Mangoes are in season and today’s Mambazha Morkootan or Pulissery features them. Morkootan or Pulissery are dishes from Kerala, and made with spiced coconut and yogurt gravy. They’re both slightly different dishes but more or less the same thing. Sounds confusing? If we’re getting nit-picky, then Morkootan is made with vegetables whereas Pulissery is made with fruit like ripe plantains, mangoes or pineapple. For some people the difference is also that Pulissery or even Kaalan (another yogurt curry) is made with thicker yogurt. Morkootan is made with buttermilk, but both dishes can be made with either. This is a savoury curry with a bit of tang from the sour yogurt, sweetness from the mangoes and spice from the green chillies.
For us Palakkad Iyers, Pulissery is a Malayalam name for our Morkootan. So at home we hardly ever refer to this kind of dish as anything but Morkootan, even if cooked with fruit. Think of this as a distant cousin of the North Indian Kadhi, but with coconut and a slightly different spice base. A Pulissery, though cooked as an everyday dish, is very much a part of the Kerala Sadya or festive meal. Ripe Mangoes (Mampazham) are seasonal and summer produce in Kerala. So Mambazha Morkootan or Pulissery is almost always cooked for the Vishu Sadya. I’m not sure about the origins of this curry but I assume someone must have come up with this as a way to use up leftover yogurt.
Every mango growing region in Indian has its regional favourites. Kerala loves its Chandrakaaran mangoes. These mangoes are typically smaller in size than the average mango. They’re also very sweet and juicy when ripe. Ripe Chandrakaaran mangoes are the preferred mango for making Mambazha Morkootan or Pulissery.
The Covid-19 situation has meant that farmers haven’t been able to sell their produce as they would normally. So they have been selling more locally and at more affordable prices. I was lucky to get some Chandrakaaran mangoes this year, delivered home at that. If you cannot find Chandrakaaran mangoes, you can use any sweet, ripe mango instead for this curry.
Chandrakaaran mangoes are small in size, so they’re used whole to make Morkootan or Pulissery. Using a sharp knife, make a small cut at the top of the mango. Using the edge of the knife pull back the skin and it will peel off easily if the mango is ripe. If using any other variety of mango, don’t peel the skin. Cut the mango, skin and flesh, into large thick chunky pieces about 2.5-inches long.
You might notice that the recipe asks for a little jaggery or brown sugar. Sometimes the yogurt can be a bit too sour and this jaggery is used to balance out the tang without making the curry sweeter. Use as much or as little as needed, to taste.