The first recipe I wanted to share with you as a part of the South Indian Food Series is here. I covered my intention behind this series here if you are interested. I decided to start the series with this very versatile category of dish called ‘THOGAYAL’, a Tamil word (the language of Tamil Nadu, one of the 5 South Indian States!).
Thogayal is basically the South Indian version of the Mediterranean dips/pastes such as Hummus or the middle eastern Muhammara. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. But simple does not mean ordinary. Its a spoon of earthy goodness, flavour and comfort. In a south Indian home, one would serve a spoonful of the Thogayal on top of freshly steamed rice (fluffy white delight) and a small dollop of ghee (or oil if you are vegan). The ghee melts into the warm/hot rice and allows the paste to coat the rice grains well, keeping the right level of moistness going. You are instantly enveloped with a warmth and comfort from the first bite.
A Thogayal is a category of dish. There are many different types of Thogayal’s can be made. Just changing some of the lentils and vegetables combination, each Thogayal ends up having a unique identity of it owns.
Ridge gourd is a commonly grown vegetable but not necessarily a popular one. One of the most common ways to eat Ridge Gourd and certainly my favourite way to eat it is in the form of Thogayal. If you want to learn more about the vegetable, you can read up lots of stuff about it here . But in short Ridge gourd is an extremely healthy alkaline vegetable with many benefits and this is certainly a fantastic way to enjoy it.
How To Make
You will need the following to make this recipe
Ridge Gourd – 3 or 4 medium sized ones
Urad dhal (dehusked and skinless black lentils) you can use whole or split but whole tastes nicer for these recipes – 3 tablespoons
Toor dhal (split pigeon peas) – 3 tablespoons
Red Chillies (long or round ones) – 5 pieces (if you prefer medium spice)
A tiny ball sized tamarind or a tea spoon of tamarind paste.
salt to taste
sesame oil (if you like the taste) or cocount oil or vegetable oil – 1 tablespoon
Remove either ends of the ridge gourd and peel it lightly so the scaly surface is gone and the flesh is left. Its a tender vegetable and over peeling can cause a lot of the flesh to be lost.
Cut the ridge gourd into small circular pieces and keep aside
In a heavy bottoms pan, add the oil, heat it well and add the lentils – Urad dhal and Toor dhal – and roast them well on medium flame. The dhals should turn a nice golden brown and be crispy. Add the chillies to the roasted dhals and continue to keep them on flame. Chillies fry fast so if the pan is too hot, reduce the flame to low now.
Once the chillies are roasted as well take the pan off, add the Tamarind and coconut to this mixture and let it cool down. Tamarind and coconut do not need to be cooked but you could if you wanted to, add the Tamarind after the chillies and roast them for a minute or so. Transfer the mixture into a small electric mixer jar (use the smallest jar available for your mixing process).
In the same pan add the chopped up ridge gourd and cook the vegetable on medium/low. The vegetable has a lot of water content and so you don’t need to add any water for cooking. And the gourd cooks really quickly so keep an eye. You don’t want to overcook it. Check that it has become nice, softly cooked and the raw smell is gone. It should take approximately 10 minutes to cook. Let it cool for some time before adding it to the rest of the ingredients in the mixer.
Add salt and grind all the ingredients in the mixer to a good smooth paste. Normally you will not need to add water even during the grinding stage as the gourd is a watery vegetable but if the mixer is too coarse add a very tiny amount of water (maybe 1 or 2 spoons). The Thogayal should be a smooth but thick paste and adding even a little extra water can make it very runny after grinding so only add water to adjust the consistency if needed.
Try and let me know how you liked it.
Enjoy it with hot steamed rice. A little oil or ghee to the rice elevates the taste of this combination.
You can adjust the spice level according to your preference but in general, thogayal’s especially this one is best enjoyed medium to high spicy. I don’t eat very spicy food so medium works for me.