Carrot-Potato Poriyal & the Sounds of a Tamil Kitchen

Carrot-Potato Poriyal & the Sounds of a Tamil Kitchen

Simple is beautiful. Vasumathi Mohanram shares the recipe to her Paati's simple-as-sin carrot-potato poriyal.

We Tamil brahmins are a foodie lot. Every culture fashions their cuisine with geography, climatic conditions, and the ingredients local to their region. Our culture in particular, is known for its food combinations. We also are also quite adept at associating unique sounds with the different feelings that food evokes — A grumble in the tummy elicits a description akin to a gaba-gaba hunger. Ghee drops into the heavenly depths of hot rice, with a soiii sound. Yes, these words are actually said out aloud.

There are specific food combination principles that we absolutely need to follow, to deliver on the perfect food experience. In my house for example, an aloo roast or an arbi roast, is a given for a sambar rice or a vathal kuzhambu lunch, with crisps of course. There can't just be a tinda or gourds stir-fry with chapathi. A dry chapathi requires a moist side dish. Paati, the beloved matriarch of my family has brainstormed and innovated in her kitchen-lab — she has come up with quite a few chapathi-deserving side dishes. One such side dish, is what I'd like to share here. Of course, it’s simple as sin. It’s also not talked about as often as it should be.

Recipe for carrot aaloo poriyal

Recipe for Carrot Aloo Poriyal

4-5 carrots, peeled and diced
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp ground fresh coconut
¼ tsp turmeric
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds,
7-8 curry leaves
1 tbsp urad dal
4 dried red chillies
1 ½ tbsp sambar powder
¼ cup water
Salt, to taste

Place the carrots, potatoes, water and turmeric in a pressure cooker. Cook for two whistles. Remove from heat, and allow the pressure to release naturally.
In the meanwhile, prepare the seasoning.
In a hot non-stick pan, pour in the vegetable oil.
Add in the mustard seeds, curry leaves and urad dal.
Gently tear in the dried red chilies.
Once the urad dal has roasted sufficiently (about a minute), add in the sambar powder and fry together for a minute. 
Now, add in the steamed vegetables.
Allow the vegetables to cook with the tadka until they are dry. Add salt as required.
Garnish with freshly ground coconut, and serve warm.

Cook's note: Best eaten with rasam saadam and appalam

Words and photographs by Vasumathi Mohanram