Sunday, April 8, 2007

Kappa (Tapioca) Biriyani - A Thattukada Specialty !

Preparation of tapioca/cassava/Yucca root in a Kerala fast-food style!

Thattukada, Kerala’s local version of fast-food joints, is a road side eatery and for any non-resident Keralite, it brings back lots of nostalgic memories and I see CJJ and his friends going all gaga over the "thattu" specials when they cherish their bachelor days. I have also had my share of "thattu" specials after pestering my father who used to give me a lecture on the hygienic and the quality of the food, whenever we were on our weekend shopping; but as a teenager, I could never resist the temptation of those ‘kappa’ and beef fry and the irresistible sight of the stacked up porottas (a multi-layered Indian flat bread). As I already mentioned in one of my previous posts, I can resist everything but food temptation!! And these Thattukadas used to be located near our local grocery store and like me, many others, both the grocery shoppers and those waiting at the nearby bus-stop, would also be in an internal tug of war, struggling to conquer their temptation to go and buy a parcel of ‘porotta’ with a side dish of beef curry or chicken fry or sometimes grab a plate of "thattu dosa" and omelets.

Around evening time, these thattukada-s, typically a moving four wheeler covered carts with a kerosene lamp and fresh banana bunches hanging down in ropes, are in full swing by firing up a large wok/kadai,an extra-ordinarily large cast iron pan as well as a steaming vessel of milk and boiling water in the cart . When someone orders tea/coffee, the guy starts pouring the beverage into the glass after stretching it to almost two arms’ length for blending, creating a foam on the top which usually fills up half of the glass; so if you order a glass of tea, usually you get to drink half a glass of tea and half a glass of foam ;-) Adjacent to these carts, one can also find rectangular shaped steel tables used for making Porotta/Parotta and it’s the best example of real craftsmanship when the guy starts punching the dough, then throws in the air for stretching and then layering and winding them like small spiral balls before he rolls out the dough. The customers would be sitting on long benches, enjoying this craftsmanship as well as relishing their food. The regular "thattu" specials are Kappa, beef fry/curry, chicken fry, Peas Masala, Dosas and Omelets, pazham pori (banana fritters) etc. The multi-tasking of "thattu" owners in making the tea, dosa and omelets at the same time and also catering to the instant orders of the customers...the sizzling sound that comes from the wok when the 'chef' throws in the ingredients... the impatient look on the face of the customers while waiting for their next order... the battle with the temptation of the passers-by..the screeching sound of the vehicles and the honking of the massive traffic ...the beaming light from the nearby shops in the background thriving with energy and activity...let me tell you, this is a MUST HAVE experience for anyone visiting Kerala and longing to enjoy the local flavor !!

Last time when we went to India, my brother introduced us to one more delightful "thattu" variety called Kappa Biriyani, a mix of tapioca/yucca root and chicken/beef curry topped with the traditional seasoning of mustard seeds, onions, dry chilies and curry leaves in coconut oil. Since my father has come to adjust himself with the reality that there is no point in straightening his two spoilt kids and an equally or more spoilt son-in-law, he let us have this dish whenever we had a craving. Also there was this sympathy wave working,"oh ..the kids come home once in two years.. let them enjoy!! :) :) And before returning from India, I made my brother narrate the visual preparation of this dish as he used to be the one who frequented this roadside eatery to buy the parcel and I tried to reproduce almost a similar version in my kitchen along with some expert tips from my mother. This dish is also called as 'Kappa-Erachi" and "Kappa Beef" in some places. Recipe follows :-

