Chettinad Keerai Mandi

Mandi is a simple curry (there is absolutely NO masala here; yet it's called curry!) or lunch accompaniment made with the water that rice is washed in. When you say "Mandi" in Chettinad with reference to food, what comes to the mind is the tangy spicy taste; almost pickle like but milder in a curry form. 
Mandi can be made with Mixed Vegetables 'Pala Kai Mandi', Onion and Garlic 'Milagai Mandi', and the most popular one of the lot would be with Ladies Finger 'Vendakkai Mandi'.

The days when you are to grind for Idli or Dosa would be the best to collect a good quantity of *Arisi kalanja mandi - the water in which the rice is washed. 
Manathakkali Keerai
Keerai Mandi is different from the others. We would say Keerai Mandi oothi avikkiradhu (Keerai cooked in Rice Water). It is a kind of Kootu without Dal. Any variety of Keerai can be used. If using Agathi Keerai or Ponnanganni Keerai a little coconut milk can be added for added taste. 

Ingredients:
Keerai - 1 bunch
Small Onions - 8 to 9
Gingelly Oil - 1 teaspoon
Mustard - 1/4 teaspoon
Urad Dal - 1/4 teaspoon
Dry Red Chillies - 3 or 4
Salt to taste
*Arisi Mandi - 1/2 Cup
Coconut Milk - 1/4 cup (Optional)
Instructions:
Pick the leaves of the Keerai. Wash and drain well.
Bunch up and chop roughly.
Peel and slice the onions thickly. 
Tear the dry red chilies into bits and keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan large enough to hold the bulk of the keerai.
Season with mustard and urad dal.
Add the chopped onions and chilies. Saute for a few seconds.
Add in chopped Keerai and mix well. Cover and cook until it wilts.
Open the pan and add in the Mandi. Simmer for few minutes. Add salt to taste. 
Once it is cooked through, add in coconut milk if using and take off heat. 

Lunch Menu:
Paruppu Urundai Mor Kuzhambu, Drumstick Masala, Keerai Mandi with Rice

Note:
*Arisi kalanja Mandi - Wash the rice with very little water and collect it in a vessel. Strain and keep it aside to be used. What settles down at the base is the thickener for the gravy. So if there is a lot of water, wait till it settles down and remove some water from the top. We would need less than a cup for 4 servings of Keerai Mandi.

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