1 June 2007

Pudalankaai Kootu - Snake Gourd with Lentils

Slit open snake gourds

Kootu is a lesser known part of TamBram cuisine. While the Sambhars and Rasams have been immortalised by the flourishing Udipi restaurants, kootu is something you will only find in a household and rarely ever in a restaurant.

From Wikipedia: Kootu is a Tamil dish, common in both Tamil Nadu and South India. Kootus are essentially vegetable and lentil dishes which are semi-solid, i.e., less aqueous than sambhar, but more so than dry curries. Rice and kootu is a common and simple Tamil meal. In Tamil cuisine kootus are considered substitutes for both curries and sambhar.

All kootus by default have some vegetables and lentils, but many variations of kootu exist:

* Puli Kootu: Puli is the Tamil word for tamarind and puli kootu refers to a kootu made with tamarind.

* Poricha Kootu: A kootu made with moong beans and cocunut.

* Araichivita Kootu: A kootu which has a ground (freshly powdered) masala in it, where the word araichivita in tamil literally translates to 'the one which has been ground and poured'.

Many other regional variations exist.
By the above definitions, this Snake Gourd Kootu would fall under category 2 and 3 as it has moong dal, coconut and the masala is freshly ground.

While Tamilians have a fondness for all gourds, even some of those that other cuisines wont touch, snake gourd is one of the popular ones. In addition to this preparation, it is also made in dry curry form, where udad dal, dried red chilli pieces and mustard seeds are tempered in oil, the slices of gourd are cooked till tender by sprinkling some water, seasoned with salt and garnished with fresh shavings of coconut.

Steaming hot kootu ready!

Snake Gourd Kootu
Category: TamBram Cuisine, Rice accompaniment, Low-fat
Time taken: Under 30 minutes, if dal is cooked, then under 15 minutes
Serves 2

2 cups sliced snake gourd
Pinch of turmeric powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup cooked moong dal, beaten
Salt to taste
To grind to a fine paste: 1/4 cup fresh coconut pieces or shavings + 1 tsp cumin seeds + 2 green chillies
For tempering: 1 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp udad dal, 1 sprig curry leaves

Cut open the snake gourds along the length and run your fingers along the pith to clear off the insides. Place the gourds bunched together and slice them into pieces of 1 cm thickness or so.

In a deep pan, place the gourd slices, water with pinch of turmeric. Bring the water to a boil and let it simmer until the gourd is tender (for about 5 minutes). Keep a watch so that gourd slices are not mashed.

Once the vegetable is cooked, add the finely ground coconut-spice paste, 3/4 tsp of salt and let the gravy simmer for 2 minutes. Add a little water if the gravy gets too thick while simmering.

In a small pan, heat a tsp of oil, and put in the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add the udad dal, saute till golden and lastly throw in the curry leaves. Transfer the tempered oil to the gourd in coconut gravy.


Honestly speaking, I have never found kootu to be a good accompaniment for chapatis, but mix it into steaming hot rice, with a lime pickle on the side, a fresh yogurt raita and I can guarantee that it'll be your gateway to heaven.

You can make a variety of kootu using any other vegetable like bottle gourd (dudhi), ridge gourd, pumpkins, a mixture of vegetables (Poricha kootu) and even spinach.

Timesaver tip: To make kootu in a jiffy, I grind a chutney grinder full of the coconut masala, pour it into an ice tray, and remove the cubes into a ziploc bag which is stored in the freezer. Just throw 2-3 cubes of the masala into the veggie-lentil mix and all you have to do is the tempering.

This is an on-time submission for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables - S , to make up for all the events I have missed when my internet was down for almost 2 weeks, including my own baby WBB at Padmaja's.

Padmaja at Spicy Andhra has done a beautiful round up of WBB-Summer Fruits and now it's over to Trupti's where you have to crank up the heat on breakfast.


bee said...

what an awesome pic. there aren't too many snake gourd recipes around. it's nice to see this. even in erisherri, mallus use moong dal with this veggie. moong and snake gourd seems to be a popular combo.

Sig said...

Hey sweets, you are back... missed you...
not commenting on the dish, since I am not a snake gourd fan :) It is good to know the Tamil name of it though, I asked Siv one day and he had no clue :)

ushaprashanth said...

That's a very nice time saving tip...and the kootu is looking tasty!

Raaga said...

I make this without the coconut as much of my cooking has coconut in any case :) just a curry of sorts. Haven't gotten around to making and presenting it.

And I agree... things like paruppu urundai, paruppu usli, vatha kuzhambu will remain in our homes alone.

Nupur said...

Love the dish, and your posts are always so informative about Tamil cuisine! The picture of the snake gourd is indeed very pretty.
If I remember correctly, a popular Marathi way to make snake gourd is in combination with chana dal. Although I have not tasted it in a decade or more!

Asha said...

N,after almost 11yrs I got Padavalkailast weekend.Iwas delirious!!Made Sambhar and savored it slowly!!(Expensive and rare,I better!)
Beautiful recipe.Unfortunately,I have drive 100miles get them again,then no guarantees!!

Richa said...

hey, the kootu looks yum, have always liked the dal/veg combo! I really liked ur idea of freezing the masala paste like i freeze my tom puree, but i don't think i can use the frozen coconut that i generally use here, the pkt says do not freeze once de-frosted :(
I'll have to do it the hard way, i.e grating fresh coconut :)

Suganya said...

Its been months since I had snake gourd. And that too in kootu, Luv the combo.

Priyanka said...

hey nandita,
love your recipes and your blog. i am not too familiar with tamilian cuisine, so thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Lovely blog! But at what stage do you put in the moong dal in this recipe?

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