We are starting the final week of ‘Journey through the Cuisines‘ mega marathon and I’m visiting beautiful Kerala — God’s own country this week. My plan for the marathon was to pick a state from each corner of the country — so I started from the west with Bengali cuisine, then moved north to Rajasthan and then east to Gujarat. Finally this week I’m in deep south in Kerala.
Initially I wanted to do Tamil cuisine and even made 2 dishes, but somehow I wasn’t happy with my choice of dishes, so I changed it to Kerala at the very last minute.
First Kerala dish for the week is this Ulli theeyal. Theeyal is a typical Kerala side dish and is very similar to sambar or kuzhambu. It can be made with different veggies like bittergourd, eggplant, okra etc. Today I have Ulli or Onion theeyal for you.
The most important component of the theeyal is the roasted coconut and tamarind spice paste that forms the base of the dish. Roasting fresh coconut needs patience, if you rush the process, you might end with burnt coconut. So it is important to cook on slow flame, stir often and stay close while making the masala. Once the coconut is perfectly roasted it smells absolutely amazing.
I have seen recipes were the onions were thinly sliced and then used, here I added frozen pearl onions that are already peeled. This is a great dish to serve with steamed rice.
Theeyal is a typical Kerala side dish and is very similar to sambar or kuzhambu. Ulli theeyal is made with pearl onions with an amazing roasted coconut & tamarind spice paste. It tastes great when served with steamed rice.
12 ~ 15Pearl Onions, peeled* (I used frozen pearl onions)
8 ~ 10Curry leaves
For the Spice Paste:
3 ~ 4ChiliesDry Red
Make the Spice paste: Heat 1tsp oil in a pan, add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns and fenugreek seeds. Saute till aromatic, next add grated coconut and cook on low flame, stirring constantly, until coconut turns golden brown. This step requires some serious patience -- so make sure to take some time.
Let it cool and then grind to a smooth paste adding just enough water.
Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and once the seeds start to splutter, add asafoetida, curry leaves and the pearl onions. Saute till the onions are lightly browned.
Add the tamarind paste along with ½cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 3~4 minutes.
Add the ground paste and simmer for another 3~4 minutes. Remove from fire and serve hot with steamed rice. Enjoy!!
* If you are using fresh, then trim the root ends and dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then rinse under cold water -- this will help peeling them much easier.