I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam.
- Popeye the sailorman
We celebrated Onam (the harvest festival of Kerala), about 10 days back and we enjoyed the Onasadya (sadya/vegetarian-feast served on Thiruvonam). With more than 20 dishes to it's repertoire, sadya is a true culinary celebration. Koottukari is one of the dishes in the sadya.
I was wondering what recipe I should blog about as my very first dish in the series of sadya dishes. And decided that I should start with Koottukari - one of my husband's favorite dishes. When I looked at my recipe book, I realized that this was one of the very first recipes that I have made a note of. We like it so much that we make it at home for a regular meal and not just for sadya.
I have seen and tasted many regional variations of koottukari, but my mom-in-law's version is our absolute favorite. To make this version of koottukari, you need raw bananas and yam. Care should be taken while peeling and chopping yam since the juices of yam can cause your hands to itch. I have seen my mom-in-law applying coconut oil on her hands to form a coating, before cutting yam. Back in India, I was reluctant to make this since I was not very comfortable cutting yam. Here in the US, I get diced yam in the freezer section of my local Indian store. So, now, I find it very convenient to make koottukari - no peeling and chopping and itchy hands due to dicing the yam. Yam, raw bananas and Kadala (Bengal Gram/Black Chic Peas/Black Garbanzo Beans) blend well in the thick coconut gravy which is then tempered with thick coconut pieces and curry leaves. The color, the aroma and the taste of this dish is pure and exotic.
- 1.5 (heaped) cups Yam/Chena/Sooran/Soornu, diced
- 1 Raw Banana, medium sized
- ½ cup Kadala/Black Garbanzo Beans/Bengal Gram; soaked overnight
- ¼ tsp Haldi/Turmeric Powder/Ground Turmeric
- ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper (adjust to taste)
- Salt to taste
Grind to a thick paste
- ½ cup Grated Coconut
- 3-4 whole Black Pepper corns (adjust to taste)
- ½ tsp Cumin Seeds/Jeera
- 1 Shallot (See Recipe Notes)
- 1 tsp Coconut Oil (See Recipe Notes)
- ½ tsp Mustard Seeds
- 1.5 tbsp Coconut Pieces
- 5-6 Curry Leaves
- 1-2 Whole Red Chillies
- Bowl to soak the bengal gram
- Pressure cooker
- Sauce Pan, medium sized
- Food Processor or Indian style mixer grinder
- Small pan for tempering
- Pressure cook the Bengal Gram in sufficient quantity water.
- If you using fresh yam, peel and dice it into ½ inch pieces.
- Scrape the thick outer skin of the bananas and dice it too. (I quarter the banana, since I find it easier).
- Cook yam and banana pieces together in a sauce pan with sufficient quantity of water. You can even pressure cook them to speed up the cooking process. I like to cook them in a sauce pan to make sure that the pieces don't turn mushy.
- Add the cooked bengal gram, turmeric, salt and cayenne pepper to the cooked vegetables, add very little water (only if required) and bring it to a boil.
- Meanwhile, grind coconut, black pepper corns, shallots (if using) and cumin seeds to a smooth paste using as little water as possible.
- When the vegetables and bengal gram mix comes to a boil, add the ground coconut paste and mix well.
- Meanwhile, prepare the pan for tempering.
- Heat oil in the small tempering pan on medium high heat.
- Add the mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the curry leaves and whole red chilles. Also add the coconut pieces and saute them till the coconut pieces turn brown.
- Add this tempering to the the bengal gram and vegetable mix .
- Enjoy the aroma and serve hot with rice.
1. When I make this dish as part of a regular meal, I add shallots when grinding the coconut. But if I am serving this as a sadya item or as a meal to be served after a pooja (Hindu ritual), then I do not add the shallots.
2. Use coconut oil for an authentic taste. But if you do not have coconut oil, don't worry. Use your regular cooking oil. Roasting the coconut pieces in the oil would impart a "coconutty" taste to the dish.