Friday, August 22, 2014

Alvathi ( Colacasia leaves cooked in spicy coconut sauce)

It is funny. Growing up when my mother cooked Alvathi, I never liked it. Now it is one of my favorite dishes! I guess taste does evolve as one grows up. In that case, I definitely have hope for my kids! Right now they are stuck to bland steamed vegetables and upkaris( stir frys). Coming back to Alvathi, this is cooked out of therapaan (Colacasia leaves) that grows like weed back home( India) during rainy season and here I pay $4-$5 for the same leaves!!! Well, I guess somebody has to pay for the shipping and handling! The good news is that I can get it anytime from the Indian store that is 15 minutes away from me! Well.. That is what I call luxury!

That's enough of yapping for now.. Again alavathi is nothing but therapaan cooked in a gravy made from ground coconut and red chillies. Yes, it really is that simple!

Servings: 6


Therapaan( Colocasia leaves): 1 big bunch ( around 15 medium sized leaves).
Ginger: 1 inch piece
Green chillies: 2-3, slit lengthwise
Tamarind: 1/2 small lemon size( I using pulp, 1 tsp)
Freshly grated coconut: 1 cup
Red chillies: 4-6( depending on your spice level)
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig
Coconut oil: 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Jaggery: pinch
Water: 2 cups to cook the leaves and 3/4 cup to grind the masala.


Grind together freshly grated coconut, red chillies with enough water to make into a thick fine paste and keep aside.

Clean the therapaan thoroughly in water. Remove the stems. Reserve the stems for another dish. Now remove all the big veins from the back of the leaves. Removing these veins is important as the dish will otherwise make your mouth itchy.

Once all the veins from all the leaves have been removed, roughly chop the leaves. Add the leaves to a pot and add water, green chilli, ginger, salt and jaggery to it and cook until done( around 20-25 minutes). One good guide is the change in color of the leaves. It is better to overcook than undercook these leaves.

Once the leaves are cooked, add the ground masala to it and bring it to a boil.

Heat coconut oil in a small frying pan. Add the mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds have spluttered, add he curry leaves.Add this to the pot above.

Serve hot with steamed rice.


Cooking made easy:

One has to be careful while making any dish with collacacia leaves. Both the handling of the leaves and eating it can produce severe itching in the hands,mouth, tongue and lips if not done correctly.

To prevent itchy hands after handling of collacacia leaves, please smear any cooking oil on the hands or tamarind solution or one could even wear gloves prior to handling the leaves. Of course, wash your hands thoroughly after the handling of the leaves.

To prevent itching post-eating, make sure that you remove all the big veins from the back of the leaf. The more veins you remove, the lesser the chance of itch. Please  ensure that you cook it with a sour agent like tamarind, ambado etc. Use a little more than what you would normally use for a given dish. Ensure that you cook the leaves properly and thoroughly. It is safer to overcook it than undercook it.

Tip for healthy living:

Make greens a regular part of your daily diet. Eat atleast one portion of greens everyday. Eating greens on a regular basis has several health benefits. They provide the necessary dietary fiber and roughage to keep us regular and thereby prevent constipation. It also adds bulk to the food so that we feel fuller without consuming too many calories. Greens also have a low glycemic index, hence good for diabetics. They are also a great source of frolic acid, iron and other essential vitamins and minerals.


Food for thought:

The mediator of the inexpressible is the work of art. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe