In a culinary culture high on steaming, sautéing, frying and roasting, Kosambari is like a thoughtful pause. A raw Indian salad that’s made and eaten mostly in the south of India and parts of Maharashtra, it is called Kosambari or Koshambari in Karnataka, Kosumalli or Vada Parippu in Tamil Nadu and becomes Koshimbeer as we travel North West to Maharashtra.
One reason why this dish is so special is owing to its importance on the festival platter in the southern states. Fresh and nutritious, it is often served as food to gods and enjoys a position of prominence on the plantain leaf laid out at festival banquets. In Karnataka, it is one of the first five items to be served on the leaf during a feast which is also an indication that Kosambari is quite the star. It is believed that Kosambari was first made to celebrate the victory of Rama who came triumphantly after slaying the 10-headed demon king Ravana.
Kosambari’s antecedents are heavily contested with Udupi staking claim to its origin. Much to the chagrin of the Malenadu region which has opposed Udupi’s claim, it has been more or less accepted that there could be more than a pinch of truth to Udupi’s claim. But to the rest of the south, it doesn’t really matter where it originated; Kosambari continues to flavour the dinner platter, and in one raw, nutritious burst, elevate the flavours of the meal.
So, what goes into the making of Kosambari? Raw vegetables, soaked dal, and a shot of fresh garnishing. This traditional salad leads the rest in packing a healthy punch. Kosambari is made of a grated vegetable —cucumber or carrots are most commonly used, beetroot or French beans work too. This is mixed with soaked moong dal, or chana dal (Bengal gram dal). A few finely chopped green chillies, fresh coriander and a sprinkling of freshly grated coconut. This is topped with a seasoning of mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing.
Also read: Many ways with chana dal
For a quick and delicious Kosambari, take half a cup of split moong dal and soak it for 30 minutes. Grate carrots and to this add the soaked dal, a quarter cup of freshly grated coconut, finely chopped green chillies, fresh coriander leaves and a fresh squeeze of lime. Add salt and toss. If you skip the dal, you can add crushed roasted peanuts. The seasoning is always added last. Heat a teaspoon of oil, add mustard seeds and let them sputter, a spoon of urad dal, a pinch of asafoetida and a few curry leaves. Use this as a garnish for the dish. You can add a handful of pomegranate seeds to Kosambari for some additional zing.
Also read: Leaves that not just curry flavour
You can replace moong dal with chana dal and carrot with a cucumber. Either way, your Kosambari will add a punch to your meal.
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