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South Indian

Chow-chow Poriyal | Chayote stir-fry

Recipes

Growing up, I remember seeing baskets full of Chayote with most vegetable vendors in Bangalore. For us, it belonged to a section of vegetables that were alien to the Punjabi kitchen and they never featured in any of our dishes. Curiosity has caught up over the years and I now try to learn more about different vegetables I come across and incorporate them into my cooking. Sometime last year, my Ayurveda specialist recommend I introduce more vegetables from the Gourd family in my diet as they are cooling in nature for our bodies. A little research on internet threw Luffa, Bottle Gourd and Chayote as the most common ones and Chayote was the only one I had never cooked with but had seen them in plenty here in Singapore as well.

Poriyal as they call it in Tamil Nadu or a vegetable stir-fry to simply put it is a regular side in our meals. I usually make it with beans, carrots or beetroot and found recipes with Chayote as well. Chayote or chow-chow as it is called in South India is a low calorie, slightly sweet fruit and enjoyed best with light flavours that don’t overpower the taste of the fruit. I usually serve it with sambar and steamed rice.

Ingredients – For 2
Chayote: 1 medium sized, chopped into 1 cm cubes
Cooking oil: 1 tsp (I used coconut oil)
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Urad dal (dehusked split black gram): 1 tsp
Curry leaves: about 10-12 leaves
Green chilli: 1 small (less or more per your liking)
Ginger: about ½ inch finely chopped (optional)
Freshly grated coconut: 2 tbsp
Salt: per your taste

Method
1. In a pan, add oil and let it heat. Add curry leaves, mustard seeds, urad dal. Let it cook for about a minute until mustard seeds pop and urad dal is slightly browned.
2. Add chopped green chilli, ginger and chayote. Cover with lid and let it cook for about 5-6 minutes.
3. Add grated coconut and salt and let it cook for another minute.
4. Turn off heat, leave the lid on for 5 minutes. Serve.

Notes
– You can either leave the skin on or peel the Chayote, younger ones with soft skin don’t require peeling. If you are peeling it, the skin leaves a little slime once peeled which can cause a little skin irritation. Wear gloves or peel under running water.
– Some varieties have thorns on the skin, ensure these are scrapped off if you don’t intend to peel it.
– The seed of the fruit is edible, there is no need to discard it.
– I like my Poriyal crunchy and cook it for a shorter time, feel free to increase your cooking time if you would like it to be softer.
– I add salt at the end of the cooking process as it retains a more vibrant colour.

Tomato Rasam

Recipes

We talk a lot about recipes and their origins and often look for authenticity in regional dishes. What may seem like an authentic dish today might have been different decades or centuries ago and was probably tweaked out of necessity. This Rasam recipe definitely falls outside the authentic recipes realm as Tomatoes are a new introduction to India, they arrived with the Portuguese around the 16th century.

I don’t know much about the correctness of this recipe compared to the origins; it is the only Rasam my Punjabi mother cooked at home growing up and she learned it from another friend. I love it because it is the sweet taste of nostalgia and takes me back to my childhood when getting home cooked sambar rice or rasam rice was a rare treat! This recipe is effortless and full of tangy tomato and tamarind flavours with a generous hit of black pepper. You are sure to have open sinuses after a hot cup of this Rasam!


Ingredients (serves 2)

Ripe Tomatoes: 2, medium sized
Tamarind: 5grams
Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
Whole black pepper: 1 tsp
Curry leaves: 12-15 leaves
Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
Whole dry red chilli: 1-2 small
Oil or Ghee: 1tsp (oil for a vegan option)
Garlic cloves: 2-3 medium sized mashed with skin
Salt to taste
Sugar: 1/4 tsp
500 ml water (more if required)

Recipe
Wash and chop tomatoes into about 8 pieces chunks. Cook tomatoes and tamarind in a pot of 400ml water for about 15-20 minutes or until they are soft and mushy.
In a separate pan, dry roast black pepper and cumin until lightly browned and fragrant, coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle and set aside.
Strain the cooked tomato and tamarind mix to get rid of the skins and seeds of the tomatoes. Add more water through the strainer to get maximum flavour out of the leftover pulp and discard the pulp. Set aside in the pot in which the tomatoes were initially cooked.
To temper – in a pan, add 1tsp ghee or oil, heat and then add mashed garlic pods, whole red chilli, mustard seeds, curry leaves and cook for about a minute on low flame. Add coarsely ground pepper and cumin and cook for another minute.
Add a ladle full of the rasam to this and mix it all back into the pot of Rasam.
Add salt and sugar, cook for another 5-10 minutes on low flame before serving.

Notes
– For more rounded, deeper flavours especially garlic, leave the Rasam for at least an hour before serving.
– Enjoy with steamed white rice, khichdi, or as a pre-meal soup.