If you stumbled upon this blog post thinking it is about some novel American Southern food, you are in for a disappointment. But if you do stay and read on, you will discover that it is about as much a novel Indian Southern dish. We love it, though it is just one of those normal everyday dish back home which with a little bit of alteration, can play double duty. And at the end of this post, I promise to share a little story like I always do.
So Kootu is a little like the Greek lentil soup which we eat with rice, a side-dish (like the Okra Curry) and Thuvayal. The dish is sometimes seasoned with coconut and cumin. In some parts of South India, it is even cooked in tamarind. The North of India has its own version of Kootu called Dal. It is made with a combination of Dals (lentils), cooked and fried with Masala. That dish deserves its own post which I will post soon. Here is how I made the South Indian Kootu:
One Chayote (or two carrots, half a head cauliflower or cabbage, a bunch of green beans or a combination of all of these) diced
One cup Toor Dal (from the Indian store or the Ethnic food section in your grocery store)
Couple of Serrano peppers
One and a half tsp Sambar powder (back to Indian store or I will post the recipe soon)
A pinch of pepper powder
Salt to taste
One tsp mustard seeds
One tsp Urad dal
Two Tbsp coconut (optional)
A pinch cumin powder
A pinch Asafoetida powder (optional)
Two Tbsp oil
Cilantro for garnishing
Add the lentils, veggies, salt, Sambar powder, peppers, salt and pepper powder to two cups of water. Cook them. In a pan, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, when they crackle, add the Urad dal, Asafoetida, cumin powder and coconut. Fry a little and add the cooked mixture to the pan. Switch the stove off when it starts boiling. Garnish with cilantro.
So the story. During one of dad’s health-kicks, my mother used to make a small portion of Kootu every morning for his breakfast. He used to mix in a splash of soy sauce, couple of tsps of vinegar, some green chili sauce and eat it. One Saturday, I woke up early enough to catch him eating his breakfast and he gave me a spoon of the Kootu. It tasted so yummy that my mother had to pour me a bowl of it just to get me off my dad’s!
Try it, it is addictive.