Okay, this dish is not literally “mashed” but the native word for this recipe (in Tamil), Masiyal, means exactly that. Me-kinda-thinks the name came about because the lentils and vegetables used in this dish are cooked very fine. Think borderline mashed-That’s how well cooked they are. This mixture is then combined with other flavorings and simmered until it reaches a very thick soup-like consistency. Masiyal belongs to the South Indian Sambar family, which means, it can be eaten with rice as a main dish, as an appetizer in the form of a thick soup (accompanied by bread, of course) or as a side with Dosa, Idli or Upma. The options, as always, are aplenty.
My mother is an ace at making this dish. Give her any vegetable and she can make a bowl of the most delicious Masiyal ever. So it was only fitting that when I made my (long) list of food I wanted Amma to make when she got here, I included this one. She made it with some Senaikizhangu we had bought at the Indian grocery store a couple of weeks ago. This brings us to that wonderful question I’ve been dreading: what on earth is Senaikizhangu? Erm, well, it is called Elephant Yam in English but I am pretty sure that the rest of the world has no clue about the existence of this tuber. It tastes pretty earthy (duh, right?), has thick brown skin and many a person I know is unfortunately allergic to this yam.
So if you don’t find this vegetable, want to avoid taking a risk with your allergies that are probably playing a havoc in your life already this spring, or have tasted and detest this vegetable from the bottom of your heart, you can make it with carrot, zucchini, yellow squash or okra. But if you are a serious foodie and cannot wait to taste Senaikizhangu, I would suggest you go to a big chain like Patel Brothers (if you live in USA). If you are one of those lucky ones who happen to live in India, you probably know where to get it already.
Senaikizhangu (or any other veggie you fancy) Masiyal
Two cups of the vegetable of your choice, diced into medium-sized pieces
One cup Toor Dal
Two Tbsps tamarind paste dissolved in two cups of water
Four Thai green chili peppers, slit
One tsp turmeric powder
Half tsp cayenne pepper powder
Pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
One Tbsp cooking oil
One tsp mustard seeds
A few curry leaves and a sprig of cilantro (optional but recommended)
To dry roast and grind:
One tsp fenugreek seeds
Three dried red chili peppers
Pressure cook the vegetables, Dal, turmeric and salt in six cups of water. When done, whisk slightly. Heat a pan with the oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the green chili peppers, curry leaves and asafoetida. Pour in the tamarind water. Add a little salt and let it boil on medium heat for a few minutes until the raw flavor of tamarind leaves. Add the Dal/Veggie mixture to the pan and mix in the cayenne pepper powder and ground fenugreek powder. Check for salt. If the consistency is too thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, whisk in some rice or AP flour. Off the heat and garnish with cilantro.
I had it with rice today and have some stored for breakfast tomorrow… and lunch. And hopefully for dinner again.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend, folks!