Idiyappam (string hoppers) and sothi are one of those matches made in food heaven. My mom visited and brought me some idiyappam and fish curry. But since I had lots of the idiyappam left, I decided to make a paal sothi to go with it. My mother-in-law tells me that back home, many people eat idiyappam and sothi for breakfast. She said breakfast is always an important meal as it starts your day, so she use to always make idiyappam or puttu in the mornings.
Paal sothi is very simple and quick to make, but has such a comforting flavour. It reminds me of warmth, especially on those cold winter nights when you want to wrap yourself in a blanket. There are very few spices in this recipes, yet, despite that this is full of flavour. You can adapt this to any way you like. I added kari milagai (santa fe peppers) to this, because I had some lying around, but that is not necessary.
- Fenugreek seeds - ¾ tablespoon
- Turmeric powder - ½ tablespoon
- Salt – to taste
- Shallots – 4-5
- 1 tomato – chopped
- 3 tablespoons coconut milk powder
- ½ cup milk
- 3-4 green chillies slit lengthwise
- Curry leaves – 5-6
- Water – 2 cups
- Heat oil in a pan and fry the fenugreek seeds and cut shallots.
- Add the chillies, curry leaves and fry for a minute longer, but stir to prevent burning.
- Add the chopped tomato, turmeric powder and 2 cups of water and let everything boil. I also added the santa fe peppers at this time. Once the tomato has been cooked halfway, add the salt and coconut milk powder.
- Add the milk at last, adjust for salt. Do not let the milk boil. It will cook in the residual heat.
- Serve warm with rice, puttu or idiyappam.
Crab curry is probably my favourite thing to eat. I reserve this dish for weekends, when you can sit back, relax and enjoy eating this meal. I made this crab curry last weekend. The aromas in this dish are just heavenly – when you make the spice mix and grind it, the curry leaves emit this beautiful aroma that makes hungry immediately!
This pairs well with rice, veggie curries and a side sald of chopped tomatoes and cucumber mixed with yogurt.
When I was younger I would be embarrassed of the smell of spices if people were coming over. Little did I understand the magic that spices hold. The exotic aromas that are released when you dry roast spices, the way spices can transform food and the realization that colonizers all over the world fought for these spices. Be proud of your culture and take pride in it. #eelamflavour #eelam #tamil #spices#spicy #food #instagood #instafood#chefsofinstagram #kitchen #cooking #homemade#culture
As much as I love cooking, I love reading and writing. Part of the reason I started my blog was to document an important part of Tamil culture, food. I also value the importance of documentation and preservation in general. So, I digress a little and write this post about the Jaffna Library.
The Tamil community has been regarded as one of best preservers of knowledge for many years. The Jaffna Library was a world renowned library. At the time it was built, it was one of the biggest libraries in Asia and held many, many rare collections. The Jaffna Library has always been a point of fascination for me. I would imagine myself perusing the shelves and shelves of books, and finding some secret treasure hidden in the library among a very rare book. I think these imaginations were partly induced by my fascination with libraries and my wild imagination (and maybe a little by the library in Beauty and the Beast).
Tamils value the preservation of Tamil culture, history and language. Many people may not be aware of this, but the Father of Library Science, was a Tamil man. He was mathematician and librarian, S.R. Ranganathan. His lessons and principles are taught in international universities at the Masters of Library Science program today.
There are other impressive library related facts about Tamils. The Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL) in Chennai has some of the world’s most impressive private library collections of Tamil publications. When Muthiah passed away in 1992, the University of Chicago bought the entire collection and now conduct research on the materials. This library collection is said to have many ancient Tamil manuscripts that have yet to be translated and having writings in more ancient forms of Tamil that are in the works of translations. (Sometimes I secretly imagine myself decoding some of the many rare collections from its holdings).
When I first learned about the burning of the Jaffna Library, I was shocked. I wondered, how could such a beautiful and magnificent library be burned? But I later learned, that libraries and museums have always been a highly valued part of preserving culture, and as a result, they have always been one of the first physical targets in ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Jaffna Library was burned on May 31st, 1981. The burning of such impressive libraries and holders of culture and history is not new phenomena.
Tamils say the food is medicine and medicine is food. You can only imagine how many books would’ve been there that were references to Tamil cooking that would have been burned, especially all the information about the health benefits of particular dishes and medicinal benefits of these foods. Other than the books that were circulating, the rest would’ve all been destroyed. This is why we need to preserve Tamil cooking.
Books have been targeted for over 55 centuries, with the earliest burning of books being traced back to between 4100 and 3300 BCE. Egypt, China, Armenia, Bosnia, Bagdad and many more examples can be seen throughout history.
The Jaffna Library, founded in 1841 was burned on May 31, 1981. At the time, the Jaffna Library housed 100,000 books and manuscripts that were relevant to the Tamil culture. Irreplaceable manuscripts on palm leafs were also destroyed. The copy of Yalpanam Vaipuavama, a historical chronological account of Jaffna was also burned. The Jaffna Library served much historical and symbolic significance for Tamils and their culture.
Libraries and museums are the epitome and embodiment of culture. We must begin to see value in these cultural institutions, invest in them, and find multiple ways to preserve, protect and safeguard our beautiful Tamil history, culture and traditions.
Baez (2008). The Universal Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq. New York: Atlas and Co.
Coloroso (2007). Extraordinary Evil. Canada: Nation Books.
Knuth (2008). Libricide: The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century. Westport: Praeger.
