During one of my visits to Kerala, I had witnessed the celebrations of Onam. It is amazing to watch the preparations of this festival. Since then I have been longing to go back to Kerala. There is a strong and emotional bonding among the folks of Kerala, which leaves an imprint on one’s mind. ‘Onam’ is a festival, which marks the homecoming of their legendary King Mahabali. This festival is a pride to this State and the amazing part is that, this festival is celebrated with equal fervour by all religions and communities, although the festive reason originates from Hindu Mythology. When the festival ends, it leaves a sad note in everyone’s heart but then it is always looked forward to, with a sweet long wait.
The music, cultural values, exquisite cuisine, authentic games, intricately decorated ‘Pookalam’ (arrangement of flowers) and the mythical stories is what makes this festival special. The best part is the welcoming array of dishes, from the exotic cuisine of Kerala. I was bewildered, as to where to begin, when I eyed the endless (seemed so to me) array of mouth- watering dishes.My mother-in-law explained to me the names of all the dishes and how each one is special for this festival. There is also a customary way of serving the dishes; each has an order and place on the banana leaf.
Among the heavenly aroma and taste of those many dishes, I was impressed with the ‘Pulinji or Injipuli’. The pulinji, I later learnt, is served on the lower left of the leaf, though it is one of the thottu curries (pickles), since it is also considered a side dish which should last till the end of the course. It is tasted in intervals between every dish that is had; In fact it is relished, even during the intake of the payasam (a sweet dish). The ‘Pulinji’ enhances digestion, its main ingredient being ‘Tamarind’.
I can blindly relate to the tangy taste of this dish and still slurp!! Though this is a time consuming recipe, the sweet and tangy feeling that tickled my taste buds, for the first time at that festival, left me craving for more of it. So the first time I prepared it my mother-in-law helped me out. Now I make it atleast once in two months, hoping to savour it for many days. Well, it definitely does not work that way. My family relishes it with every main meal, be it with rice or rotis. The sweet and tangy ‘Pulinji’ seems to be, just the perfect side dish. In the Olden days the Pulinji was called the “King of Curries”. In Malayalam, there is a saying that ‘one can eat a whole load of rice with just the Pulinji’ and there is no need of a side dish. So the Pulinji is sure to rejuvenate your taste buds and have you smacking your fingers!
- 2 inch ginger piece peeled and finely chopped.
- 3 green chillies finely chopped
- 2 red chillies
- 2 lime sized balls of tamarind soaked in water
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- 1/4tsp asafoetida
- 25 gms grated jaggery
- few curry leaves
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1tbsp salt
- Heat oil in a pan and sauté red chillies and mustard.
- Add the ginger and chilli when the mustard splutters. Fry and keep aside.
- Roast the fenugreek and cumin seeds separately.
- Powder half the roasted fenugreek and cumin seeds (keep aside the other half).
- Extract the tamarind juice and bring it to a boil. Add turmeric powder, chilli powder, asafoetida, curry leaves, jaggery, salt and the roasted fenugreek and cumin seeds (which were kept aside).
- Continue boiling till the solution thickens. Add the ginger-chilli mix which was kept aside after frying; now again bring to a boil. Add more salt if too tartarish to taste. The solution will splutter and thicken. Remove from fire.
- Serve hot with rice. You can also relish it with idlis, dosas, appam etc.,
Preparation Time: 45- 50 minutes
Makes: 450 Gms
- Cool and preserve in a air-tight bottle/container and refrigerate.
- Shelf life is more than a week when refrigerated.