Ingredients for Kappa/Tapioca Preparation:
  1. 2 medium size Kappa/Tapioca washed, peeled and chopped into small cubes
  2. ½ tsp turmeric
  3. Salt to taste
Ingredients for Beef Curry Preparation:
  1. 1 ½ lb beef diced into small pieces (Around ½ to ¾ kg)
  2. 3 tsp roasted coriander powder
  3. 1 ½ tsp roasted chili powder
  4. 1 tsp freshly grounded pepper powder
  5. ½ tsp turmeric powder
  6. 1 ½ tsp fresh garlic paste
  7. 1 tsp fresh ginger paste
  8. 2 + 2 green chilies
  9. 2tsp coconut oil or any oil
  10. 1 medium size onion coarsely chopped
  11. 1 medium size tomato diced
  12. ¾ + ¼ tsp garam masala
  13. 1 cup green peas
  14. 1 sprig curry leaves
  15. ½ cup water
  16. Salt to taste
For the seasoning:
  1. 2 tsp coconut oil or any oil
  2. ¾ tsp mustard seeds
  3. 4 dry red chilies
  4. 1 sprig curry leaves
  5. ½ cup finely chopped red onions for garnishing
  • To Prepare Kappa/Tapioca: Wash the cubed pieces thoroughly in cold water; fill a large saucepan with water enough to cover the Kappa/Tapioca and bring to a boil. When it boils, drain the water and fill the pan again with cold water and add salt and turmeric and cook until the kappa/tapioca is soft when pierced with a fork/knife. Drain off the water completely and keep it aside. For a pictorial description on cleaning and cooking the Kappa/Tapioca, click here.
  • To Prepare the Beef Curry: Marinate the beef, thoroughly blending the ingredients from 2 to 7 and adding two green chilies and salt and keep it in the room temperature for 30 minutes and then pressure cook at medium heat. I wait for 4-5 whistles. Then switch off the stove and wait till the sizzling sound stops. There is no need to add water while pressure-cooking the beef, but if you are really scared of the safety valve (of the pressure-cooker) flying in the air, you may add ½ cup of water.

  • Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan and sauté the chopped onion and 2 slit opened green chilies until translucent and at this stage, add diced tomatoes and cook well. Now add the ¾ tsp garam masala and mix well. To this mixture, add the pressure-cooked beef and stir and combine well; add ½ cup of water and salt and bring to a boil in medium heat. When it boils, do a taste test and adjust the salt level and add fresh curry leaves and stir it and also add 1 cup of peas. Let the peas cook along with the meat for 4-5 minutes and later reduce the heat to the lowest level until the gravy is thick enough; do not make it too dry as the gravy is required to blend well with the Kappa/Tapioca.
  • Preparation of Kappa Biriyani: Add the cooked Kappa/Tapioca pieces to the beef gravy (both should be in equal quantities) and mix them well and finally toss with ¼ tsp garam masala to get the aroma and the flavor of the spices, at low flame. In another small pan, heat 2 tsp oil and splutter mustard seeds, dry red chilies and curry leaves and pour this seasoning onto the Kappa Biriyani. Garnish with fresh finely chopped big onions before serving.
Note: To roast the coriander and chili powder, heat the pan at low flame and roast the powdered spices separately until they change its raw color and turn a bit dark from the original colour. It will not take more than a minute to roast the powdered spices. It is always better to use fresh ingredients to make the dish taste better.

So, what do you think ... ready for a carry-out ? :)

For a list of MUST DO things in your next trip to Kerala, click here.


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. Hey Shn, awesome! I posted a Tapioca Biryani recipe a while ago with pork, but yours is a different version, I will definitely try this... Looks Yummy!!! And man, I miss those thattukadas :(

  2. Shn, your writing is powerful - it is colourful, vivid and full of action. I could actually see the Thattukadas and all the hustle and bustling with roaring fires and the tea and coffee with the foam, oh man. What great memories and sights and sounds to share - wow, now that is living. Please, write more.

  3. Hi Shn
    Amazing Post. It all comes to life the street side vendors and foaming tea. Excellent writing. it reminds me of a Malgudi Days kinda town
    I am not familiar with this type of Kerala cuisine and this was very nice to know. Tapioca together with meat, wow -- don't think I can cook this dish as I have no taste to relate but would love to have it at someone elses's home ;-)
    Got to get a Mallu friend soon :)

  4. Shn, love the way you write. There is so much life in your blogs. I am going to try to make this. Better still I will go to India this time, taste it and make the recipe.Keep posting.

