Monday, June 16, 2008

Basic Mor Kuzhambu or Kootan (Yogurt Curry With Coconut)

Mor Kuzhambu or Kootan is a South Indian classic stew of mild flavored vegetables in a yogurt sauce flavored with coconut and cumin seeds. It is another one of our family favorites from my childhood days. The 'zh' is only an approximation of a letter found only in the languages Tamil or Malayalam which is often substituted by 'l' as in Kolambu. To me the closest approximation for 'zh' sounds like the 'r' in mercy.

Ripe or unripe plantain (a type of banana), Winter Melon (Elavan), Taro root - Arbi in Hindi -(Colocasia esculenta) or Chenai (a true yam), ripe or unripe Mangoes, Okra, Chayote squash, Cucumbers, Opo squash, etc are the traditional favorites for making Mor Kuzhambu. Potatoes, eggplants, zucchini, etc also can be used to make this kuzhambu. Choose your favorite vegetables.

Note: The uncooked rice in the ground masala of coconut and spices is very important when cooking with yogurt as it provides the starch to keep the yogurt from curdling. Also, Yogurt curries must not be allowed to boil as too much heat will curdle the yogurt even with the starch present.


2 cups of vegetables of your choice
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
3 cups Yogurt

Grind Together:
1/2 cup Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen
2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 or 2 Hot Green or Red Chili, or to taste
1 tsp uncooked rice


2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds
2 Dry Red Chilies
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves


Place the prepared vegetables of your choice in a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel, ceramic, etc) with 1/2 cup of water, the salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until just tender.

While the veggies are cooking, grind the coconut with the cumin, chili, and rice into a nice puree with a little water (1/2 cup at the most).

When the veggies are tender, add the coconut puree and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and simmer gently until slightly thickened.

Pour the yogurt in the blender and give it a whirl to make it smooth; pour into the veggie-coconut mixture and simmer gently until foamy. When the top looks foamy and slightly puffy, remove from heat. Be careful not to let it boil.

Heat the oil and do the thalippu: add mustard and fenugreek seeds and the red chilies. When the seeds pop, add curry leaves carefully and cover quickly. When all is calm, pour the thalippu into the Mor Kuzhambu. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve over hot rice with Cabbage Thoran, Paruppu Usli, and/or papadams. Mor Kuzhambu will last up to a week in the refrigerator; it does not freeze well.

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