The following may be useful in translating some of the terms used in the recipes. (note: Malayalam sound designated by letters ‘zh’ is a soft English ‘r’.)

Indian/English Name Malayalam name
tuar dal thuaran parippu 
urad dal uzhunnu parippu 
masoor dal  parippu 
chana dal (bengal gram) kadala parippu 
moong dal  parippu 
hing (asafoetida) kayam 
tamarind puli 
coriander  malli 
cayenne pepper mulaku podi 
methi (fenugreek) uluva 
cilantro leaves  malli ila 
cumin (jeera)  jeerkam 
mustard  kaduku 
okra vendakka 
pumpkin  mathanga 
cucumber  kumbalanga 
like, Totally! Ayyo!
saunf  perumjeerakam 

Kazhikutta (Kerala Coconut Dumplings)

Mix together:
4 Tbs. shredded unsweetened coconut
1 Tbs. sugar or jaggery (brown sugar)
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. water
In separate bowl, mix:
1 c. rice flour

Enough water to form a dough (about 3/4 c.)

Form a dough from the rice flour and water. When formed, coat your hand with extra flour to prevent sticking, and take a ping-pong sized ball of dough and flatten.

Place about a marble-sized amount of the coconut mixture in the middle of the dough. Close the dough around the coconut to form a ball. Roll in hand until well formed. Repeat the above until all of the rice flour dough is used. Steam the dumplings for 10 minutes.

Delicious for breakfast or with afternoon tea. It is a specialty of Kerala, and in Malayalam it is called “kazhikutta.”

Pulisseri (yogurt curry)

1/2 Onion, cut into small pieces
2 or 3 Green chile, cut long
1/4 tsp. Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. chile powder
1/4 tsp. methi (uluva/fenugreek) powder
1/4 tsp. cumin (jeerakam) powder
mustard seeds
curry leaves
1 or 2 zuchini squash/chayote squash/green apple (grannysmith), cut into pieces
2 c. Yogurt (wholemilk one is better), whipped well.

Heat oil, fry mustard seeds, then add onion, green chile and stir for a while.

Then add curry leaves (optional), and then all the powders and salt. Stir for a few seconds, then add the veg. pieces, and a cup of water. Cover it and cook. When cooked, take it off the stove, and after a while (when cooled down a bit) add the yogurt to it, stir well.

And it is ready!

Note: (You can use ripe mango instead of squash/apple if you like. Also, you can add coriander leaves if you like.)

Source: Mareena Yesudas

Thoran (vegetables simmered in coconut milk)

1/2 lb. Beans/Carrot/Yellow or Mexican Squash/Beetroot
note: If using Carrot or Beetroot, grate them. If others, cut them into small pieces (cubes). You can also use carrot and beans together; then cut carrots too into small cubes.
1/2 tsp. chile powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 c. dessicated/shredded coconut
1/3 onion cut into small pieces
mustard seeds
curry leaves (optional).

Heat oil, fry mustard seeds, then add onion, and stir until it turns light brown. Then add
salt, then chile and turmeric, and stir well. Add coconut, stir well for while, and then add
the veg. Cover it and cook on a low flame. Give a stir once a while between a couple of
minutes, until it is cooked. Thoran ready! (You can add cumin powder [a pinch] too if you
Source: Mareena Yesudas

Upperi (Mezhukkupuratti)

3/4 lb. Beans/Carrot/Snow peas/Asparagus/potato/etc
note: Cut them into small pieces (grate carrot/beetroot – optional)
1/3 onion cut into small pieces
3/4 tsp. crushed red chile

mustard seeds
curry leaves (optional)
garlic (if you like; crush them)

This is a stir-fry. Heat oil, add mustard seeds (if you are using it), then add onion (and garlic if you are using it), stir until it turns light brown, add salt, and then crushed chile; stir well for a while until the chile is well fried (mookkunnathuvare). Then add veg., stir well, cover it and cook in a low flame, and it is ready! (You can cook parippu, cherupayar, vanpayar, kadala, etc. too the same way. First you have to cook (boil) them, and add salt to
it when cooked. Also to the split peas and cherupayar, you can add 1/2 cup of shredded coconut, after frying crushed chile, if you like. When cooking kadala, you can add a teaspoon of garam masala too if you like, after adding crushed chile.)

