Thursday, June 25, 2015

Carrot and Cucumber Kosumalli

If you have not had a chance to experience this, I would strongly suggest that you try it – eat a festival meal served on banana leaf.  This is an experience like no other.  When a meal is served on a banana leaf, you know it is going to be special.

I grew up eating on banana leaf for every festival or wedding that happened in our family.  Since it was so much a part of my life, I never really gave it much thought till my children experienced it for the first time on one of our trips to India.  Watching them eat rasam sadam (rice and rasam) with their hand while trying desperately to keep the rasam from flowing off the leaf was priceless!  

Carrot Salad

We just got back from a really short, hectic, but fantastic trip to India.  My husband’s nephew was getting married and my mom turned 75.  The wedding was in Kumbakonam – very close to where I went to college.  We reached Kumbakonam two days after landing in Chennai – totally jet-lagged, but ready to enjoy the festivities.  Food was amazing and cooked in the traditional Tanjavoor style – and was of course served on banana leaves.

One of the dishes in any Tamilian thali meals – whether served on a plate or on a leaf – is the salad.  We don’t have too much of a variety when it comes to salads.  There is sundal – which can be considered a salad, and then there is kosumalli.  Kosumalli is typically made with carrots or cucumbers and moong dal.  I love kosumalli because it is really simple to make and tastes great. 

Here is what you need:

  • 2 – 3 carrots, washed, peeled, and grated
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced into small pieces
  • ½ cup split moong dal, soaked in water for 1 hour
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. split urad dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 2 green chilies, chopped
  • few curry leaves
  • juice of one lemon or lime
  • cilantro for garnish

Here is how I made it:

  1. In a bowl, mix the carrots, cucumber, drained moong dal, and salt.  Set aside.
  2. Heat oil for tadka in a small sauce pan.  Add mustard seeds.  When they sputter, add the urad dal, hing, and green chilies.
  3. When the urad dal changes color, turn off the heat and add the curry leaves.
  4. Pour this over the salad.  Add lime/lemon juice and cilantro.  Mix well.  Taste to adjust flavors.

Simple delicious salad is ready!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Aloo Bonda

Ask any Tamilian what “tiffin” goes well with an afternoon cup of filter kaapi – I am sure you will hear “nalla sooda oru bajji or bonda” (nice hot bajjis or bondas) as the top answer.

Bajjis are super easy to make and don’t need any prep work at all.  You can make them in 15 minutes or so from start to finish.  I tend to make bajjis a lot more frequently than bondas when my family is feeling “snacky”.   Bondas need a little bit more planning than bajjis.  You actually need to boil potatoes and make the filling before making the bondas.

Potato Bonda

It has been a super long time since I made bondas.  I tend to make it when we have company.  And even then, I don’t make it that often because I feel that they taste great when they are hot.  So I don't like making them ahead of time and then serving them after a few hours.

I think my husband had a craving for bondas. So when our annual Balvihar picnic came around and I was debating what to make for the potluck, my husband suggested bondas.

We used to be very active in Balvihar, but the last couple of years I have not been able to go regularly.  Taking up a full time teaching job while simultaneously completing my Alternate Teacher License Program took up most of my weekends this year.   

Potato Bonda

Our Balvihar community is wonderful and I really missed meeting them.  The picnic was a good chance to catch up.  At the picnic, kids graduating are recognized and honored.  As always, there is plenty of delicious food. 

I did end up making bondas for the picnic.  I made them in the morning and even though they were not piping hot, they tasted great!

Here is what you need:

(to make about 20 bondas)

For the filling:

  • 5 – 6 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. split urad dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green chilies finely chopped
  • few curry leaves
  • 1” piece ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
  • ½ tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • juice of ½ lime or lemon
  • cilantro for garnish

For the batter:

  • 2 cups besan (gram flour)
  • ½ cup rice flour
  • ½ - 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • water
  • oil for deep frying 


Here is how I made it:

  1. Boil the potatoes in a pressure cooker.  Peel and mash well.
  2. Heat oil in a pan.  Add the mustard seeds.  When they sputter, add the urad dal and hing.
  3. When the urad dal turns golden, add the onions, green chilies, and curry leaves.  Fry till the onions turn translucent.
  4. Add ginger and garlic (if you are using it) and mix well.
  5. Add the turmeric powder and salt.
  6. Add the potatoes. Mix well and cook on medium heat for about 5 – 8 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat.  Add lemon juice and cilantro.  Mix well.  Let this cool a bit.
  8. Make medium sized balls (a little larger than ping pong balls) and set aside.
  9. Mix all the dry ingredients for the batter.  Add water a little at a time and make a thick batter.
  10. Heat oil for deep frying in a kadai.
  11. When the oil is hot, turn down the heat to medium. 
  12. Take each ball and dip it into the batter so that it is coated well. Drop these gently into the oil.
  13. Fry the bondas till they are golden brown all around, gently turning them a couple of times during frying.
  14. Remove from hot oil and drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with chutney of your choice.

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