Blog post by Sudha Sharma
I was contemplating last night that some of the tastiest meals could be so simple and yet finger licking. Believe me this was no gourmet stuff, not what the most talked about chef had created in his cordon bleu with drizzles of olive oil with the much in demand blue or ricotta cheese thrown in for good measure. It is let me assure you, nothing but our good old, cool and tasty curd rice or as we Tambrahms call it Thayir chadam. The ultimate to a
South Indian meal!
People either hate it or love it and I guess I fall into the latter category. For those who hate it, I just have a word of advice; you don’t know what you have lost! Maybe they hate it because they have never tasted it right. The steaming hot and fluffy white rice straight out of the pressure cooker had been cooled considerably and a pinch of salt added. Yes you need to sit for a few minutes in front of your plate and wait for the rice to cool. Curd rice is never made with hot rice. Well there in lies another tale! Freshly set curds (no sour curds for me) added to the rice and voila my curd rice was ready to eat. There were so many accompaniments to it. There was the tomato thokku and lime pickle that my mom had most lovingly made.
My hubby had picked up bright smooth skinned red tomatoes from the Safal shop near home for the thokku. Mom washed them lovingly, dried them and diced them in small pieces. Then in a big kadai she added some three or four tablespoons of gingelly oil, seasoned it with mustard seeds and fried the tomatoes till they became a little soft. Then she added a spoon of turmeric powder, chilli powder, fenugreek powder, a little bit of asafoetida and salt for taste. The concoction bubbled and spluttered (and splattered a little on my kitchen tiles too, but never did I complain about cleaning them) and when it became thick like a halwa like consistency as it left the sides of the kadai, she transferred it to a squeaking clean steel container. The minute it cooled, into the fridge rack it went!!
Our close family friends are from a small village called A Ganapathy Katte close to Sringeri and every year my friend brings organic and farm fresh ripe lemons. They are the size of a small tennis ball and this time when she brought them home, mom thought that they will have to be pickled. I could only nod my head happily as I dreamily thought of tucking in delicious curd rice and tangy lime pickle. What a brilliant combination I thought!!
The washed and dried lemons were diced in small quarters, deseeded and then kept in a vessel. Then she added rock salt, turmeric powder, fenugreek powder and chilli powder and tossed them around and kept them in a dry clean glass jar with a muslin cloth tied to it and kept it aside in a cool dark place. In a kadai she added a few tablespoons of gingelly oil and seasoned it with mustard seeds and once they sputtered she removed it from fire and poured it over the quartered lime. She kept tossing them as and when she went into the kitchen and after two days removed the muslin cloth and capped the jar and into the fridge it went promptly.
After about two months, yesterday night when I could hold myself no longer I picked up the bottle from the fridge and added one or two pieces of the lime pickle to my curd rice. The lime had become soft and the spices had soaked well and it was just perfect. Every morsel of the rice, which went into my mouth, was savoured and I was licking my fingers right till the last morsel. The thokku and the lime pickle were the perfect foil for the otherwise bland curd rice.
I have always liked my curd rice plain with the accompaniments, but there are people like my daughter and husband who like their curd rice to be seasoned with all the available dals, chillies, ginger, cashewnuts, grapes, pomegranate seeds and even fried onions. But give me plain rice and thick fresh curds and a good pickle or thokku any day.
The other accompaniments for curd rice are poppadums, vepallaikatti, the vadu manga (mango pickle for the uninitiated) and even nellikkai (gooseberry) pickle. But in Bangalore we do not get these small mangoes so invariably it is the lime pickle that sees us through the summer seasons. The times we get the vadu mango is when someone comes from Palakkad and they bring a small bottle and I quickly stash it in the fridge like I have got a windfall. The pickle is treasured and every piece savoured right till the last piece. Only when I know that the bottle is completely empty with the last vestiges of the water spooned into my plate does it go for a wash. My maid has never complained about washing a gooey pickle bottle so far.
I do not have the patience that my mom or mom-in-law have and could never ever make homemade pickles nor could I make homemade pappads read vadams and karuvadams. Definitely their breed is dying, but one thing is for sure the pickle and pappads that they make can give the industry made pickles and pappads a run for their money. My three cheers to the likes of my mom and mom-in-law who make their own pickles and pappads and derive satisfaction when they pass on jars of these pickles and pappads to their loved ones!!