If there ever is a dish that symbolises communal harmony, it is Kootanchoru- Tirunelveli's own one-pot meal prepared with rice, lentils, vegetables, and spices. The dish is named Kootachoru for two reasons- Firstly, it is made with various vegetables, and second, everyone cooks it together. Whether family or friends, everyone contributes at least one ingredient to the dish and partakes in the cooking process. So, you would have one person chopping the vegetables, another overseeing the cooking and a third person grinding the masala. Finally, everyone would eat the cooked dish together and have a fun-filled memorable day. This practise is followed even today. Kootanchoru continues to be what it has always been- a meal that harmoniously brings together all communities.
This recipe requires a long list of ingredients:
Method Of Preparation:
Soak the tamarind in water and extract the required amount of tamarind juice. Wash the rice and the lentils together and keep them aside. Now, add water four times the amount of rice and dhal into a large cooking pot and bring to a boil. Next, add the rice and dhal together and let them cook.
While the rice-dhal mixture cooks, wash and chop all the vegetables into batons and place them in a bowl of water. Separate the moringa leaves from the stems. Wash and collect them in a separate bowl.
Add the tamarind water, turmeric, salt, and chopped vegetables except for the raw plantain, brinjals, and raw mangoes when the rice is half-boiled. After a while, add the moringa leaves, shallots, and garlic.
When the vegetables are half-cooked, add the remaining ones that you've kept aside. Now combine the ground paste along with grated coconut and allow it to incorporate well into the rice.
The Kootanchoru is now ready, and it's time to add the tempered spices. Heat gingelly oil in a separate pan, add the tempering ingredients and fry them for a minute or two. Add the tempered oil to the rice and keep the pot covered for a few minutes.
To make Kootanchoru in a cooker, add the rice and lentils and let it come to a whistle. Next, add the vegetables, ground paste, and other ingredients, wait for 2-3 whistles and temper the rice.
Kootanchoru needs no side accompaniment, as it has enough vegetables to make it a fulfilling dish. However, you can fry some papads and fryums to add a crunchy texture or even prepare an onion raita. Kootanchoru is best eaten with all your family and friends. Serve the hot Kootanchoru on a large banana leaf with the papads, fryums, and onion raita and have a go at it! The dish tastes different when it is eaten hot. As it cools down, the salt, spice, and other flavours become more intense. It is no wonder that there is a big demand for even the leftovers!