My native place is the city of Tirunelveli; famous for its temples (Nellaiappar Kovil), the Thamirabarani river, Rmkv and most importantly it's cuisine. As a kid, I never realised how distinct amma's cooking was and the way we mixed our ingredients giving it that unique flavor. It will always be reminiscent of home and amma and everything that goes with it. I have been to Tirunelveli about 5 times in my whole life and on each visit it was for a wedding or some other religious trip. And all such trips have one major component in common; the food. Amazing , delicious, mouth watering yet simple vegetarian food. Rice is our staple and the curries that go with it are countless with each curry having a vegetable stir-fry (poriyal) as it's accompaniment.
On that note, I am going to introduce a typical Tirunelveli dish called Sodhi. It's a coconut milk based curry and it's kind of the Indian version of the Thai Green Curry. And yes, that's the reason I love Thai food. Sodhi is served during the Maru Veedu function of a Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai wedding. When amma makes this at home, ingee chutney (ginger chutney) is a given for the simple reason that coconut milk and rice is a heavy meal and the ginger chutney balances the taste and is easy on the stomach. But my most favorite dish that goes with sodhi is the cheppa kezhangu varuval (tarro root/eddoe).
Amma and appa used to literally take the entire morning in the pre-prep for making sodhi. They extracted the milk from two fresh coconuts by hand and later on using a mixer/blender. But now, thanks to consumerism, when I want to make sodhi I go to the nearby super market and buy a can of coconut milk.
What follows is a recipe that's as authentic as a sodhi recipe can get.
Coconut milk - 1 can
Moong dal/Paasi paruppu - 2 tbsp
Potato - 1 small sized
Carrot - 1
Drumstick (if available) - 1/2
Eggplant/Aubergine/Brinjal - 1 small sized
Onion - 1/2 medium sized
Green chillies - 2 spicy hot
Curry leaves - a few
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Coconut oil - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - to taste
1. Wash and cook the dal in 1/2 cup water in a vessel.
2. Slice the onions, slit the green chillies and chop the vegetables in big peices. Add the coconut oil in another vessel and splutter the mustard seeds in it.
3. Add the curry leaves, green chillies, onions and turmeric powder and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. 4. Now add the vegetables and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked dal to this, 1/2 cup water and cover and cook until the vegetables are done.
5. Add the coconut milk and water as needed to get a thin pouring consistency like sambhar or rasam. Now add salt to taste and let it come to just one boil. DO NOT OVER BOIL as the coconut milk will break/curdle.
Cheppa kezhangu/Arbi/Tarro Root - 6 medium sized
Gram flour/besan - 4 tbsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - to deep fry
Water - as needed
1. Wash the kezhangu in water until all the mudiness is gone and place in a vessel with enough water to cook it. Alternatively, you can also cook it in a pressure cooker - 2 whistles should do the trick.
2. Once cooked, let it cool and then peel it. Cut into half (lengthwise) and then into wedges (again going lengthwise).
3. Place in a plate or wide vessel. Mix the besan with the chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. 4. Sprinkle on the kezhangu and mix until they are lightly coated. Repeat if necessary and add water if it is too dry.
5. Heat the oil to almost-smoking temperature in a kadai. Lightly slip in the pieces one by one and deep fry until they are a nice golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon onto a paper towel.
Ginger - 8 inch piece
Red chillies (dried) - 2
Urad dal/uluntham paruppu - 1 tsp
Channa dal/kadalai paruppu - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds/kadugu - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few (optional)
1. Cut or slice the ginger into rough pieces. Do not chop finely.
2. Heat oil in a small kadai and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the urad dal, channa dal, curry leaves and fry until lightly browned.
3. Add the ginger and fry for 2 to 3 mins. Remove and set aside to cool.
4. Once cooled down, blend in a mixer with salt to taste until it's a smooth paste.
Amma, aachi and possibly countless other mother's, daughters, daughters-in-law etc. from other Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai homes :)