Pudalangai Kootu - Snake Gourd with Lentils
Kootu is a lesser known part of TamBram cuisine. While the Sambhars and Rasams have been immortalised by the flourishing Udipi restaurants, kootu is something you will only find in a household and rarely ever in a restaurant.
From Wikipedia: Kootu is a Tamil dish, common in both Tamil Nadu and South India. Kootus are essentially vegetable and lentil dishes which are semi-solid, i.e., less aqueous than sambhar, but more so than dry curries. Rice and kootu is a common and simple Tamil meal. In Tamil cuisine kootus are considered substitutes for both curries and sambhar.
All kootus by default have some vegetables and lentils, but many variations of kootu exist:
Puli Kootu: Puli is the Tamil word for tamarind and puli kootu refers to a kootu made with tamarind.
Poricha Kootu: A kootu made with moong beans and cocunut.
Araichivita Kootu: A kootu which has a ground (freshly powdered) masala in it, where the word araichivita in tamil literally translates to 'the one which has been ground and poured'.
Many other regional variations exist.
By the above definitions, this Snake Gourd Kootu would fall under category 2 and 3 as it has moong dal or tur dal, coconut and the masala is freshly ground.
While Tamilians have a fondness for all gourds, even some of those that other cuisines wont touch, snake gourd is one of the popular ones. In addition to this preparation, it is also made in dry curry form, where udad dal, dried red chilli pieces and mustard seeds are tempered in oil, the slices of gourd are cooked till tender by sprinkling some water, seasoned with salt and garnished with fresh coconut.
Podalangai Kootu / Pudalangai Kootu / Snake gourd with lentils
To lightly roast:
- Preparation: Cut open the snake gourds along the length and run your fingers along the pith to clear off the insides. Place the gourds bunched together and slice them into pieces of 1 cm thickness or so.
- Grind the roasted spices along with coconut and 3 tbsp water to a fine paste.
- In a deep pan, place the gourd slices, water with pinch of turmeric. Bring the water to a boil and let it simmer until the gourd is tender (for about 5-8 minutes). Keep a watch so that gourd slices are not mashed.
- Once the vegetable is cooked, add the finely ground coconut-spice paste, 3/4 tsp of salt and let the gravy simmer for 2 minutes. Add a little water if the gravy gets too thick while simmering.
- In a small pan, heat a tsp of oil, and put in the mustard seeds. Once it splutters, add the udad dal, saute till golden and lastly throw in the curry leaves. Transfer the tempered oil to the gourd in coconut gravy.
Honestly speaking, I have never found kootu to be a good accompaniment for chapatis, but mix it into steaming hot rice, with a lime pickle on the side, a fresh yogurt raita and I can guarantee that it'll be your gateway to heaven.
You can make a variety of kootu using any other vegetable like bottle gourd (dudhi), ridge gourd, pumpkins, a mixture of vegetables (Poricha kootu) and even spinach.
Timesaver tip: To make kootu in a jiffy, I grind a chutney grinder full of the coconut masala, pour it into an ice tray, and remove the cubes into a ziploc bag which is stored in the freezer. Just throw 2-3 cubes of the masala into the veggie-lentil mix and all you have to do is the tempering.