Cooking Konkani food is super easy! I am talking about the South Canara Gowda Saraswath Brahmin ( GSB) cuisine. This is a relatively small community of people who are konkan and originally were Kashmiri Pandits but migrated along the Saraswati river and settled along the konkan coast of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Each group has been influenced by the local regional traditions and culture. Hence you will see konkans speaking different konkani and significant variations in their cuisine. Majority of the GSBs settled in the Udupi- Kundapur- Mangalore ( South Canara) region of Karnataka. Coming back to the cuisine,most of the dishes are coconut based and use coconut oil.
The most common gravy based curries (randayi)are called:
1.Ghashi :when tempered with mustard and curry leaves.
2.Ambat : when tempered with onions, and
3.Koddel :when tempered with garlic.
4.Sasam: when mustard seeds are added to the masala while grinding.
The most common dry side dishes are :
1. Sukke :when masala has oil- roasted urad dal in it.
2. Sagle :when masala has oil-roasted coriander and methi seeds in it.
3. Bhutti : when masala has oil-roasted coriander seeds in it.
4. Song :has nothing additional in the masala, but is cooked with sautéed onions and is dry.
The common denominator is the basic coconut-red chilli-tamarind masala. Here is the recipe for the basic masala enough for one dish that would serve 4-6 people.
Grated fresh coconut: 1 cup( from 1/4 coconut).
Dry Red chillies:4-5 nos ( depends on the spice level of; the chilly), roasted lightly in in 1/2 tsp oil.
Tamarind: marble sized if dry, 1/2tsp if pulp.
Water: 3/4 cup( could add more as needed).
Grind all the above ingredients in a blender using little water at a time into a fine paste.
You could use it immediately or store it in a airtight container in the freezer until you need it the next time. You could keep it in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Note:for the sukke masala, the coconut does not need to be ground to a fine paste. For everything else, it tastes best when the coconut is ground to a fine paste.
Cooking made easy:
The above coconut paste can be made from fresh or frozen grated coconut. If using frozen grated coconut, make sure that you thaw it to room temperature. Also, while grinding use lukewarm water.
Whenever I grate fresh coconut, I make sure I grind a batch of coconut masala enough for 3-4 different dishes and keep it in airtight containers in portions in the freezer. When needed, I just thaw a portion and add any additional ingredient if needed and blend it once or use it as is depending on what the recipe calls for.
Tip for healthy living:
In recent years, there was a huge uproar that coconut, coconut oil should be limited in your diet as it is a saturated fat and would increase the cholesterol in the body and clog your arteries. Many people I know either switched to "healthy" oils like canola or corn. I have always believed that the way our ancestors lived was a healthier way. They lived closer to nature, and had healthier eating habits. So I wondered could all out previous generations who cooked exclusively in coconut oil were all wrong? In fact my mother eats exclusively eats food that has been cooked only in coconut oil . Any other oil upsets her stomach and makes her sick. We now understand that the whole"coconut oil is bad for you" was a myth propagated by the big companies who wanted to promote canola and corn oil industries. In fact canola and corn production is a big industry! Today, we know that health proponents are strongly promoting the use of coconut oil and sing praises of the health benefits of coconut. People are even encouraged to eat dry coconut pulp as a snack! Coconut is a great source of dietary fiber and vitamins C& B. It has healthy fats, breakdown of which might actually help the liver function more efficiently.
Food for thought:
The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow