Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ishtu (Kerala Style Creamy Vegetable Stew With Coconut Milk)

Ishtu? or is it Olan - that is the question! Both are stews made with coconut milk and scented with fresh curry leaves and fragrant coconut oil; but Ishtu is typically made with potatoes and onions whereas Olan is made with pumpkins/winter squashes and black-eyed peas or karamani (called Red Chori in Hindi). Another difference is that Ishtu often includes ginger; olan does not. Both are delicious served with other tangy/spicy dishes such as Mor Kuzhambu, Sambar, etc.

Ishtu (perhaps a corruption of the word 'stew') a mild delicious stew, is often served with pancakes like Dosa or Aappam, or as a side dish. Ishtu with Idiappam (fresh Rice Noodles) is a traditional breakfast combo popular in Kerala.

This is one of my favorite versions of Ishtu with mild leeks (look like green onions on steroids :D) instead of the usual onions, and zucchinis to boost the nutrition, good looks and taste. Sometimes I like to add a pinch of ground Turmeric to make "Golden Ishtu".

4 - 6 Servings


1 Medium Leek
2 medium Potatoes
2 medium Zucchinis
2 hot green chilies
1/2" piece fresh Ginger (Optional)
1/2 cup fresh or canned Coconut Milk
1 or 2 sprigs fresh Curry Leaves
1 Tbsp unrefined Coconut Oil


Prepare the veggies:

Trim the roots and the dark green and tough leaves from the leek. Cut in half lengthwise and agitate in a pan of fresh water to dislodge any soil or sand from between the layers. Rinse and drain well. Slice thinly - include all of the white and pale green parts.

Wash the other veggies and drain. Cut the potatoes into quarters and slice thinly; cut the zucchinis into halves or quarters lengthwise and slice thinly.

Trim the stem end of green chilies; cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes (wear gloves for this); slice thinly.

Slice the ginger thin or grind it into a paste with a little water using a blender.

Place all the veggies in a medium sized sauce pan with the chilies, ginger ( or ginger-water), and the salt.

Add 1 to 11/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered until tender.

Stir in the coconut milk and heat through.

Stir in the crushed curry leaves and coconut oil and cover.

Let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with rice, roti or dosa, as you wish.

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