A majority of my ancestors were farmers, my maternal grandfather became the last agriculturist of our family due to several reasons. They mostly grew rice & lentil crops in their farmland. There were large amounts of nutrient-rich broken rice and broken lentils kept inside kudhil (a gigantic earthenware used to store foodgrains) in my grandfather’s house. Since those small uneven particles of rice & lentil (kurunai) could not be sold in the market, they were used by our grandmother for making upma, payasam, kanji, kurunai dosai, etc.
It was a myth widely circulated in the 80s that coconuts are the main sources of cholesterol-causing artery blocks. So my mother preferred to reduce the use of coconut meat greatly, used coconut milk sparingly, and stopped using coconut oil once for all. But my grandmothers continued to use coconuts profusely, and they found a dish insipid if coconut meat is scantily added into it. In those days, coconut meat was used in almost every vegetable preparation, coconut milk was used for making scrumptious payasam, and coconut oil for frying crunchy snacks like thattai, murukku, banana chips, etc. We relished theeyal mostly in our grandmother’s house as this recipe calls for good lashings of coconut meat fried in coconut oil.
Although Thai cuisine boasts a wide range of meatless preparations, we could find every vegetable salad, soup, or curry tinged with fish sauce/ oyster sauce/ dried shrimps/ shrimp paste. People declaring themselves as vegetarians in Thailand are actually pescatarians, they don’t take any meat, but they don’t mind taking seafood. So vegetarians/ vegans may order food from live counters (or roadside vendors) rather than dining at buffets, as they can make sure to avoid using seafood as flavor enhancers while preparing vegetarian dishes. I am a fiend for Thai curries especially, green curry for the pleasant green color, creamy sauce, and the delightful aroma of Thai herbs & spices.
Onions & bitter gourds (bitter melons/ Balsam pears) share a similarity. They both have strong flavors when taken raw, but they lose their flavors when cooked. Onions have strong pungency but they turn mildly sweet when stir fried. Likewise, bitter gourds are bitter when taken raw, its bitterness is reduced by half when cooked, it is mildly bitter when deep fried in hot oil, and the bitterness can be totally eliminated when stir fried at low temperature for a long time. It is actually a myth that bitter gourds are always bitter. So we can prepare delicious dishes using these nutritious melons. Here I have prepared stir-fried balsam pear liked even by the kids.
Idli with ketti chutney is a popular street food among bachelors who miss their home-cooked food for breakfast. Both my grandmothers prepared ketti chutney (meaning thick chutney) every day. It tastes delicious when served with spongy idli/ dosa. Nowadays we don’t prepare this chutney often, and we prefer to make a simple coconut chutney that does not require any tempering.
Sodhi is an exotic Sri Lankan curry prepared with lentils and vegetables stewed in coconut milk. Although sodhi is not a spicy curry, it has grown popular among the people living in & around Tirunelveli who usually enjoy spicy curries. The banana leaf platter served at our family wedding feasts is a lavish spread of creamy sodhi, pungent inji pachadi, spicy potato fries, crunchy appalam, scrumptious coconut milk dessert (payasam), sweet boondhi and fresh curd as shown below. Wedding in our family is usually hosted by bride’s family. However bride’s family is treated with a sumptuous meal (maruveetu sappadu) with sodhi the day after marriage, and it is a unique custom prevalent here to signify the confluence of both the families.
Shallot chutney also known as chinna vengayam chutney is a traditional chutney mainly prepared for young girls & pregnant women in our family. Shallots contain flavonoids that have powerful antioxidant properties, and they are also useful for improving emotional health & heart health. Other ingredients in this chutney are curry leaves & black grams. Curry leaves are rich sources of iron & folic acid and hence good for pregnant women. Black gram lentils contain calcium & other minerals required to increase the bone density, and hence useful for old women.
Puli Kuzhambu or Tamarind Curry is a traditional south Indian curry prepared using garlic & shallots. We can enjoy its taste to the fullest only when the flavors of all the spices are completely infused into the curry. So this curry can be used for 2 or 3 days without being refrigerated (used for 15 days when refrigerated). Puli kulambu tastes divine when served with soft idli or spongy dosa/ uthappam/ appam the next day.
Green peas masala is a creamy Indian curry particularly enjoyed by children as it does not have sharp pungent flavors. Nevertheless, this scrumptious curry meets the dietary requirements of children; the protein in green peas ensures their growth, shallots give them the immunity from disease causing germs and fresh coriander leaves loaded with iron make them active.
Kambu koozh (millet porridge) is one of the best breakfasts that can be taken on a scorching sunny day during summer as it keeps us cool & energetic all through the day. It is so filling that we don’t require to take anything until lunch. You can check out the link here to know more about various millets, their health benefits and also millet recipes. I found this site on millets very informative. We can prepare koozh (porridge) using millets by cooking the whole millets or millet powders, and serve it diluted by adding either milk or buttermilk.