Source: Mareena Yesudas

Richard’s All Continents Guaranteed Idli

1 cup black gram (urad) dal
1 teaspoon methi (fenugreek) seed (optional)
1/4 cup flattened rice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder or 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2-3 cups idli rice (or plain white rice, par-boiled, or whatever you have)
1/2 tsp salt
spray oil, melted butter, or ghee for greasing steaming plate

Pressure cooker with weight removed
Powerful blender or specialized idli grinder such as Ultra Grind+
Idli steaming plates or egg poacher

Lightly wash dal, and cover with water and allow to soak for 3 to 4 hours. Wash the rice, cover with water, and allow to soak 3 to 4 hours as well. If using methi and/or flattened rice. add to rice.

Grind rice to the consistency of cream of rice in blender or Ultra Grind.

Grind urad to a fine paste, and then grind together until mixed well. You can simply add the dal to the ground rice mix in an Ultra Grinder, but I don’t recommend this trick in a blender.

Place in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and put in a warm place to ferment until double in bulk. A good place is an oven pre-warmed to 130-160 degrees Fahrenheit and kept warm by a 40 watt light bulb in an automotive trouble light. An ice chest warmed with the trouble light will work as well.

The process is similar to making bread or yogurt. The amount of time the rising will take depends on the temperature: The batter will double in 8 hours if the temperature in the container is over 85 degrees, and at lower temperatures it can take as long as 30 hours. If the batter doesn’t rise, don’t despair, just find a warmer place.

Some people substitute rava (sooji, cream of wheat) for rice, especially in colder climates like the Frisco Bay Area, because their batter doesn’t rise. This is an unnecessary compromise, and people so inclined may just has well go to the Pasand Restaurant and eat their idli bricks.

The fermentation process depends on the presence of wild yeast, which appears to stick well to the urad dal and to the methi.

Don’t use baking soda, baking powder, yeast, or yogurt to “help” fermentation. I’ve conducted controlled experiments on these agents, and methi outperforms them. Baking soda, baking powder, and yogurt retard fermentation, but a little baking soda or powder added just before cooking makes for a fluffier idli, which is what you want.

After your batter has gone nuts, you are ready to make idlis. Add salt and baking soda or powder and stir it into the batter slightly, just enough to evenly distribute the powder and not enough to make the bubbles completely subside.

Put an inch or so of water in the pressure cooker and let it heat to boiling while you load the idli plates with batter. Grease idli plates (you can probably use egg poachers if you want, but I never have) with spray-on oil, butter, or ghee and fill them (almost full) with the idli batter. It’s best to leave a gap of 1/4 to 1/8 inch. After all are loaded, place the plate in the pressure cooker and lock the lid on with the weight removed, as you want to steam the idlis, not pressure cook them.

Set the temp high enough for a steady stream of steam, but not so high that it spits. The idlis need to steam for 15-20 minutes.

Eat with coconut chutney, idli chutney powder, or Sambar. Extras can be refrigerated or even frozen and re-heated in a microwave, but they won’t be as fluffy. The same idli batter can be use to make dosa (fry like pancakes) and Sannan (steam.)

Idli plates can be purchased at your local Indian grocery or on-line. I prefer the teflon coated plates. If you don’t have a fancy grinder, you can buy pre-ground rice and dal, prepared idli mix, and ready-made batter from the better Indian grocery stores. You can also buy pretty decent frozen coconut chutney and idli podi (AKA chutney powder) at the same shops, but you may as well make your own Sambar because it’s not that hard.

