Vazhakkai Mezhukkuvaratti - Raw Plantains Cooked In Coconut Oil
This particular dish sounds like a mouthful to say, especially if you have never heard of it before and aren’t too sure about how to pronounce it. What the name does mean is what it says! In my mother tongue, the Palakkad dialect of Tamil, it means “plantains pan-fried and coated in oil”
A mezhukkuvaratti (or mezhukkupuratti as it is also called) is one of those typical Palakkad Iyer dishes which we have borrowed from Kerala and made our own. It is a bit different from the way the rest of Kerala seems to cook mezhukkuvaratti.
For us, a mezhukkupuratti has very little spice additions (only turmeric and chilli powders), and does not include the tempering with mustard seeds which so much a part of many of our other dishes.
Mezhukkuprattis can be made with a variety of vegetables including chenai (yam), payar/ achingya (yard long beans), to mention a few.
Coconut oil is the preferred medium used for pan-frying and this dish ensures the flavour of the vegetable. The result is a very slightly spicy dish where the coconut oil enhances the taste of the crisped vegetable without any spices/ other ingredients to detract from this. Here’s how we make it at home.
Just a small bit of advice. If you really want the authentic taste, the best bananas to use are what we call “monthankai” in Kerala. This variety is good only for cooking when raw and not a very nice banana when ripe. You may also use the nendrakkai/ ethakkai variety (usually used to make banana chips/ wafers), but this preparation isn’t as tasty as with the other banana variety.
Oh yes, and please don’t be tempted to reduce the amount of oil as I have often been. I can tell you from personal experience that you need that much of oil for a good mezhukkuvaratti!
- Wash the plantains and dry them.
- Lightly coat your palms with oil. This prevents your hand from getting stained or sticky while cutting the plantains. Take a deep bowl, add the 2 tbsp yogurt and then fill the bowl with enough water to immerse the chopped plantain pieces.
- Soaking them in this very dilute yogurt prevents the plantain pieces from discolouring. You can use turmeric powder instead of the yogurt, which also works well.
- Trim both ends of each plantain and peel them such that just the outer green part of the peel/ skin gets peeled off. A thin layer of the peel/ skin should remain on the plantain.
- Cut each plantain lengthwise into four, and then cut them into 1/2" pieces.
- Steam or pressure cook the plantain pieces with turmeric powder and about 1/4 cup water till the plantains are well done and soft, almost mushy.
- Now heat the coconut oil in a non-stick or heavy bottomed pan. Add the curry leaves, stir once and then add the cooked plantain pieces, salt and chilli powder. Stir well to mix and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes over low to medium heat, stirring well frequently.
- Cook till the plantain starts crisping and becoming golden brown. At this point, you will find the plantain has a tendency to start sticking to your pan in crisp patches.
- Take off the heat, and serve warm as a side with rice and sambhar/ rasam/ pulissery.