Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pink and Pungent - The wonders of 'Down South'!

If you are an Indian from any part of the country, you know exactly what 'Down South' and 'Up North' means. For all of India's diversity and vast expanse, the majority of the population is just called North-Indian or South-Indian. Unless of course you are from the North-east, and then I don't have to spell out what kind of unflattering and politically incorrect names YOU are called! 

But going back to the North-South divide, what I mean is that if you are not from the 4 southern states of Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala or Karnataka, you are called a North-Indian. Doesn't matter even if you live on the western-most tip of the Rann of Kutch or right on the Bay of Bengal in Orissa! Northie you are! And similarly, if you are anywhere from the South, you are a Madrasi for the rest of the country. 

I'm not going to go on about this because you and I have heard and read enough about these stereotypes and prejudices. But today I'm going to talk about food stereotypes of the 'North' and 'South'. 

Now food is one area where the north-south divide has been bridged! Yes, even in the most remote corner of South India you are bound to find Paneer Butter Masala and Tandoori Roti, while the North of India abounds in Udipi restaurants which serve Idlis and Dosas round the clock. But there is so much more to regional Indian cuisine!

My pet peeve has always been that even though we live in Mumbai, there are only a couple of restaurants that serve you good, authentic Maharashtrian cuisine. Gujarati and Rajasthani thalis abound, yes, but again it is standardized fare with very little that is original or authentic. And let's not even get to the bastardization of Punjabi food!!

But I have been spending a lot of time in Chennai recently on work, and I'm super impressed with the awesome food you find here at every corner! South Indian food that goes beyond Udipi fare; Chettinadu and Kerala and Karaikudi eateries abound that serve lip smacking regional fare in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. A whole new world of South-Indian food is just waiting to be discovered by the rest of India from Paruppu Podis, to Chettinadu Chicken 65 to Kara Kozhambu and much much more!

So in keeping with the topic, I decided to blog about a typical Down South dish that is really unique and little-known. I first discovered it on Anushruti's gorgeous blog - Divine Taste. It combines two really disparate flavours - the sweet earthiness of beetroots, and the spicy kick of mustard in a beautiful curry or kadhi kind of dish.
Its traditionally called a Beetroot Sassive, but in my home and office, it has now been christened Beetroot Kadhi! :D

Beetroots are very difficult to like...or cook! I meanw hat can you do with it? Except parboil it for a salad, or eat it raw, or make it into a simple stir-fry... None of them very appetising according to me. But this dish is absolutely lip-smacking, trust me! You make it once and you are bound to add beetroots to your weekly shopping list :) I make this at least once a week and each time, depending on the quality of the beets, I get a different hue of pink! This one here is a pale pink, but there are days when this curry is a dark, shocking pink too!

The recipe is taken from Anushruti's blog:



1 beetroot, finely chopped
1/3 cup water
1 cup thick yogurt
1 tsp salt

To be ground into a paste:
4 tbsp freshly grated coconut
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 green chilli
1 tsp coconut oil or any other vegetable oil

For Seasoning:
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafetida powder
1 dried red chilli
3 to 4 curry leaves
In a saucepan, put the beetroot and the water, cover and cook till done, about 7 to 8 minutes. Allow to cool.
In a small wok, heat 1 tsp oil and fry the chilli until white spots appear. Grind the coconut, mustard, turmeric and green chilli to a fine paste, using 2 to 3 tbsp of water.
In a bowl, mix in the cooked beetroot, yogurt, salt and ground paste.
In a small wok, heat the oil for seasoning. Put in the mustard seeds, when they pop, add in red chilli, the curry leaves and asafetida. Pour the hot seasoning over the prepared beetroot and mix well.

The way I like it:
The best combination with this wonderfully pink and pungent, delicious sassive is plain steamed rice. Try it once and you will keep coming back to this recipe again and again!