Thursday, April 20, 2017

How did South India cook pungent dishes before Chilly was introduced in India?

How did  South India  cook  pungent dishes before Chilly was  introduced  in India?

  Chilly  or Chilli pepper   was discovered by Christopher  Columbus in the  Norther America.  Since one of his aim was to find a spice to replace  Pepper, he brought it with him to Europe  in 1493  . The first chillies  must have arrived in India  along with Vascoda Gama  in to India in the year 1498. That means   till  1500   all pungent dishes in India   were prepared  using  only pepper. Pepper got replaced  because of huge cost of pepper compared  to red chillies 

    This would mean the sambar that we know  I or even Vettal Kuzhambu   or puli inji   or   other several tamarind based   dishes  were either  prepared  using a pepper  or they did not exist at all. The cooking  in India without chillies   , tomatoes and potatoes has been discussed in detail   in  .Most of the North Indian dishes even to this day   can be prepared  using  pepper but  when we come to the south the story is different  .WE are 100% dependent  on Chilles   for preparing pungent   and sour  main dishes as on today .Some of these dishes are Pulungari in Kerala, SAmbar /Pitlai  in Tamil Nadu  , Pulusu  in Andhra   and Huli in Karnataka .It is interesting to note   that Chilly(Kappal milagu- pepper which came in a ship  ) is completely avoided by people undergoing  Ayurvedic treatment.

         But on Sradham days  in Tamil  Brahmin homes   chillies   are  not used  but sour pungent   dishes are prepared. The  traditional  Nambudiri cusine  again  depended  only   on pepper  for adding pungency but they preferred   curd or butter milk   for adding sour   taste   when needed. I am giving below   some of the pepper  only based  dishes   from Tamil Nadu  and Kerala 

1.Cook  well needed  green gram dhal   and Bitter gourd in Tamarind water
2.Fry  without oil  Black gram dhal and pepper
3.Grind  the  fried pepper   and Dhal   along with coconut and add  salt
4.Season it   with  Mustard  . coconut and Curry leaves
    I feel all Kuzhambu    was  prepared  this way  .

2.Podi Podicha Pulungari
This is possibly the Kerala substitute for Tamil Nadu Sambhar.Here is the recipe:-
1.Cut into long thin pieces, Brinjal, red Pumpkin, ash gourd or Chow Chow.
2.Cook in pressure cooker in tamarind water.
3.Fry in a dry pan rice and pepper.The colour of the rice should turn ivory.
4.Powder the rice , pepper
5.Add to the vegetables and boil.
6.Season with mustard and garnish with curry leaf

3.Yerisseri (Erisseri)

Needed materials

1.Chena (Elephant food yam)-25 gm
2.Raw Nendran Banana -one
3.One table spoon of pepper powder+ 1 ½ litre water
4.Turmeric powder one teaspoon and necessary salt
5. ½ coconut grated + jerra seds ½ tea spoon
6.One table spoon of coconut oil tea spoon mustard
8. ½ grated coconut
9. one table spoon ghee
10.Jeera seeds ½ tea spoon


1.Cut yam in to small pieces and put in water
2.Remove skin of banana, split it in to four pieces length wise and cut it in to small pieces
3. Mix pepper powder in water and wash it to remove skin portion .Filter it in a nice cloth
4.Boil yam and items in 4 for some time in the water where pepper powder is added.. When three fourth cooked add cut banana pieces and boil till well cooked
5.Grind items in 5 add it to the boiled vegetables and bring it to boil
6.Take little oil , heat with mustard. When it splutters add grated coconut mentioned (in a low fire) in 8.
7.Add ghee to the frying coconut mixture, When coconut turns brown season it with jeera
8.Add the fried mixture in the boiled vegetables and heat.

(comments by P.R.Ramachander: This preparation could be also done only with yam or carrot or red pumpkin pieces. Though adding ghee would add to the taste , in small scale preparations it is not a must.)

4.Kurukku Kalan

Materials required

1.Sour curd ¾ litre
2.Pepper powder 1 teaspoon
3. Yam (Elephant foot yam) 15 gm
4.Green nendran Banana 1
5,Curry leaves, 3 green chillies, I tea spoon turmeric powder ,salt
6.Ghee –one tea spoon
7. ½ green coconut , one spoon jeera seeds, pepper powder
8.Mentha seeds -1 teaspoon
9.Coconut oil –one table spoon
10.Mustard – ½ teaspoon , red dries chillies 2 , curry leaves


1.Churn the curd well and remove impurities
2.Wash and clean the pepper powder
3.With this pepper add water, cut yam, cut nendran Banana , and items mentioned in and boil
4.After the Yam has cooked well and water has almost disappeared add ghee and stir well
5.Add the churned curd in to this
6,When it becomes very thick , add grinded articles mentioned in S.No.7 and boil
7.Switch off the stove
8.Season with articles mentioned in S.No.10

This is possibly one of the very simple Kerala recipes. It is also called Karingalan by some Here is the method:-
1.Choose either plantains and Chenai(Where Chenai is not available choose carrot instead).Cut into small pieces.
2.Boil till coked with turmeric powder, pepper powder and salt with medium water.
3.Season it either with raw coconut oil or mustard and uzhuttam parippu
6.Mulagu Vellam
This needs very sour buttermilk to prepare. Here is the method
1 Cook pepper powder in water for some time.
2,Add sour butter milk , salt and turmeric powder and boil till it is reduced to half the quantity,
3.Season it with mustard, red chillies and fenugreek.

6.Jeera  Rasam
1.Boil Tamarind water    along   with  Turmeric powder  and salt
2.Fry pepeer and jeeragam (cumin)   and powder it
3.Add to the boiled Tamarind water   and boil it further

4.Season  with mustard   and cumin seeds and add  curry leaves

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