Hot off the Skillet: Meukkupurattis and Thorans

The concept of serving raw vegetables tossed with a salad dressing was unknown to Kerala until the arrival of colonial conquerors. The only kind of salad that was prepared in our home is a combination of sliced raw tomatoes, green chilies, and onions with a yogurt dressing. Even today, salads take a back seat to cooked vegetables in our cuisine.

We have two kinds of panfried vegetables: mezukkupurattis and thorans. Both are dry vegetable dishes with no sauce. Unlike Chinese stir-fries, in which vegetables are sauteed at very high heat, mezukkupurattis are prepared by panfrying cooked vegetables or cooked dried beans over very low heat, which allows the vegetables to absorb the oil and the fragrance of the spices. They become crisp on the outside and fluffy-soft on the inside. For thorans, vegetables are thinly sliced and steam-cooked, or cooked in very little water or their own natural juices. This method helps preserve the freshness of the vegetables. Then they are tossed with panfried seasoning made with urad dal, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, curry leaves, fresh coconut flakes, and green chilies. They are not very spicy, but at the same time, they are extremely flavorful. These are homey dishes that yield tremendous flavor. Once the ingredients are assembled, they can be prepared in thirty to forty minutes.

AMMINI RAMACHANDRAN