Nendrapazham Pulissery - Ripe Plantain in a Spiced Coconut and Yogurt Gravy
A “pulissery” is a spiced coconut and yogurt based dish which is very popular in Kerala. This pulissery is made with Nendrapazham (ripe plantain). Plantains were earlier grown only in Kerala but now is available in many parts of India. The authentic and original pulissery is the Mambazha Pulissery, which is also made this way but with ripe mangoes instead of plantains. There is also a version made with pineapple.
So a pulissery gives you a lovely combination of sweetness (from the fruit), salt, spice and sourness (from the yogurt) which is just out of this world.
This is one of those recipes which have also found their way in to the Palakkad Iyer cuisine and is cooked often, especially in the mango season in Kerala ( late February to the end of May) every year. In our homes, this is also known as “morukootan” where “moru” is yogurt and “kootan” means gravy based accompaniment for rice. This is my version of the Nendrapazham Pulissery/ Morukootan.
For tempering/ seasoning:
- Peel the plantains and cut lengthwise into about 2 inch long pieces. Cut each piece into half lengthwise.
- Grind the coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds into a fine paste adding a little water. Keep aside.
- Whisk the yogurt and gram flour together till well blended.
- Now heat 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the plantain pieces till they start becoming brown. Do not wait till the pieces are completely brown but just start browning in bits. Add a cup of water, salt and the turmeric powder to this. Stir and allow the plantain pieces to cook without becoming mushy.
- Some plantains tend to be hard even after they are cooked. These do not make a good pulissery. Now add the coconut paste. Mix well and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to minimum and add the whisked yogurt. Mix well and turn off the heat as soon as the yogurt mixture is just about to boil. If this boils the yogurt could split and the pulissery would not look or taste nice.
- Heat the 2 tsps oil, add the mustard seeds and allow to splutter. Add the red chillies, the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Mix immediately and take off the heat or the chillies and fenugreek seeds would get burnt. Pour into the pulissery right away. This tempering is best done just before serving.
- The Nendrapazam Pulissery is ready to be served. This recipe would comfortably serve about 4-5 people. Pulissery is eaten mixed with rice along with dry vegetable preparations, like “thoran” or “mezhukkupuratti”,and fried pappads.
Updated on 15th January, 2008: I was asked what the difference between a Pulissery and a Kaalan was. It seemed appropriate to include my answer in this post.
Both Pulissery and Kaalan are dishes where the cumin seeds, green chillies and grated coconut are ground to a paste and cooked with yogurt to form a gravy.
Pulissery is made using one of these vegetables, usually vellirika ( a sort of cucumber), elavan (ash gourd), raw mangoes and sometimes a combination of elavan and raw mango, or fruits like mango, plantains or pineapple. Pulissery is thinner in consistency compared to Kaalan.
Kaalan is usually made with vegetables like chena (elephant yam) or vazhakka (raw plantain) and sometimes with ripe mango. Kaalan is much thicker in consistency and also has black pepper added to it.
In the age before refrigeration, sour yogurt was usually boiled/ cooked with salt, turmeric powder and crushed black pepper till the water evaporated leaving behind a thick mass. This was called “Kurukku Kaalan”. This keeps for a very long time. Then whenever, Kaalan was to be made, the vegetables would be cooked in a little water and then the above mentioned coconut paste and some part of the Kurukku Kaalan would be added to make a Kaalan, which was then tempered with mustard and fenugreek seeds and curry leaves in coconut oil. If Kaalan is made with ripe mangoes, then the crushed pepper is not added.
In many communities in Kerala, Kaalan is an important part of festive fare, where it is served with rice before the sambhar is served. If anyone has any other information about this I would be glad to hear from you.