see wide range of butter milk/curd based dishes across the Indian sub continent. An interesting fact is that there are a few other dishes similar to the mooru kozhambu, native to regions in the middle east, Africa and even the Mayan civilization. Though the basic ingredient, the buttermilk is common between kadi (most part of India), majjige huli (kannada), mooru kozhambu ( tamil) and majjiga pulusu (Telugu), each region has its version of flavoring, tempering and thickening agents to make the dish their own. Folks in south India have four version in general. This is apart from the variations the western, eastern, northern and the central Indians prepare. Not only this, there could be sub variations in the dish for example, folks in arcot district have a version (my mom in law's version), people from thanjavur have a typical recipe, so do the palakkad iyers.

Bottom line, we need to be more tolerant and respect the regional cuisine and relish food for just being what it is!.. in fact avial has a distant cousin in the form of labra in the bangali cuisine or a mixed vegetable curry kolhapuri platter, or the maharastrain Kalvan. Simply put, let us leave the wonderful koorma, kootu, kootaan etc their name and fame and their rightful place on the table!

Before I bid's a picture of Chayote also called bengaluru Khathhirikkai (Brinjal) or chow chow and the recipe for a yummy chow chow mooru kuzhambu
Image source:

Chow-chow Mooru Kuzhambu.

Chow chow mooru kuzhambu
The recipe: (Palakad Iyer's style as my amma makes it)
 What you need
Bengaluru brinjal or Chayote - 1 whole (cubed)
Butter milk - 2cups (preferably home made)
Green chillies- 3
Fresh Coconut - 4tsbps (shredded)
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
curry leaves - 6-8 leaves
Fresh ginger - 1/2 " piece (optional)
Raw rice- 1/2tsp
pepper corns- 6-8
Chana dal - 1tbsp
Turmeric powder -a pinch
salt - to suit your taste
Hing/asafoetida - a pinch
Water -2 cups
Cilantro/corainder leaves for garnish

  • Roast Chana dal and rice until the ingredients loose their raw smell.
  • Grind these roasted ingredients with coconut, ginger, chillies, peppercorns and cumin
  • Wash and dice the chow chow into cubes
  • Boil chow chow 2 cups of water or in just enough water after a minute or so add salt, half the number of curry leaves, asafoetida/hing and turmeric powder
  • Boil the vegetable for another three minutes and then add the ground coconut mixture and let the ingredients boil until the done. Switch off the stove and let the mixture cool for a minute
  • Add the buttermilk, garnish with chopped cilantro/corainder leaves and rest of the curry leaves and serve
  • we wait to add the butter milk because butter milk curdles when exposed to heat
  • I avoid oil in my food as and when i can, you could temper the curry leaves and a tsp of mustrad seeds and red chilly and add it to the dish.
  • My telugu friend's amma adds a tsp of mustard while grinding the masala I have seen many telugu families use mustard as part of the ground masala. I love that too..just that i dint use it this time
  • Other vegetables which work well  are - winter melon/ash gourd, okra/bhendi, cluster beans, lauki/bottle goourd, cucumber etc
  • I love to use asparagus, drumsticks and also snake gourd in the mooru kuzhambu

Can food get more interesting.. I say definitely yes, yes yes!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Samayal and saapaadu!

We all are aware of basic food groups. It is exciting to see how people across continents view their food. The more I explore for differences among cuisines, the more similar they seem. All of us more or less have a good balance of the food pyramid. Each cuisine has its own favorite for starch/carbohydrate, protein, fat and fiber. The eastern counterparts like their rice noodles with their favorite meat or sea food floating in a sauce base and in a bed of veggies. As we move towards west on the globe, we see more varieties of starch, soups, sauces and not to forget desserts.

I have always been fascinated by anything related to food, it's preparation patterns and the whole science which goes into a recipe. I view the process of cooking as an art and of course, relish anything vegetarian. I should admit that I could get touchy with names of dishes. Especially traditional cooking methods and recipes. For example, I prefer that saambhaar is not confused with anything which is made with tamarind water, lentils and veggies. It is an insult to the dish. Moreover, the andhra pappu chaaru, kozhambu have their own identity so it is better not to give them an identity crisis :). This sensitivity of mine extends to every cuisine, not just Indian food.

so that is it for now. See you soon.

Friday, May 1, 2009

enakku samayal theriyuma?

Coming from a typical pallakad iyer paramparai came naturally to me. At least, so I think! Amma's experiments introduced me to a whole array of cuisines and vegetarian delicacies. Being a no-fuss eater helped me relish whatever amma made. On the way through these years, I consciously and otherwise picked up tips and recipes from paatis, ammas, chithis, and atthais around me. I should not forget mentioning my friends' influences on my cooking. I hope to create a collection of my thoughts about sapaadu. I was not sure if I wanted to get into blogging about kitchen, food or recipes. As I did not want to get lost in the ever growig number of food blogs. But yet again, out of the blue, on the insistence of my kid sister- Praveena. I am here. Writing about my first love - Food!...yum..


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