I’m a big fan of rasam, especially mutton rasam. This is one of my favourite dishes, and I’m very happy to share it with you here. My mom use to make mutton rasam and chicken rasam for us when we were sick as it is good for health. The many different spices help heal and nourish the body, especially during sickness or times when immunity is weak.
The key to this dish is to give it the time and care it requires. Give the ingredients the proper time they need to cook. It is a lengthly process, but I assure you the taste is worth it.
- Mutton pieces/bones - include many bones as this is what adds flavour
- Salt - to taste
- Turmeric powder
- Curry leaves
- Tomatos - 2 cubed in small pieces
- For dry roast -
- Cumin seeds - 1 tablespoon
- Fenugreek seeds - Quarter tablespoon
- Fennel seeds - Half a tablespoon
- Peppercorns - 1 tablespoon (you can adjust this depending on taste. If you are making it for kids, add less).
- Dry red chillies - 2 -3 (you can adjust this depending on taste. If you are making it for kids, add less).
- Curry leaves - 5
- Garlic - 4 cloves
- Shallots - 10
- For grinding with mortar and pestle -
- Peppercorns - half a tablespoon
- Garlic - 4 cloves
- Shallots - 6-7
- In a pan, dry roast everything in the dry roast ingredients except the ginger, garlic and shallots. Move everything to a plate to cool. Dry roast the ginger, garlic and shallots alone, and transfer to the plate. Do not add any oil. Toss the ingredients to prevent burning. If you burn the dry ingredients, the taste will be drastically different, so do this on low heat, just warming the spices enough to release their aromas.
- Take everything you dry roasted and blend it together using a blender - you may add water to help it blend.
- In a pot, add two cups of water, one tablespoon of turmeric powder and one tablespoon of salt. Add the mutton pieces and let it boil on medium heat for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, add a quarter of the ground paste you made, mix it and let it boil for another half an hour.
- In half an hour, add half the remaining paste and adjust the water. I usually add a cup of water at this time.
- Once the mutton pieces are fully cooked through, add the remaining paste and the tomatoes. Using a mortar and pestle, crush garlic and shallots and add this to the pot. Also add an additional 7-8 large curry leaves. This will add immense flavour and aroma.
- Let it boil for another 10-25 minutes depending on your pot size and whether your meat has cooked through on medium-low heat.
- Remove from heat, adjust for salt and add more crushed peppercorns if needed. The crushed peppercorns really enhance the aroma.
- Serve in a bowl warm, enjoy!
- No need to add any oil to this dish to cook it. There is enough fat in the mutton, and you will see this being released as you cook it.
- The key to this dish is to give it the time and care it requires. Give the ingredients the proper time they need to cook. It is a lengthly process, but I assure you the taste is worth it.
We all want to save money – especially when it comes to food. Here are some tricks and tips to help you save some money.
Do you have any other tips and tricks you use? If you do, please share!
Store Curry Leaves in Yogurt Containers
When I use to leave my curry leaves in the bag from the store in the fridge, they would wilt within 2 days. Now, when I get a bag of curry leaves, I de-leaf the leaves and put them in an airtight yogurt container with a paper towel on top of them. This has helped keep my curry leaves for 2 weeks.
Ginger Garlic Paste
Ginger and garlic is something that is used in many Tamil curries. But the effort of making them can be time consuming. If you prepare a batch of this, put it in an air-tight sealed container and leave it in your fridge for the next few days, or put it in some oil and arrange them on an ice cube tray and keep it in your freezer. You can just pop an “ice cube with ginger, garlic and oil” to your pan when you need.
Buy Fish from Tamil stores and Shrimp from Chinese Stores
Fish is cheaper in Tamil stores, and you will get the many variants that taste good for fish curry. Shrimp, a staple in Chinese cooking is cheaper at Chinese stores. Staples are usually cheaper at the stores they are native to, so do some research and find out what’s cheaper where. This is also true for fruits and other produce – exotic fruits are MUCH cheaper at Chinese stores than other big grocery chain supermarkets.
Buy an Onion Saver
Almost all Tamil recipes call for onions. Sometimes though, you use half an onion and you wonder what to do with the rest. If you keep an onion in the fridge without it being in an onion saver, it actually makes the other food in your fridge go bad. An onion saver on the other hand, saves the onion and prevents your other food from spoiling. You can get them for pretty cheap at any store that sells kitchen products.
We make sambhar at our house on Fridays. This is the best way to make a tasty dish while using up all the veggies in the fridge that need to be used up soon. If you have veggies that you use half of throughout the week, just add them to sambhar. Any veggies taste fine in sambhar, especially eggplant, squash, carrots, etc. I’ll try to post a recipe for this sometime this week. Another option is to freeze veggies you are not using – butternut squash, carrots and cauliflower all stay pretty well in the freezer.
Buy Meat from Butcher Shops in Bulk
Meat and fish are cheaper to buy whole than to buy as parts. When buying meat, buy whole – instead of buying chicken drumsticks, buy the whole chicken, instead of buying fish fillets, buy a whole fish and ask the stores to descale and cut it in pieces for you. The price per pound is cheaper on the whole than the part when you buy it already cleaned. But, when you buy a whole chicken, many butcher shops will de-skin and cut the chicken into small cubes ready for curry for free.
Freeze Meat into Portions
When you buy in bulk, the key to making is simple for you to cook and not waste your food (especially if it is just for you or your spouse) is to clean your meat and fish, separate it into smaller freezer bags and store it in the freezer, in ready to cook style. This means that the only thing you will have to do when you are ready to cook is to let it thaw and rinse it. Saves lots of time on weeknights!
Happy money saving 🙂