A prelude to good things to come - Plantain skin and Green gram thoran
Onam once again is so merrily upon us, for me like many others this festival is not about celebrating a single day, but it is all about mentally re-creating a season slathered in golden sunshine. This of course is a time many of us take a walk down the memory lane, reliving the good times we had in the past or raking our brains about how Onam has evolved over the years into the big time shopping season that it is now. But when we sit down for that one meal of the Onam day known as “sadya” , served on a banana leaf, we realize that the spirit and cheer of Onam as we once knew never left us for good.
A meal sometimes if not always can do wonders, forget the calorie highs you get, a sadya properly served is a reassurance of your connections to the past, a promise of good things to come, it is no grave matter if your avial contains Zucchini, or lacks drumsticks in it. My first Onam sadya in the US for that matter was made out of dried coconut flakes, canned coconut milk, and those vegetables I found in the nearest grocery shop. A marked absence of banana leaves topped it all. There was hardly enough time between my arrival here and Onam that it felt seemingly impossible to look for the resources back then. Managing with what we had was the best way to go. Two banana leaf shaped melamine platters I found at Macy’s just two days before Onam immensely lifted my spirits up, and I hold on to them dearly still. You may never know where life will take you next !
Over the past couple of years, as I made more friends and started exploring the city, there came answers for all sadya shopping needs. Now we live close to the two good Indian grocery stores in town, so this year I am assured that I might find all the necessary vegetables neatly packed and stacked in freezers there. I might even find frozen grated coconut shipped from Kottayam ! Sadya being set in that way, there is something else I look forward to cooking this season, which serves as a humble prelude to the grand gastronomical events associated with Onam. My mother every year makes a thoran made out of plantain skins, which regularly appeared along with rice in our plate in one of the days preceding Onam. The day of serving this dish was a sheer a matter of convenience. The day my mother found time to make fresh banana chips was the day this curry was made. A simple statement of sustenance in cooking popular in my hometown, this thoran tastes as good as any other vegetable thoran if not slightly better if you ask me. Hope all of you are having a nice time, enjoy the rest of the summer days.
WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY ONAM
Green gram – 1/4 cup
Finely chopped unripe plantain skins – 4 cups
Fresh grated coconut – 3/4 cup
Green chilies – 1-2
Cumin- 3 pinches
Curry leaves – 15
Turmeric - ½ tsp + 2 pinches
Dried red chilies – 3
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil- 1 tbsp
Cook green gram with salt till soft not mushy, drain and keep. Finely chop plantain skins and soak in water mixed with ½ tsp turmeric. Drain after half an hour. Coarsely grind grated coconut, green chilies, 2 pinches of turmeric and cumin. Cut the dried red chilies into 1 cm long pieces; remove the seeds if you wish to control the heat. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, and let it crack. Lower the heat, add red chilies and curry leaves. When curry leaves start curling up add chopped skins, salt and stir well to mix. Add the ground coconut mixture, sprinkle 2 tbsp water, and mix well. Cook covered under medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat up. Stir in the cooked green gram and keep stirring till the thoran is dry (about 3 minutes on high heat). Serve with rice and a curd based curry or rasam on the side.
Skinning a plantain – You need unripe or medium ripe plantains. Make a long shallow vertical cut on the skin, using your hands unwrap the plantain out of its skin working through the incision.