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INDIA, SOUTHERN

ACHAR KE ALOO (POTATOES IN A PICKLE SAUCE)

Preparation time Cooking time Serves

Ingredients

Potatoes Onions

Ginger paste Garlic paste

Red chili powder Turmeric powder Vinegar Sugar

For tempering

Nigella seeds Mustard seeds Cumin seeds

15 minutes 45 minutes 6–8 persons

11 ⁄2

⁄2 ⁄2 ⁄2 ⁄2

5, ground to a paste 11 11 11 11

–2 pounds teaspoon

teaspoon teaspoon teaspoon

1/3 cup 2 teaspoons Salt To taste

1 teaspoon

1⁄2

Whole red chilies 8

Method

Boil the potatoes. Peel and cut into 1-inch-sized pieces Heat oil. Fry the potatoes until they are golden. Set aside. Leave about 2/3 cup of oil and remove the rest. Next fry the onions until they are golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic paste and fry a little. Next add salt, turmeric, and chili powder, and then the fried potatoes. Add about half a cup of water and cook over low heat for approximately 5 minutes until the spices are well blended and a small amount of gravy remains. Turn off the heat. Mix sugar in vinegar and add to the dish. Transfer all to the serving dish.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the dry whole red chilies, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and finally the nigella seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to crackle and the red chilies darken, pour the tempering over the dish.

teaspoon 1 teaspoon

tially cooked bread is held over an open flame for a few seconds. The direct heat causes moisture in the dough to turn quickly to steam, puffing the bread while the cook- ing is completed. For a crisper effect, unleavened dough may be cooked completely on the griddle until well browned on both sides.

The main staple in Tamil Nadu is rice. Simple veg- etarian lunches consist of three courses, each eaten with rice. A typical lunch menu would be rice and rasam (a highly spiced lentil soup) and a preparation made from vegetables. This is followed by more rice for the second course, with sambar (a preparation of lentils) and pa- padams. The last course comprises rice, yogurt, and pick- les. Southern meals tend to end this way: hot, fiery courses followed by bland, soothing ones.

Vegetarian meals using the same basic theme of rice,

rasam, sambar, and yogurt may in skillful hands become much more elegant and elaborate. Examples include rasa- vangi, a kind of heady sambar with the tiniest of eggplants (aubergines) bobbing about in it; vendakai curry, delight- fully crisp fritters made by dipping sections of okra into a spicy chickpea flour batter and frying them; keerai poricha kootu, a kind of thick soupy stew of lentils, spinach, and fresh coconut; and the popular rasavade, made with savory urad dal (split black gram) doughnuts, immersed in rasam just long enough to soften and soak up all the liquid’s tart and fiery flavor.

Chettinad

Traders, merchants, and money-lenders by profession, the Chettiyars of Chettinad have traveled the seas freely since ancient times. Their wealth is enormous, and the Chettiyars are very comfortable with and open about this. They are known to begin collecting dowries for their daughters at birth. The Chettinad region of southern In- dia that comprises Madurai, Virudhunagar, and adjoin- ing regions is dry and arid. The cuisine of the region reflects this and also the fact that the early Chettiyars were traders in spices. Therefore, their cuisine is spicy (fiery hot) and rich in its variety of spices, the most promi- nent being peppercorn and red chilies.

A dosa is more satisfying than a simple pancake, as it is golden red and crisp on one side, smooth and white on the other. Made from almost the same batter, both idlis and dosas are the traditional breads of the South, as nour- ishing and digestible (due to the fermentation process) as they are delicious. They may be eaten with butter and honey or with chutneys, or they may be stuffed with a spicy blend of potatoes and onions. All these breads are unleavened and prepared in two stages. First, each round is cooked briefly on a preheated griddle; then, the par-

264

In Chettinad a meal is traditionally eaten off a ba- nana leaf. Some popular preparations are meen varuval, fried fish; varuval kola, fried meatballs made with a very creamy paste of meat, cashews, poppy seeds, coconut, fennel, and fenugreek seeds; koli kolambu, chicken cooked in spicy tamarind water; kari kolambu, meat cooked with roasted coriander seed and tomatoes. There are also dishes made from mixed vegetables cooked with the sec- ond water used for washing rice (mandi) or idi appams, freshly made rice vermicelli, seasoned with mustard seeds and urad dal (split black gram), as well as dishes made from banana flowers, banana stems, dried mango, and as- sorted pickles and sweets. Fennel and roasted and pow- dered fenugreek are the predominant spices in Chettinad chicken, fish, and vegetable preparations.

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