T is for Thenga, coconut. T is also for Thiruvathira Kali, a dance form, performed at the time of Onam (mainly in Central and Northern Kerala). I didn’t have any pictures to share about thiruvathira kali, so T is for Thenga, today.
Coconut has a very special place in Kerala, especially in cooking. A good amount of dishes require a bit of coconut in some or the other way. Even payasams are made with coconut milk.
A little coconut oil is applied to the hair before taking bath everyday. For wounds, my first aid is lots of love and a bit of coconut oil.
For cooking, everything from the tadka to deep frying is done with coconut oil.
Coconut flesh is scraped out of the shells. For this, we have something called ‘cherava’, but now a days a lot of people just cut out the flesh and pulse it in the mixer.
Scrapped coconut pulsed a bit with chillies finds it way into the umpteen variety of thorans.
Coconut ground into a coarse paste is used for avial and koottu (Semi gravy dishes).
Finely ground coconut is used for pulissery, kalan, sambar (basically gravies).
Coconut is sometimes roasted and then ground for some kind of sambars like theeyal. Roasted coconut is also used as garnish for Koottu curry and erissery.
Coconut milk is used in many jaggery based payasams. The ones that are in the blog would be
Coconut milk is also used for savory dishes like Olan and Vegetable Stew.
Sometimes people add cococnut milk to biryanis and say its Kerala style, but I haven’t had one till now in Kerala.
When preparing for a sadya, the first thing to do is to buy coconut. For my spread, I bought 2 whole coconuts and a pack of ready made coconut milk.
For payasams, if you use the ready made powder kind, it lends a funny taste to the payasam (- that’s experience talking). The tetra pack is much better, but the best is of course, making from scratch.
I made coconut milk from scratch for the Ada pradhaman, Chakka Pradhaman and Gothambu payasam. I was smart enough to document the evidence as well. So here we go…
For extracting coconut milk, you obviously need coconuts, but you need some patience as well. The cleaning up of the kitchen counter is the worst part. So its no wonder that tetra packs are so popular.
- Coconut, scrapped : 1 cup
- Water : 1.5 – 2.5 cups
- Grind the coconut with one cup water into a very smooth paste. You might have to add some more water to get it to the smooth consistency
- Once its ground nicely, pass through a sieve and collect the thick coconut milk in a vessel underneath. Press a bit with your hands or the back of a spoon to extract as much as possible. You now have onnam paal – first thick milk.
- Now, put the coconut back in the mixie, add another cup of water and run again till its smooth.
- Repeat the process of pressing and passing through a sieve with a vessel to collect the coconut milk under it. You have the second milk – randaam paal – now. It’s thinner than the first milk.
- Now, put the coconut back in the mixer and run once again with half a cup of water. It will be a real smooth paste now.
- For the last time, repeat the press through sieve and collect coconut milk. This is the third milk, moonam paal. This can be used to cook vegetables as well.
Things to keep in mind when using coconut milk:
- The three milks should be kept separate. It shouldn’t be mixed.
- This is best used on the day its made, how ever, if there is any left over, store in the fridge (again, don’t mix them) and use as soon as possible. After all this effort, it would be a shame if it goes bad.
- The first milk, the thick onnam paal, shouldn’t boil. It might split easily. So its always added in the end. Once its added, mix and switch off the heat.
- The third milk, moonnam paal, can be used for cooking, instead of water. So its used to cook the grain for payasam or vegetables for olan or stew.
- The coconut dregs need to be thrown out, but sometimes my mother just adds it along with some fresh coconut to a thoran. She says, “well, it’s not going to cause any harm!” :-). Nothing wrong there, but the taste will never match the fresh coconut.
Or else, go for the shortest method – not for payasams, though…
- A – Avial, Ada Pradhaman, Achinga Payar – Chena Mezhukkupiratti
- B - Beetroot Kichadi, Beet root thoran, Beans Thoran
- C - Carrot Thoran, Cabbage Thoran
- D – Daal – Parippu Curry
- E – Erisseri – Chena & Mathan Vanpayaru
- F - Fruit Pachadi
- G – God’s Own Country – Kerala
- H – How to Serve a Sadya
- I – Inji Puli
- J - Jackfruit Payasam – Chakka Payasam
- K - Kalan & Koottu Curry
- L - Lemon Rasam
- M - Mambazha Pulisseri & Mathan Pachadi
- N – Neer Moru/ButterMilk
- O – Olan
- P - Payasam & Pookkalam
- Q – Quaker Oats Payasam
- R – Rasam and Rice
- S – Sambar
- T – Thenga paal
Logo courtesy : Preeti