Chettinad Vazhai Thandu Kootu

Kootu or Kootucurry - a dal+vegetable side-dish served for Lunch as an accompaniment to fiery Kuzhambu (Gravy). The Southern states boast of regional specialties and this is the Chettinad style. Sometimes seasoned and sometimes not; it is tasty and healthy.
Vazhaithandu is the tender stem of the Banana plant. It is a potassium rich food with a lot of health benefits. It has a high fibre content; a diuretic and a laxative. The Banana Stem is very fibrous and slicing it is very tricky and the key to enjoying the dish. Using a serrated knife to cut through makes the job easier. As there are many varieties of the fruit, so also with the stem. Amma says that "Kai Vazhai Thandu" is better as the Poriyal or Kootu will be white. Else it discolours and becomes 'grey'ish. Mostly it is a gamble as you have to rely on your vendor!
It is so lovely to watch her cut even sized match sticks from the round slices, making small turns every often to get uniform lengths. Slicing the Vazhaithandu is a trick, easily mastered. First, remove the thick outer layers. Then slice across (thin and round slices) through the stem and you will find fibrous strands between the two parts. With a twirl of your index finger, remove the fibre (from both the slice and the stem) and discard. Continue slicing until you have 6 or 7 discs. Now pile up the discs and cut into matchsticks.
Take about 1 cup of water in a bowl. Mix in 1 Tbsp of buttermilk. Drop the chopped stem (Thandu) into this bowl of water. It helps the stem remain white.

Vazhaithandu - 1, small
Moong Dal - 1/4 cup
Green Chillies - 3 to 4
Grated Coconut - 2 Tbsp
Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Ghee - 1 tsp (optional)

Take a heavy base pan or kadai and cook moong dal in sufficient water until it is half cooked.
Chop the Vazhaithandu into matchsticks as explained above. (By the time you are through with chopping, the dal will be perfectly cooked.)
Drain well and add it to the simmering dal along with slit green chillies.
Simmer cook and add little water if the Kootu becomes dry. The consistency should be like a thick gravy.
When the vegetable is soft, add salt, cumin seeds, a teaspoon of ghee, grated coconut and curry leaves (torn into pieces - to release the flavour).
Mix well and take off heat. Serve Hot.

Seasoning is optional. If you wish the curry leaves, cumin and 1 dry red chilli (broken into two) can be seasoned in ghee and added to the kootu just before taking off heat.

Other Kootu Recipes:
Chow-Chow Kootu
Pudalangai Poricha Kootu

Urundai Kuzhambu / Puli Kuzhambu


Ramya said…
What a comforting Kootu..Wud make a perfect combo with rice!

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