Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mulaku Curry – Chilies/ Peppers in a sweet & Sour sauce – Simple yet potent enough to make a statement.

I woke up last Saturday with a head full of plans…….soak fruits and nuts for the fruitcake, finalise the goodies for the gift basket, check the availability of orange blossom water in local shops to make the Moroccan fekkas that has evoked my curiosity ever since I saw it here, wrap up the weekly shopping before the blizzard hit the ground and finish cooking for the week ahead. Instead, that morning what I did was writing the destiny for six beautiful banana peppers that has been sitting cozily in my refrigerator for the whole of last week and plating to make them photogenic for my blog !

One might wonder how such simple , unassuming dish could muddle with my plans and find its place on our lunch table on a weekend. Well, unassuming it is but the name sounded magical when we heard it the first time almost two months ago from our friend Av, one of those modest people who walked silently but with a smile into our exclusive circle of good friends. He is the only reason keeping me away from shouting out loud that I do not like chocolates because occasionally Av gifts us premium chocolates and for the next few days, I am like a flea on a ripe jackfruit! And recently I realised that behind all that modesty and reserved nature, he is dangerously observant with very sharp memory, when he recollected that I was giggling a lot , after an aperitif, few years ago!! And when he recalled that incident recently, I was holding a wine glass in my hand, already feeling a bit wobbly and for the next couple of hours, I tried to smile ’normal’!

Anyway, both CJJ & myself were charmed by the name, Mulaku Curry and curiously interested at the same, because picturing Av craving for Mulaku Curry was something really hard for us to take in; after knowing him for all these years , with his general disdain for everything that comes in the family of Avial and Sambar, I am sure perhaps even his dreams are stained with fish curry and sprinkled with pieces of fried chicken and fish. I noticed CJJ’s curiosity metre going up as we were squeezing out all the details about the dish from our dear friend. But it was Su, Av’s partner in crime – another cool soul who won us over on our first meet itself – who got me a very detailed recipe from her mother –in-law. Su patiently answered all my doubts and queries , without missing any tiny bits of tips from her MIL. With a toddler kangaroo around, it took me almost two months to get to this recipe and try my luck. Finally when I did, I was really pleased with the outcome, for its ease and perfectly balanced medley of sweet and sour flavours, beautifully paired with the sharp kick from heat of the chilies/peppers. Here’s how I made this dish , based on Av’s mom’s recipe, as explained to me by Su.

  • 6 big Bajji Mulaku/ chili ( I used Banana Peppers), with stems
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Around ½ cup melted and filtered black/brown jaggery/Sharkkara paani, medium-thick consistency
  • 1 tsp tamarind concentrate
  • Around ½ cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 ½ tsp roasted coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek /Uluva powder
  • 2 pinches Asafoetida
  • 2 tsp wheat flour /corn flour(Optional)
  • Using the tip of a skewer or a knife. make some holes on the peppers/Chilies; steam cook the peppers/Chilies until they re tender and pale in colour. Cooking time varies depending on the variety of the pepper/Chili used (For me , it took about 10-15 minutes).
  • While peppers/Chilies are steamed, mix a teaspoon of tamarind concentrate with around ½ cup water and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a wok/Cheenachatti , sauté the steamed peppers/chilies for about 2 minutes, on medium heat. To this add the melted jaggery , cook and stir until it reaches a consistency where if you run the wooden spoon through the cooked jaggery, the liquid moves to the sides and you can see the bottom of the pan or as explained beautifully in our mother tongue, to my friend Su by her MIL, , “..varayidumbo theliyum” . Now pour tamarind water and add salt and bring to a boil. At this stage, the peppers/chilies should be slightly submerged in the sweet and sour sauce. You may do a taste-test at this phase to check the balance of sweetness and sourness/tamarind and jaggery and adjust a bit extra of one of the flavours , if necessary. It should be well balanced. When it starts boiling, mix in roasted coriander powder, fenugreek and asafoetida. Bring to a boil and then let it simmer until it reaches a gravy consistency. If your sauce is too watery- either because melted jaggery was watery or tamarind water was more- add one or two teaspoons of wheat flour or corn flour, as thickening agent. Turn off the stove and let it rest for sometime before serving.
  • The end product is a well balanced sweet and sour sauce, with a pungent kick from the peppers/chilies, as you nibble a small bit of the pepper/chili. During the cooking process, if the seeds of peppers/chilies get mixed into the sauce, then you get the heat when you taste gravy itself.
  • We served it with Chappathi/Indian version of wheat tortilla.
On a different note, I have not been able to promptly reply to some of your e-mail s and comments and queries. I regret for such a delay but I will try to work on it before the end of this week.


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