Vaazhakkai Mor kozhambu

Cooked plantains in spicy coconut gravy and yogurt

[Waa Lakka yee; More ko Lom boo] (Tamil)

Left to my own devices, I would probably never think of this possibility with plantains. And each time, it is the abundance of plantains at home that has pushed me to look for a recipe different from what is usually prepared of plantains. In my eagerness to cook-a-variety for our special guests this Thanksgiving, I failed to realize that I was shopping way more than I could possibly cook in a short span of 4 days. And needless to say, I couldn’t bring all that I had mentally planned for to the dining table, which explains the ‘abundance’. The last time such an ‘abundance’ happened, I landed with the blissful discovery of Baalekai Dose (Plantain crepes) but this time, I called my mom instead of dear old friend Mr. Google.
I have a special respect for recipes such as this one, as they have come a long way surviving through generations only by word of mouth. There were no cookbooks nor household recipe books as people those days hardly thought of writing them down reasons for which, I can only imagine. And the only way these will make it to the next, is when people like me and you adopt them, keep them alive in our kitchens and pass them on as part of the family heirloom.

Kozhambu where ‘zha’ is used to represent a deep tongue twisted ‘La’ (have to hear it to understand) is in Tamil and stands for a traditional lentils and mixed vegetable dish in a coconut and spices based gravy. Tweak the spices and blend in some yogurt and the result is an ingenious Mor Kozhambu and like you must have guessed, ‘Mor’ is yogurt rather, buttermilk to be precise. Back in the olden days, sour yogurt leftovers almost always called for this dish or let me rephrase, in their efforts to ‘waste not’, this is how sour yogurt was deployed tastefully to make way for a new batch of yogurt made fresh at home everyday. Mor Kozhambu can be prepared with many other vegetables as well with varying spices. Ash gourd and Okra are among the most popular and also part and parcel of the tamil brahmin wedding spread as a customary mandate.

We are never used to looking at it this way, so I decided to give it a modern facelift by plating it gourmet restaurant style to this otherwise traditional dish. Feast your eyes on this tasty preparation!

{Mor Kuzhambu before yogurt is added}
Things you’ll need:
  • 2 plantains peeled and diced
  • 1 cup thick buttermilk or yogurt thinned with water
  • juice of a lime sized tamarind soaked in water
  • salt
To grind:
  • 2/3 cup grated coconut
  • 1-1/2 tsp jeera
  • 1-1/2 green chillies
  • 10-12 black pepper corns
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
For garnish:
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp jeera (optional)
  • pinch of hing
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 2 red chillies
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 2 tsp oil
How it’s done:

  • Cook diced plantains with just enough water brought to a boil and simmer for 10-12 mins or until the plantains are tender enough to let a spoon cut through. Add the tamarind juice to this and simmer.
  • Meanwhile, grind the ‘to grind’ ingredients with just enough water to a smooth paste.
  • Add the coconut paste to the simmering plantains along with salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring in between to not let the gravy stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. Add more water if required.
  • For the tempering, place oil in a medium-sized pan / kadai over high heat. when the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, reduce heat to medium-high and add cumin seeds, hing, urad dal, curry leaves and red chillies and sauté until the urad dal turns golden brown. Do not let the chillies burn. Add the sizzling tempering to the plantain gravy and give it a good stir.
  • Blend in the yogurt only after the plantain gravy has cooled to room temperature, just before serving. If yogurt is too thick, thin it with some water, also more sour the better.

Tips:
  • To avoid ‘brownish fingers’ after chopping the plantains, smear the peeler and your fingers and palm with either salt or some oil before chopping.
  • Pressure cooking the plantains with just enough water instead of pot-boil-cooking will also work fine. Too much water might result in mushy plantains.

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