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.