Pavakka Puli Inji
“Pavakka puli inji…huh? Did I hear it rite?” “ Pavakka kondu puliyinjiyo.” “ Sounds really weird…. Never heard before…. How do u make it or rather how does it taste?” These are some of the excerpts of audient feedback whenever I tried to share the intriguing taste of this rather unfamiliar dish with others; leaving me quite mortified as if I’d made something forbidden. Even though all Keralites would be familiar with the beguiling dish called Puli inji (also known as Inji curry in certain areas though I still believe both are not one and the same), there are many who raise an eyebrow to this rather pioneering dish called Pavakka puli inji. Guess it’d really take some mettle to convince those tough conservative minds!!! ;-)
Talking about Puli inji, as you all would know, is really a breath taker, especially when served on your plates as an accompaniment with rice and curd. It also goes really well with spiced rice like biriyanis or pulaos as a side dish along with salad and pappadum. A must in Kerala sadhyas (feasts) as a thottu kootan, it indeed is served in “microscopic” amounts as the name suggests…that too without a second round of helping…literally conveying that thottu koottiyal mathi…adhikam kazhikkanda. :( But the fact remains that its’ luscious taste tempts you to have it in immensity especially if it is homemade. At least it doesn’t necessarily call for a special occasion to have generous helpings. ;) So when made in bulk at home, I usually have it thrice a day, for breakfast with dosas/idlis, for lunch as a side dish and for dinner as well… often finding my Amma (an ardent puli inji lover) murmuring behind me with a frown, “Nee athu muzhuvanum theerkkum” followed by a shout “Kurachu enikku koodi vaikkane”. ;-p Kya kare? Can’t simply resist that gorgeous taste…. A taste that takes you a long way, in fact leaving you yearn for more and more till the whole container is emptied!!! :D
Now though the title suggests the usage of Pavakka, tamarind and ginger, the irony in the recipe is that this dish is infact made without actually using ginger. Basically, this dish follows the same procedure of that of the authentic puli inji. Hence the resultant name with that tag. And a striking feature of this dish is that it in fact blends or assimilates all the taste flavours in it like bitterness thru pavakka, sweetness thru jaggery and the spiciness thru green chillies…all the three in the tangy sauce of tamarind. A classic example of integration of all flavours in one dish thereby making it one of the most outstanding dishes or rather thottu kootan of Kerala cuisine.
Though I’m not too sure about the original mastermind behind this dish, probably a result of some sort of serendipity by my ancestors, I would like to credit this recipe source to my Amma, who makes this pavakka puli inji with utmost poise and precision.
So, this is how this simple and delicious dish goes….
A medium sized Pavakka (Bittergourd)
5 – 6 medium sized Green chillies
A lemon sized ball of Tamarind (Puli)
A medium sized ball of Jaggery (Sharkkara)
A pinch of Turmeric powder
Salt – As required
A tbsp of Coconut oil
A tsp of Mustard seeds
2 – 3 broken Dry red chillies
A few Curry leaves
PS – Do adjust the quantities for green chillies and jaggery accdgly. You can also add a tsp of finely chopped ginger.
1) Wash the pavakka well and deseed it.
2) Cut it into thin slices of around 1 cm length.
3) Soak the tamarind in warm water.
4) Heat a tsp of oil in a pan.
5) Sauté the above pavakka pieces and finely chopped or slit green chillies in it along with turmeric powder until the pavakka turns soft and cooked. Do not fry it. Keep it aside when done.
6) Heat a spoon of oil in the same pan.
7) Splutter the mustard seeds and sauté the dry red chillies and curry leaves.
8) Add the sautéed pavakka into it.
9) Squeeze the tamarind well and add that extract along with the water into the pan and mix well.
10) Add the grated jaggery and mix well again.
11) Add salt and let it simmer for sometime until the gravy becomes thick.
12) Check for salt and sweetness and adjust accdgly.
Though I’m sure that even the pavakka haters would highly relish this dish, for all those hard-core pavakka haters, you can follow the same procedure to make Puli inji instead; in which case, simply substitute the pavakka with around 100 gm of finely chopped ginger and sauté it along with 10 odd green chillies.
Absolutely easy to make and light on the ingredients, you can make puli inji with or without pavakka in bulk or in small quantities, refrigerate in a container and take it for use when required.
So, there, you have another absolutely rocking dish from the exotic world of Kerala cuisine, which is sure to slake the tastebuds of those who are looking to have something naadan for lunch. Believe me, this is a must try at all costs…something that’s sure to bring a few navarasas on your face. ;-p
So, on that arty note, happy cooking!!!
Labels: Naadan Veg Curries