We cook a lot of Indian food in our house. My wife is from Kerala, India so she has a good nose for good spicey food.
Tonight she was feeling a little homesick so I made her one of her favorite comfort foods. Curd Rice with pickle. As I was preparing the meal I paused and took a pic of the cutting board:
I was thinking to myself how easy South Indian foods are to prepare. I'm not talking fancy hotel or cooking show dishes, but regular everyday dishes that regular everyday people eat.
That pic shows the basic seasonings/ingredients in about 85-90% of the South Indian dishes.
Sure, you can add other spices such as cumin, garam masala, fenugreek seeds -to name a few, but really, if you have those basics in the photo above you will never be disappointed.
What are they?
-Start with coconut oil. It's mostly cut out of the pic, but you can see part of the jar there. Get the oil hot.
-Black mustard seeds. This is what you add first to the hot oil. They will start popping in the oil pretty soon after.
-Dried red chili. Just toss the whole thing in there. It's really hot, but you can't beat the flavor it adds to whatever it is you are making.
-Fresh curry leaves. They MUST be fresh. Curry leaves are NOT the same thing as curry powder. No one in India uses curry powder -it was invented by the British. If you don't have a local market to buy fresh curry leaves order a curry leaf tree from a nursery and grow it yourself. They are easy to grow.
-Red Onions. As soon as you add the curry leaves, follow them with onions and stir it around in the oil.
-Green chili. That's a jalapeno there in the pic. They don't really use jalapenos in India. They use something more like a serrano. Either way, it's what you add next.
-Fresh ginger. Last, but not least, fresh ginger. I use a cheese grater to grind up a little ginger. Toss it in.
That's it. As soon as the ginger goes in you are ready to add whatever it is you are making. Rice, cabbage, semolina, quinoa, whatever.
-By the way, for the curd rice. I added a couple of spoonfuls of urad dal and toasted it in the oil after the ginger. then I added about 3 cups of cooked rice and about 1.5 cups of plain yogurt(curd). That's curd rice. Indian 'pickle' is not like american 'pickles'. It is any number of veggies that are pickled and heavily salted. My favorite is Mango pickle. It is used sort of like a condiment.
-For cabbage thoran I would add shredded coconut, cumin seeds, and a little tumeric.
-For uppma I would add semolina or quinoa instead of rice.
-For Kadala I would make it with chickpeas and leave out the ginger, but add cilantro(coriander), chili powder, and tumeric.
-For potato masala I would just add potatos.
They all share the same basic start.