What unites South India? Its love for Rajnikanth, rice and all things curd. Any South Indian, especially the Tamilians will attest to the fact that no meal is complete without the good ‘ol dahi, unless one is lactose intolerant, of course. As a matter of fact no feast in southern India will be complete sans Bagala Bath or Thayir Sadam. While its everyday avatar, Thayir Sadam, is a simple mix of rice with curd and salt (optional), there are days when curd takes the fancy route–tempered with mustard seeds, chana dal, curry leaves and sometimes a garnish of crushed curd chilli, pomegranate pearls or finely chopped cucumber are added to lend that crunch.
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While South India’s obsession
with the famous curd rice has already been established, there are more ways
than one that it continues its flirtatious relationship with curd. Curd along
with finely ground coconut and green chillies form a menage à trois creating a culinary
storm in South Indian dishes such as avial,
morkootan, kaalan and puliseri.
In most of the curd-based dishes other than kaalan (a Keralite dish made with curd, coconut and vegetables such as nendran or a tuber-like the yam), beaten curd is introduced at a much later stage, only after the core cooking process is complete. Rice, of course is a constant for these curd-based delights and best paired with poriyals and papadams.
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Kerala’s romance with the avial, a mixed vegetable stew needs no intro. A must on a Sadhya, a ceremonial meal served on special occasions, avial is a mélange of Indian vegetables such as white and yellow pumpkin, raw banana, yam, drumstick, carrot/beans (optional) in coarsely ground coconut-green chilli masala. The veggies are usually cut into one-inch long pieces and there’s no tadka here. This dish is usually finished off with some thick beaten curd along with curry leaves steeped in a swirl of coconut oil.
Also read: 9 foodie facts about the Kerala Sadhya
Thayir vadai is another fave chai-time snack where medu wada is dunked in thick salted curd and tempered with mustard seeds, and finally garnished with chopped coriander leaves. Unlike Dahi Bhalla, its northern counterpart, thayir vadai is devoid of chutneys or toppings. Best partnered with some homemade coconut chutney, the thayir vadai has no regard for calories, but then who would want to pass on wadas with a crispy exterior and soft insides? Count us out!
Morkootan, another South Indian delight where moru, curd or buttermilk, plays starrer is
again part of the Sadhya. While each South Indian state has its own take on this
spicy-sour gravy, some preparations involve the use of raw banana, yam, colocasia
or white pumpkin, cooked with turmeric powder and salt. Finely ground
coconut-green chilli masala is added with a generous tempering of mustard
seeds, a hint of fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and Madras red chillies. The beaten
curd is introduced only after the initial heat cools down so as to prevent the
gravy from curdling.
As mercury soars and curd turns too sour to be consumed by itself, trust kaalan, another South Indian delight that’s prepared by boiling and reducing the curd to one-third its volume. Coarsely ground black pepper is added to enhance its flavour along with coconut-green chilli paste. Best enjoyed with some piping hot appams, dosas or a bowlful of lemon rice or pachadi, the kaalan also occupies a place of pride in a Sadhya spread.
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In a Virundhu (Tamilian spread) the seasonal showstopper is mango pulissery—curd-coconut-green chilli and cooked fresh mango pulp-based gravy. The pulp of boiled whole mangoes is extracted and ground with coconut-green chillies. In some recipes, jaggery shavings are added to the pulissery. Once cooked, cool the gravy a bit before adding curd. Temper with mustard seeds and red chillies, and you’re good to go. When mangoes are off-season, you could simply adopt the same recipe by substituting them with spinach. The sweetness from the mangoes and sourness from the dahi pair well making it a dish to be best relished with a plateful of piping hot rice, urulai (potato) kara curry and crunchy papadams where sambar and rasam can wait.
When curd takes on veggies such as tomato, onion or cucumber, a smattering of chopped green chillies, tempering of mustard seeds and a garnish of fresh coriander leaves, you get a side-dish called thayir pachadi or raita. What makes this a no-brainer is the fact that no cooking is required here.
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A lesser-known cousin is mor
appam, a snack where sour dosa/idli batter is combined with thick curd,
tempered with mustard seeds, finely chopped fresh ginger, green chillies and
fried in sesame oil, in unni appam
Add zing to your meal with thayir molagai or curd chilli. It is a sun-dried pickle where the big fat variety of green chillies are slit, marinated in dense salted curd and left under the sun to dry. The chillies soak up the curd while the scorching sun dehydrates it. These chillies are stored in bottles, deep-fried and best eaten with curd rice.
There are a few chutney-like concoctions with curd called arachukalaki. Let some gooseberries swim in some heated sesame oil. Once cool and after the seeds are removed, grind into a fine paste with grated coconut, some mustard seeds and green chillies. Mix with curd for a chutney-type consistency. The same recipe can be applied to uncooked yam or green mango. All you’ve got to do is skin, wash and grate the yam/mango. Next, grind the grated raw yam/mango with coconut-chilli paste and finish off with some curd before tempering with mustard seeds and whole red chillies.
Also read: How to make coriander chutney at home
Tell us your favourite curd-based dish in the comments section below.