Pulissery is a spiced coconut and yogurt based dish from the South Indian state of Kerala. Nendrapazham Puliseery is a Pulissery made with ripe plantains or Nendrapzham. There are different types of yogurt based curries made in Kerala, including Morkootan or Mor Ozhichakari and Kaachiya Mor. Pulissery is usually a more festive preparation and typically made with fruit instead of vegetables. Other fruits used to make Pulisseri include ripe mangoes (Mambazha Pulisseri) and a more modern Pineapple Pulisseri.
Nendrapazham is the Malayalam word for ripe bananas. Some parts of Kerala call them Ethapazham so this dish is also known as Ethapazham Pulissery. The sweetness of the fruit used to make Pulisseri gives the curry a unique sweet- spicy and sour which is typical of this preparation. The yogurt gives it the tang while a coconut-chilli-cumin paste gives it enough spice to make it savoury.
Nendrapazham is often served as part of the Sadya, Kerala’s festive meals. This is also very much part of the Palakkad Iyer repertoire. Our homes almost always have sour yogurt from the previous day and ripe plantains are available the year round. So this is a recipe that though festive, is cooked more often as part of everyday cooking as well. This is served with rice, a dry vegetable dish like mezhukkupuratti or thoran.
I have been asked what is the difference between a Pulissery and a Kaalan. Both recipes involve the use of cumin seeds, green chillies and grated coconut ground to a paste, and cooked with yogurt to form a gravy. There are different types of Kaalan where the spice comes from black pepper and not green chillies.
Pulissery is made using one or two of these vegetables, usually Vellirika (an Indian variegated Melon/ Cucumber), Elavan or Kumbalanga (Ash Gourd/ Winetr Melon), raw mangoes 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.
Before refrigeration, sour yogurt wouldn’t keep for more than a day. So it 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 at tropical room temperatures. When regular Kaalan was to be made, this Kurukku Kaalan was used. The vegetables would be cooked in a little water, the spiced coconut paste and some of the Kurukku Kaalan would be added to it and cooked a little. A tempering with mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves in coconut oil would be added. If Kaalan is made with ripe mangoes, chillies were used instead of pepper.
- 2 plantains medium sized ripe
- 1 cup yogurt slightly sour
- 1 tbsp gram flour (besan)
- 4 tbsps coconut fresh grated
- 2 - 3 green chillies (according to desired spice levels)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- to taste salt
For tempering/ seasoning:
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 - 2 chillies red (I use less spicy Kashmiri )
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 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 saute 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, thoran or mezhukkupuratti and fried pappads.