Monday, January 2, 2012

Harmonized duet - Pappu koora & Pulusu - A delectable meal from coastal Andhra Pradesh

When I was still a new bride and didn't know the language being spoken around me at home, food was a way of speaking to and understanding people. After all the wedding hungama came to an end and the guests and visiting family had left for their homes and it was back to the four of us at home plus the dogs (Oh yes, we had dogs back then also, it is a long story for another day perhaps..), this is the first meal Amma cooked for all of us.

It is an easy to whip up recipe but is one of those comfort foods that gives you a feel of home, of returning to familiarity and bonding. Pappu koora and pulusu go hand in hand as they complement their tastes and in turn give you a completely satisfying meal.

Pappu koora
Pappu ~ Dal/Lentils (specifically moong dal/pesaru pappu/hesaru bele)
Koora ~ Vegetable

What do you need to make Pappu koora?
1 cup of pesara pappu/hesaru bele/moong dal
2 cups of finely chopped cabbage (See variations for vegetable options, I used cabbage today)
3 cups of water
salt to taste
Cabbage pappu koora ingredients

Seasoning (Popu/Vaggarane)
1 Tsp of asafoetida
3 Tsp of Oil (I used sunflower oil you can use corn/canola/peanut/sunflower oil, do not use olive oil since it does not take high temperature heating as well as the others )

How do you make Pappu koora?
  1. Chop the vegetable pieces finely
  2. Wash moong dal in water until it runs clear and drain the water.
  3. Bring the dal, vegetable pieces into your pressure cooker, add water and cook it till it is soft but not mushy *
  4. When the pressure cooker cools, open the lid, add salt and stir it well with a spoon so it is homogeneously mixed. keep it aside till ready to be served
Washed ingredients going into the cooker sans salt

Ready to serve pappu koora, salt added

Pulusu - A tangy, sweet and mildly spicy gravy with or without vegetables. A great accompaniment to the bland pappu koora

What do you need to make Pulusu?
1 sweet potato/yam washed & cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium sized red onion cut into bite sized pieces
1 small lemon sized tamarind soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes
2-3 Tblsp of crushed jaggery/brown sugar (adjust this and the tamarind based on taste, the final output has to be a sweetish, tangy, slurpy medley)
salt to taste
1 tsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds 
a pinch asafoetida
1 tsp of rice flour 
1 tsp of sambar powder (you can use either home made or store bought, see variations for substitutes - substitute for 1/2 & 1/2 of red chili powder and dhana jeera powder if you don't have sambar powder handy)
3-4 curry leaves (tear it into pieces for enhanced flavor)
1 red chilly broken into 2-3 pieces
Core ingredients for the pulusu

How do you make Pulusu?
  1. Bring the sweet potato and onion pieces into a pot, add water, salt and cook it till the sweet potatoes are tender
  2. Extract juice from the soaked tamarind and add it to the pot
  3. Add jaggery/brown sugar and let it all cook on medium heat until the raw smell of tamarind goes away
  4. Now mix the rice flour in 1/2 cup of water, remove any lumps by stirring and pour it into the pot. This is a thickening agent to give some body to the watery gravy, you can omit this if you like
  5. Let the mixture come to a rolling boil on low heat and then switch it off. 
  6. Prepare seasoning by heating the oil, put asafoetida, mustard and fenugreek, let them crackle, add the red chilies, let it stand for 30 seconds, add the curry leaves and pour the sizzling oil mix into the pulusu pot. 
  7. Keep it warm until ready to be served
Pulusu ready to be served

How do you serve Pappu koora & pulusu?
Ah, glad you asked :-) because this is an elaborate ritual. I, in my naivete at first time being served this meal proceeded to mix the dal with rice, keeping the pulusu for later,  sounds routine enough, right? Well.. my new family exchanged glances with each other and decided it was time to show the new daughter in law the right way to enjoy this classic menu.  I might have offended the true blue pappu koora pulusu lovers in my family if it was not for the fact that they adored the new girl in their life and were not going to nitpick with her :-). Thus I was initiated formally into the proper way of eating pappu koora-pulusu with an elaborate side of fried papads & yummy fryms. So here I pass on the wisdom I gained at that first official meal with my new family and show you how to actually enjoy this meal. 

There is a key step before you serve this for a meal. If you have really read through this long post without skipping sections you would have noticed that i haven't yet used a couple of the ingredients I listed above :-). Here we go with it..

Now you heat a small pan, add the 3 Tsp of oil, let it become hot, add the asafoetida (remember it is not just a pinch), keep this on medium heat and let the asafoetida sizzle in the oil - THIS IS IMPORTANT
When the Asafoetida oil is on the stove, have your family sit at the table or on the floor if you can manage that. Serve them hot rice in a plate.
Sizzling Ingu-nuni in the pan

Spoon out the pappu koora on to the rice

Ask them to mix it and make a well in the center of the rice-dal mix. Have your BH do the same for you in another plate so it is ready when you come to the table.

Now spoon out the hot Ingu-nuni (asafoetida-oil) into the well. If you have brought it to the right temparature, it makes a nice loud sound like thus Chuuuyyyi and you can see the glee on the faces around you. Alert kids and overly eager adults about the hot oil.

Once the sizzle and sound stops, mix it all into the rice and take a mouthful of morsel (mudda) in hand, dip it into the pulusu and pop it into the mouth. You are so close to a divine experience :-) and nobody talks until the plate is empty. 

At our home, this meal is always served with oil fried papad and majjiga mirapakayis (~balakada menasinakayi/dried chilies flavored with yogurt and spices). That long chillie is a fruit of labor at home from this past summer. Will talk about it next summer if the Sun God decides to bless me with some sun shine.

Plan this for a weekend or holiday weekend afternoon lunch like we did today. You won't feel the need for dinner after this :-)

  1. You can make pappu koora with bottle gourd, snake gourd, ridge gourd or cabbage. It is always a single vegetable as different textures do not match
  2. You can cook the pappu koora on stove top, hover around to mix it so the dal doesn't overflow or get stuck to the bottom. I love pressure cookers, such handy inventions :-)
  3. For pulusu, you can either use sweet potatoes or omit them, just the onion pieces will taste great too. The version I made today is called mukkala (~pieces) pulusu. R remembers his childhood summer vacations at grand parents', he comes from a close knit huge family of aunts, uncles, cousins and all the children would visit during summer holidays. His grandma would make the pulusu with vegetable pieces (~mukkalu) and count the number of pieces while chopping to insure every grand child got his or her fair share of it :-)  
  4. Amma sometimes also puts a few bite sized pieces of bottlegourd into the pulusu.


anu said...

very nice narration of pappukoora pulusu and chhhoooyyiii inguva noone. wow reallyyy mouth watering.
Nannagaru Amma

Anonymous said...

You can try pappu kura with palak(spinach), beans, cluster beans, carrot etc. also. Very good and interesting narration. Looking forward to more yummy dishes.

Nagashree said...

Thanks you papapinni for the variations, will try them next time.