Author Notes: As much as Indian food in the entree category leans towards Savory rather than sweet dishes, there are some curries that are traditionally paired sweet rice based carbs. One such example is a classic pairing of sweetened rice grits (kali) and a savory coconut & sesame based curry (thaalaham). The vegetables in this curry are typically root or starchy vegetables such as sweet potato or raw banana.
The combination of toasted coconut, urad dal, and sesame gives the sauce in this curry its unique blend of nutty & meaty flavors.
In place of the traditional starchy vegetables, I've substituted non traditional spring vegetables, not used in Indian Cuisine. Asparagus, fava beans & baby fingerling potatoes.
Although this dish is common among South Indian households, I did use Ammini Ramachandran's book 'Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts' as a guideline, since a lot of the recipes contained within are very similar in taste & aroma, to the food I grew up on!
Spring vegetables in coconut sesame sauce
- 1 cup green asparagus (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
- 1 cup green fava beans
- 1 cup diced (unpeeled) fingerling potatoes
- 1/2 cup grated coconut (freezer section @ Indian groceries)
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon split dehusked Urad dal lentil
- 2 dry red arbol chiles
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt (approx)
- 2 cups water
- 1 pinch turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Tamarind extract
Seasoning & Finishing
- 2 tablespoons Olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
- 1 sprig Fresh curry leaves torn
- 1 Dried arbol chili broken in two
- 1 pinch Asafetida
- 2 teaspoons powdered jaggery (gud) or dark brown sugar
- In a skillet, toast the Split Urad dal till its golden brown and emits a meaty aroma. Remove & set aside to cool.
- In the Same skillet add the sesame seeds & the broken arbol chile pieces & toast, stirring constantly till the sesame seeds begin to pop & begin to turn golden. Remove and add to the toasted Urad dal to cool down.
- Toast the grated coconut till it turns a golden brown
- Grind all the toasted ingredients together into a smooth paste using as little water as needed.
- In a pan, boil the water and add the cut fingerling potatoes (this is to give a head start to the potatoes which take a little longer to cook compared to the other green veggies). Two minutes or so after the water begins to boil again, add the salt, turmeric, fava beans and asparagus cover & allow to simmer for ~ 5 minutes till the asparagus is cooked yet crunchy.
- Add the coconut sesame paste and the tamarind extract to the vegetables & stir to mix in the paste. Taste to check for seasoning and adjust the salt level as per your preference. Cover & cook for a further 3-5 minutes on low heat to allow for the flavors to combine.
- While the curry is simmering, Heat the olive oil till near smoking, and add the mustard seeds, when they sputter & split, add the red arbol chile, asafetida & the curry leaves ( Watch out, the curry leaves tend to 'explode' spattering hot oil around due to the moisture content. Add this sizzling mix to the curry along with the powdered jaggery ( or sugar) & stir to incorporate. Remove from heat.
- Allow the curry to rest for about 15 minutes before serving warm with plain rice.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Spring Vegetable Recipe