Aviyal II

1 lb. Potato or kadachakka (bread fruit), cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp. chile powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. garam masala
3 oz. coconut milk (optional)
1/3 onion, cut into small pieces
2 green chile (optional), cut long
oil, salt, mustard seeds
Curry leaves (optional)

Heat oil, fry mustard seeds, add onion, green chile & curry leaves, stir until it turns light brown. Then add salt, all the powders and masala, stir until it turns brown, then add coconut milk and veg., stir well, cover it and cook until well cooked. (If not adding coconut milk, add a cup of water instead). It is ready to serve! (In fact, it should be made by roasting coconut and all the spices, and blending them very nicely, but it is not easy to do it here. So I made up this version.)

You can cook kadala too the same way. For kadala, you can use just the garam masala and chile powder only. Either way, it tastes good.

Source: Mareena Yesudas

Pachadi (mango and yogurt curry)

1 or 2 Raw mango, cucumber, chayote squash, cut into small cubical pieces
1/2 onion, cut into small pieces
2/ or 3 green chile, cut round, 1cm thick
2 tsp. Dessicated or shredded coconut, or 7 oz. coconut milk
1/4 tsp. fenugreek powder
1 shallots, cut into round, thin slices
1 red whole chile, cut into round pieces, 2cm thick (optional)
mustard seeds
Curry leaves (optional)
Yogurt – you need to add only if you are using cucumber or squash; if using
mango, don’t add yogurt.

Put veg., onion, green chile, coconut, coconut milk, fenugreek powder, and salt
in a vessel, add a cup of water, stir well, cover it and cook in a medium flame,
until it is well cooked. Heat oil in a pan, fry mustard seeds, then add shallots
and red whole chile & curry leaves, and add to the above mixture when shallots
turn brown and chile is well fried. Whip the yogurt well and add that too. Stir
well, and pachadi is ready!

Source: Mareena Yesudas

Sambar I

1/2 cup (heaped) thur dal (papu)
2 Tbs. coconut gratings
1 Tbs. bengal gram dal
2 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp. mustard seeds
tamarind lump (the size of a marble)
2 tsp. (heaped) coriander seeds
2 Tbs. oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 bunch coriander leaves
1/2 tsp. fenugreek
seeds salt to taste
8 pepper corns
chunks of vegetables (tomato, turmeric, onion, squash, potato, asafoetida (ingua) okra, raw banana, 6 red chilies (just about anything))

Wash thur dal thoroughly. Boil 1 liter of water. Drop dal in boiling water. Cook until soft.

Take a little oil in a frying pan on another flame. Roast mustard, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, pepper, turmeric, red chilies, asafoetida, bengal gram dal, coconut gratings and 1 sprig of curry leaves – all in the same sequence, until brown.

Grind all the roasted ingredients with tamarind to a fairly smooth paste. To the cooked thur dal, add vegetable pieces and a few coriander leaves.

Cook until tender. Then add salt along with ground masala (paste made above) and some water.

Boil well. When done, remove from flame.

Garnish with bits of coriander leaves. This is usually served with idli or rice.

Sambar II

half cup tuar dal or yellow split peas
2 onions
10 or 12 medium okra – (fresh or frozen)
3 large (or one can) tomatoes (optional)
quartered tamarind extract (available in Indian stores)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon chili powder (more if manaassukhum illa)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon methi powder
1/2 teaspoon hing powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon methi seeds
1/4 teaspoon veg. Oil
1 tablespoon salt to taste
4 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped
a few curry leaves

Cook the dal with chopped onions, turmeric powder, chili powder and sufficient water.

Cut the okra in two inch pieces and saute them in a frying pan with one teaspoon oil till dry and slightly browned.

Mash the cooked dal with a wooden spoon and add the salt, coriander powder, methi powder, hing and the tamarind extract.

Simmer for a few minutes and add the tomatoes and okra and half of the coriander leaves. When the vegetables are cooked, heat oil in a fry pan with a splatter screen or a lid and pop the mustard seeds.

Remove pan from the fire, add the curry leaves and methi seeds. Add this seasoning to the sambar and garnish with the rest of the coriander leaves.

Hint: Other vegetables that can be added to sambar are potatoes (which do not freeze well), shallots, pearl onions (available frozen), cucumber, Indian or oriental eggplant (baingan), beans, carrots, lima beans or squash.

Source: Maya Nair, modified.