It was a myth widely circulated in the 80s that coconuts are the main sources of cholesterol causing artery blocks, so my mother started reducing the use of coconut meat greatly, used coconut milk sparingly, and stopped using coconut oil. But my grandmothers continued to use coconuts profusely, and they even found a dish insipid if coconut meat is scantily added into it. In those days coconut meat was used in almost every vegetable preparation, coconut milk used for making scrumptious payasam, and coconut oil for frying crunchy snacks like thattai, murukku, banana chips, etc. We relished theeyal mostly in our grandmother’s house as this recipe calls for good lashings of coconut meat fried in coconut oil.
Theeyal (meaning charred curry) got this name as it looks like a charred curry but actually it is not and no charred ingredient is used in here. Traditionally theeyal is stewed in the extract of black tamarinds (old tamarind) that lent a black color to this curry. But now we can use new tamarinds for a brown theeyal.
Ulli theeyal (shallot theeyal) tastes divine when served with hand-pounded brown rice (or other traditional rice varieties or millets), avial and paruppu usili. Besides we can prepare mushroom theeyal (with new tamarind) and serve with dosa, uthappam, appam, or idiyappam.
Now the recipe for traditional ulli theeyal :
|Black tamarinds||pressed into a small ball|
|Shallots (chinna vengayam)||250 grams|
|Cold-pressed coconut oil||2 tbsp|
|Fenugreek seeds (vendhayam)||1/2 tsp|
|Asafoetida block (or a pinch of asafoetida powder)||a small piece|
|Ingredients for spice powder:|
|Coriander seeds||1/2 tbsp|
|Black peppercorns||1/2 tsp|
|Fenugreek seeds||1/4 tsp|
|Coconut pieces (2″)||10|
|Ingredients for tempering:|
|Coconut oil||1 tbsp|
|Mustard seeds||1/2 tsp|
|Finely chopped coconut pieces||as desired|
|Curry leaves||1 sprig|
Theeyal spice powder:
- Heat a pan with 1/2 tsp of coconut oil.
- Add red chillies, pepper, coriander seeds & fenugreek seeds and roast them in low flame.
- Remove them from pan when heated up and leave aside.
- Now pour 2 tbsp of coconut oil into the same pan and add chopped coconut meat.
- Fry them in medium flame and remove from oil before getting burnt.
- Now grind the spices & fried coconut pieces into a fine powder as shown below.
- Microwave tamarind after adding 100 ml of water for 1 minute.
- Extract tamarind juice by adding 500 ml of water and keep aside.
- Heat the same pan used for frying coconut pieces with the left-over oil in medium flame.
- Add fenugreek seeds & a pinch of asafoetida block in to the oil.
- Add shallots when the asafoetida is fried and saute until translucent.
- Pour tamarind extract into the pan and bring it to a boil in high flame.
- Cover the pan with a lid and simmer until shallots are cooked soft.
- Then add theeyal spice powder into the pan and mix well.
- Pour enough water for the required consistency.
- Add salt & jaggery and bring it to a boil.
- Meanwhile prepare the tempering and pour it into theeyal.
- Serve hot theeyal with kaikuthal arisi sadham.
Tips & Tweaks:
- I like to prepare thick curry for rice and thin curry for dosa, and you can adjust the consistency of theeyal according to your palate.
- We can also prepare theeyal by replacing shallots with one or more ingredients shown below in the same way we use them in other kuzhambu like pulikuzhambu, karakuzhambu, etc.