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By that, of course, I mean south Indian cooking. If you’ve been to an Indian restaurant in the DC area, chances are what you had was north Indian Mughlai cuisine – creamy curries, naan, paratha, biryani – rich with cream and yogurt and flavored with ground spices. When you do eat at a south Indian restaurant, you’ll likely have dosa, idli, sambar, or vada, but this is not what south Indians (at least the ones I know) eat on a daily basis. I wonder if we’ve put forth only our fancier dishes because we think non-Indians will be unimpressed with what we eat at home. I don’t see why that should be the case. These dishes may be simple but they are every bit as delicious and a lot healthier than Indian restaurant food.

I’m going to use Telugu names for the dishes and ingredients here because that’s how I know them, but I’ll translate wherever possible. I did find a really great page with pictures of all of the different kinds of legumes used in Indian cooking.

Tiragamutha is a combination of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, legumes and dry red chili peppers that are fried until the mustard seeds pop, and it is a very common flavoring agent in south Indian dishes. You can use it and the method described for the koora below to prepare many other vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage. A friend of mine in college would only eat broccoli if I made it this way.

my tiragamutha dabba (container)

Tonight I made tomato pappu and green beans koora with coconut from the unbelievable green beans and tomatoes I got at the Dupont Farmer’s Market on Sunday.

Pretty beans

Tomato Pappu

One cup kandi pappu (split pigeon peas)
3 cups water
1 large or 2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Tiragamutha:
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon senaga pappu (split black chick peas)
1/2 teaspoon minapa pappu (split black lentils)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 dried red chili pepper, cut in half width-wise
4-5 curry leaves
handful of chopped cilantro

In a medium saucepan, toast the kandi pappu over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add water, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 45 minutes or until soft.

When pappu has cooked, add chopped tomato and salt, cover and continue to simmer 15 minutes.

simmering tomatoes in pappu

Add salt to taste if necessary. In a separate small pan (I actually have a tiny pan for just this purpose) fry tiragamutha ingredients until the popping of the mustard seeds begins to slow down. Add to pappu, stir, and garnish with cilantro.

tiragamutha frying in tiny pan

tiragamutha frying in tiny pan

Green Beans Koora

1.5 lbs trimmed and cut green beans
1 1/2 tsp salt
Tiragamutha:
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon senaga pappu (split black chick peas)
1/2 teaspoon minapa pappu (split black lentils)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 dried red chili pepper, cut in half width-wise
4-5 curry leaves
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Fry tiragamutha ingredients in a large skillet or saucepan until the popping of the mustard seeds begins to slow down. Add green beans, salt and coconut. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender.

tiragamutha frying in skillet

Serve over rice. Yogurt is usually mixed with rice and eaten last, with or without mango pickle (or mashed banana if you prefer).

Note: If you are around DC and have a car, you can get all of the spices and legumes at Patel Brothers in Hyattsville, MD. I’ve never tried it but it looks like you can get everything from online shops such as ishopindian.com as well!

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