  5. wow! u had me going for a minute. i really thot it was a biryani.we make a similar dish ..kappa- beef varatiyathu which is addictive. nice write up.

  6. Yummy Yummy!!I am also going to make this..Yes,Yes every thing from thattukada are really tasty.My husband never buy this,like ur father he always speak about hygenic..

  7. I do see that veg root in supermarkets but never knew what to do with it.Now I do.Dish looks so yummy.

    Thanks for all that info,it's a learning experience.

  8. Ah ok evidey randu plate kappa biryani vegum porattay!

  9. OMG!! I am drooling out here... looks yum!

  10. Enjoyed rading about the thattukadas in kerala Shn. I too cannot resist the temptation of food whenever I go out in India. There is a place called Tnagar in chennai.. a very busy place and there u can find lots of roadside vendors selling uppu manga masala kadalai and stuffs like that... I cannot resist that Shn. Reading abt ur thattukada experiences brought back my memories in chennai.
    Recipe looks yummy...

  11. This is completely new to me, and it looks great! I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks!

  12. hey shn...i just loved those pics..talking about thattukada, the taste and aroma of the exotic foods u get in those small places r incomparable..especially kothuporotta and beef i am just drooling..

  13. sigh, childhood memories... very fragile things, huh? I always believe that the less hygienic, the tastier it is! :)

    hey, i really don't know what it is about your sliced onions and lemons, but like in the other post with the pomfret, they look like watercolours! so pretty!

  14. Shn,
    I always love to read your writeup. You write so Sandeepa said your writeyp always comes to life. Kappa biryani looks delicious and is very new to me. Thanx for sharing it with us buddy.

  15. Never heard of Tapioca Biryani, is there are veggie version? Wonderful and delicious Mishmash.

  16. hey Shn, though I am a veggi,your biriyani made my mouth water. and where do you get those banana leaves dear? I also loved your mundu!!nice pics:))

  17. hey where do you live in US honey? Any specific name for the international store where you get the banana leaf?

  18. Shn, I can relate to parents views on roadside food - i grew up in Bombay and my mum never liked us having pani puris from the street vendors!! Haha, like that tea and foam!! Coffee is served in tiny tumblers at udipi restaurants in Mumbai which is half foam! :) A livewire write up, I was imagining a similar story in Mumbai :) Can I substitute the beef with chicken??
    Oh, I wouldn't use that pretty kasavu sari as a table cloth! ;)

  19. I just want to echo what others have said..the description you give along with your recipie is kinda appetizer....neways am goin home for vacation in May and will hit on as many thattukadas as possible..I always loved Kappa with fish curry!!! though i wouldnt mind kappa and beef anyday either.. ;-P

  20. Shn, I haven't heard of this dish. What stuck in my mind is your description of your helpless dad - two spoilt kids and a more spoilt son-in-law - LOL!

  21. wow. never heard of kappa biryani. great post.

  22. Its such a new dish for me...never heard of'nt the world of food blogging amazing...there is always so much to learn...

  23. wow...what a great post...I like this idea of using tapioca...i'll substitute the beef with some Seitan...will work beautifully with this.

    You certainly bring some vivid pictures in mind!


  24. Hey Forgot to ask you, you said you were feeling feverish, how are you now ?

  25. I'm ready for a carryout!! What a great writeup. Loved reading every word! Now if I can only conquer my fear of kappa... I can give it a try ;) Thanks, Shn!

  26. Your description of the Thattukadas was so vivid that I could totally imagine the whole scene is the same scene in most cities/towns in India - and man they do some furious business.

