Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kappa Puzhungiyathu (Chendamuriyan Kappa) with Mulaku Chammanthi / Boiled Cassava with a fiery hot green chilly relish.

Most of us grew up in Kerala would be having a delectable taste memory we share in common……a slice of the past we take pleasure in, when we dive into the repository of our thoughts and memories….the picture of the whole family leisurely enjoying or having a casual chat over some humble Kappa Puzhungiyathu/ boiled cassava by dipping into a hot and fiery Mulaku chammanthi/green chilly-pearl onion relish, with a glass of hot tea or coffee, in the evening . I hope I am not generalizing wrongly here!

Atleast, that’s the one and only picture that comes back to me whenever I relish or think of this snack. Whenever I crave for it or get wrapped up in a cloud of nostalgia, I try to rekindle those memories not only by making that combo but also by recreating the same atmosphere at home, to nibble those soft and creamy cylinders with a touch of heat from the green chillies married beautifully with the flavor and fragrance of coconut oil ………and the sensuous pleasures my taste buds experience immediately unravel the treasure chest of memories and take me closer to the picture of my family, sitting around our dining table after a work/school day…….my brother’s lips and nose and his entire face turning red because of the heat from the green chillies…….my mother sitting in one corner, analyzing the quality of her loot, sometimes telling herself, “mm….ee pravashyam nalla kappa-yaa kittiye” meaning this time cassava was of premium quality ….and me and my father sitting across each other and taking pleasure in each dip and each bite …..and my parents pouring a small share of their tea into my glass after a lot of my begging ……even at a tender age, I knew I could feel “the completeness” only if I wash it down with some hot tea/coffee. It’s a taste sensation I wouldn’t dare to give up for anything else!

Though Kappa/Cassava is so common in Kerala and easily spotted at most backyards and freely available in markets, I don’t remember my family buying it from the local markets. For us, we always got our share from our aunts’ or uncles houses. At times, we cultivated in our small yard itself and that happened every year, when my father hired a wage worker to clean up the yard and remove the weeds. At the end of the day, my father always instructed the worker to plant some “kolli”, aka cassava stems in some 10-15 inch length. Though my parents always complained about the poor quality of the soil and stayed away from any type of cultivation, this was a routine that was repeated almost every year as it grew without any particular care or fertilizers.

I also have a murky memory of a “Kappakkaran”/cassava seller, visiting our neighbourhood, by pushing a four wheeler covered cart, loaded with farm fresh kappa/cassava, and calling out “kappa…kappa…kappeiii…” at the top of his voice. My mother used to rush to our front gate to check out his bounty of harvest and after a quick and brief bargaining session, he would lift his old fashioned balance scale – like the blind justice holding the scale – and place kappa/cassava in one and weights of different sizes in the other….”katteem thrassum” as we say in our mother tongue and trust me, I never remember that needle or scale balancing correctly, the one with the weight was always hanging a bit low!! Well, he made some small profit and we got some good quality kappa/cassava, so atleast that balanced correctly on the scale, I guess!!

Last weekend, surprisingly we were lucky to find some fresh Kappa/cassava/yucca root in our local store. Though I could hear the craving department ringing the bell at its top, this time I was sensible and had gained enough experience to break the root into two pieces ( Oh yeah…I was like a He-Man trapped in a female body!) to see if the interior flesh is white and does not have any discoloration or brown dotted lines. Once the quality check was passed, it was time to recreate my homeland’s humble culinary pleasures in my current foster home!

Kappa Puzhungiyathu (Chendamuriyan Kappa)/ Boiled Cassava
Clean Kappa/Cassava by removing the outer brown skin as well as the pink skin inside and cut them into 2 inch cylinders or cubes and rinse them in plain water. (Note: Inji’s pictorial will clear all your doubts on cleaning and getting the cassava pieces ready for cooking.) Fill a large saucepot with cold water, enough to cover all pieces of Kappa/Cassava and bring to a boil. At this stage, drain the boiling water and fill the pot again with some cold water, add salt and cook cassava until it is tender and soft, when pierced with a fork or knife. Drain the excess water and now it is ready to serve.

Mulaku Chammanthi/Green chilly-pearl onion relish

  • 8-10 small red pearl onion/kunjulli
  • 5-6 Indian green chilly ( adjust as per your tolerance as well as the heat of the chillies)
  • A tiny piece of tamarind/vaalan-puli ( as tiny as a green pea or peanut)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 leaves of curry leaf (optional but recommended)
  • Salt to taste
Old fashioned Method: if you have the luxury of owning an old fashioned flat grinding stone, Ammikkallu, place pearl onion , green chillies and tamarind and crush well with its elongated rolling pin made of stone. Scrape everything with the edge of your palm and transfer the crushed mixture to a bowl, tear off the curry leaves , add salt and drizzle coconut oil and mix everything well and serve with boiled Kappa/cassava plus tea/coffee. If you do not have that luxury, try to recreate the same steps/process in a tabletop mortar and pestle. The crushed mixture would look somewhat similar to that in the above picture.

Quick n’ Easy Method: Put pearl onions , green chillies and tamarind in the smallest jar of the mixer/blender/food processor and pulse 5 or 6 times or until you get a coarse paste/mixture. Transfer the crushed mixture to a bowl, tear off the curry leaves , add salt and drizzle coconut oil and mix everything well and serve with boiled Kappa/cassava plus tea/coffee.

Kaanthari Mulaku Chammanthi – Back home in Kerala ,we get a very fiery hot variety of green chilly called Kaanthari Mulaku, which I assume is known as Bird’s eye chili pepper too . We make use of this particular variety for making Mulaku Chammanthi/ Green chilly-pearl onion relish, in which case, please make sure that you reduce the number of chillies uses as they are fiery hot.

Related Posts:

Mashed Tapioca & Fish Curry Kappa Biriyani

For more varieties, Go to complete recipe index.

Updated on Aug 24, 2009 : According to Kitchenfairy and Maria, Kappa Puzhungiyathu/Boiled Cassava is known as Chendamuriyan Kappa in their region. Thank you for letting me know about this and I have updated my post as well as the title of this post. The name sounds very sweet and I assume that the name comes from its close resemblance to Chenda , a type of musical instrument used in Kerala , that has a cylindrical shape.


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