    I was too never allowed near any such carts as a child, but the fresh flavours that these cartmen produce is something we can never find at a fine-dine place! Totally charming write up -

  27. mishy!!! i love reading your little stories with those yummy recipes and tempting pictures. kappa-beef on traditional settu mundu!! beautiful presentation.

    you know what?? while reading your post i had the desire to have toddy, kappa, beef and all the stuff you get there:)):)) though i have never tasted toddy and stopped beef for last 2 years. this is what your posts do to people like me......:)):)):)). Post more of such tempting treats and kill us:))

  28. Ohhh thattukada...Its giving me nostalgic feelings of those yummy porotta & beef fry!! But dear i never tasted this! Sure to give a try!!

  29. tell me when r u gonna start ur class on food presentation. i will be the 1st person to enroll. girl... u rock:)
    street food:) oh boy!!! my dad is a doctoe so u can guess the situation @home regarding street food;) but it never made us stop having them:)

  30. Shn - this looks delicious and I wish I had a fork with me to delve right in! lovely picture.

  31. Hi,

    Do you by chance is interested in doing a weekly show for our online radio. Please let me know.


  32. Excellent write up with gorgeous pictures, Shn!!

  33. Never heard of Kappa + meat biryani. Sounds very interesting. will it be same if beef is replaced with Chicken? I've never had a chance to taste thattukadda specials. I probably should try it out on my next visit. Thanks for this interesting recipe.


  34. hey Shn, maybe you should also include the authentic central kerala (kottayam) version of 'kappa biriyani'(puzhukku)...that prep is lil different..maan, u literally made me sluuurrrppp....

  35. One who flew into cuckoo's nest...hmmm... now it does make sense! hehehehe

  36. Mishy, Vishuaashamsakal!

  37. Hello Shn,

    I think the street side vendors have the most appetizing mouth watering food.. This is a completely new recipe for me...and it really sounds delicious


  38. Lovely dish, never tasted this before..It's Yummmm!

  39. Hi Mishmash,
    Nice picture with good recipe.
    It looks soooooooo yummy.............
    I enjoyed reading your post.
    Thanks for sharing a lovely dish.:))))))))

  40. Thanks Shn, Happy Vishu to you too! Waiting to read your Vishu sadya post!! :)

  41. Wish You Happy Vishu!! Vishu kani kanndo??

  42. Wow, so beautiful!
    I have a lot of great memory about street food too! But I know it's not easy to re-create them, you certainly did a wonderful job!

  43. Happy Vishu Shn, is it today too ?

  44. Wishing you and your family a very happy Vishu Shn!

  45. what an amazing write up and what brilliant photos Shn!!
    It was a delight to read and see those pictures u know!!

  46. Sig, Thanks ! Yes, dear I did check out your version and each time it's so great to see a different version of the same dish. I hope you try this one too :)

    Cynthia, Oh..dear I am flattered :) Its a great moment of gratification when I get a comment like this from someone who has never been to my part of the world and such words of appreciation and support really prompts me to share more. Hope you dont get bored finally ;)

    Sandeepa, You already found a Mallu friend dear :) hmm...Malgudi town kinda town .... Not exactly, this happens in the main city areas of Cochin, Kerala..very much part of night should I be blamed for a bad narration ?;)

    Pooja, I am getting goose bumps ;) Thanks dear :)

    Mallugirl, yes....yes its the same dish only.....different names in different regions...thats all :)Yes, its damn addictive :))

    Kitchenfairy, hehehh.....I am waiting for your feedback ;)

    Asha, check out the link I have shared from Inji Pennu's blog, she has a detailed pictorial representation of cleaning and preparing the root.

    Sumitha, hahahha...chechee...or 5 mts...dhaa eppo ready aakkam :))

    Pravs, Thanks dear :) Wanna come home ? ;)

    Prema Sundar, yes...yes I was a resident of Chennai for 3 I know this T-Nagar area well :) so did I make u miss home ? :(

    Susan, Thanks dear :)

    Maneka, ho.....kothuporotta and beef fry......irresistible right ?:)

    Shilpa, U said it dear :) My pretty onions and lemons convey their thanks to aunt Shilpa :)

    Seema, this is the first time I jot down my thoughts and when you guys compliment me for my writing, its just unbelievable for me :) Thanks for all the support :)

    Just for fun, this is basically a meat and tapioca preparation but as Trupti said, you may try with Seitan, I haven't tried that.

    Sharmi, Thanks, sorry to make a veggie crave for a non veg food ;) We re at Indiana. And I guess any Asian store or any international bazars might have banana leaves....our store is a local one and not a chain store. Hope you try and find some!

    Jyothsna, Ohhh...I forgot to mention about those tiny tumblers...infact when those pics were being taken, my hubby suggested that we should have a tiny tumbler too...but we dint have any :) You sure can substitute beef with Chicken but chicken curry preparation is slightly different, though you can use the same spices, there is no need to pressure cook. Hope you try sometime :)

    Mathew, Thanks :) ohh..kappa and meen curry is the royal item but try this if u get a chance, this is quite someone is going to enjoy mummy's food soon :)

    Sra, hahahah......:) Luckily, my father likes his son-in-law a lot :) Good for me ;)

    Sunita, ofcourse yes...different cuisines...and different styles isn't it ?

    Trupti, I had not heard about this Seitan until you left this comment...had to google it to find what it is ;)

    Linda, Sure u can do it dear...:) Contact me if you have any doubts, ofcourse before starting to cook , not when its on stove top ;)

    Nandita, Thanks so much! Never been to Mumbai but scene is quite familiar from all the books and mags I have read :) Hope you write an article on this sometime :)

    Reena, Never tasted toddy ?? Girl u re missing out on something, give it a try next time when you go home ;)

    Dhanya, do let me know if you like it...hmm...porotta and beef fry....Sighhhh !!!! :)

    Sia, seats for the time being :))) Doctor's daughter....ooohhhh...that was tough , I understand that :)

    Mandira, oh...I think I should have placed a fork for you ;) Thanks dear:)

    Bharathy, No, Thanks !

    Sailaja, Thanks dear:)

    RG, Yes, you can use chicken with the same spices...but no need to pressure cook. let me know if you need more help on this...And hey, never miss out on thattukada....yumm-iest food :)

    Ash, hey....hope you will send me the recipe.... :)

    RP....hehehhe......kochu kalleeee....kandu pidichalle ;)

    Sushma, Yes, it was new to me too until I had it last year during my India vacation and now its a royal dish in our house :)

    Lera, Thanks :)

    Kajal, Thank you and Welcome to Mishmash!

    Gattina, it doesn't exactly taste like that street food, coz it was prepared in my hygienic kitchen with no less tasty too ;)

    Padukkoti, Glad you enjoyed it dear :)

    Jyothsna, Thanks dear and my Vishu Edition is ready and will be up in few minutes :)

    Sharmi, thanks girl...yes...yes..kani kandu :)

    Sandeepa, yes its today...usually it falls on April 14th but this year it was on april 15th. Thanks :)


  47. Hi shn, your blog is lovely, loved this thattukada recipe :) ....Thanks for the recipe.

  48. U writing is perfect..and Ur presentation is wounderful..I have a bit doubt abt the taste of the dishes here(Hahaha)..No doubt..Its super duper..I tried this recipe and we all enjoyed the taste..Special thanks to u from all my family members..Now I am ready to try ur Karimeen..No doubt ...That also will be tasty..

  49. Hi shn, Thanks for dropping by my blog too :) ..... You shud try the pudding if u liked it , if i can prepare it without fear, so can u :) ...

  50. Hey:
    Where do u get Kappa biryani in Cochin? I am going there and I am planning to have it

  51. it luks awesome...will definitely try rite away....woohooo

  52. can i replace beef with lamb?
    thank you for the recipe

  53. yeah....u can use mutton too.....I havent tried it though ! let me know ur feedback.

  54. Kanidttu vayil kappal odikanulla vellam undayi.......

  55. hey, what about cocnut ?if u add grinded ( lightly grindd) coconut it will be goood.

  56. Brilliant, Excellent...Oh Oh do not have any more words to describe..excatly as thattukada and everyone enjoyed it...Thanks and may god bless u...(?)


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