Vazhakkai Mezhukkuvaratti is a mouthful to say, especially if you have never heard of it before. In my Palakkad Iyer Tamil, it means mother tongue Tamil, it means “raw bananas pan-fried and coated in oil”. Like a lot of traditional recipes, Vazhakkai Mezhukkuvaratti or Pan Fried Raw Plantains tells you exactly what it is. 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 usually cooks mezhukkuvaratti.
For Palakkad Iyers, a mezhukkupuratti has very little spice additions (only turmeric and chilli powders). There is no process of tempering with mustard seeds which is usual inmany of our other dishes. Mezhukkuprattis can be made with a variety of vegetables including chenai (yam), payar/ achingya (yard long beans), colocasia (arbi or sepankizhangu) to mention a few.
Coconut oil is the preferred fat used for pan-frying and is a must to reproduce the typical flavour of this dish. This Mezhukkuvaratti is a very slightly spicy dish where the focus is the vegetable crisped in coconut oil. There are little or no spices to detract from this.
If you really want to be authentic, the best bananas to use are what we call “monthankai” in Kerala. This variety is good only for cooking when raw and not good to eat when ripe. You may also use the nendrakkai/ ethakkai variety that is usually used to make banana chips/ wafers. It will not taste as good as with the other plantains but will do in a pinch.
Raw plantains or bananas tend to darken when they’re peeled and cut. They also will stain fingers and clothes if they fall on it. This stain takes time to remove especially from under your finger nails. It is next to impossible to clean from cloth. To prevent staining our hands, we rub in oil into our fingers and hands before prepping the vegetable. We also soak the plantains in turmeric water or diluted buttermilk or yogurt as soon as they’re diced. This prevents them from discolouration.
As is with many of our traditional vegetable dishes, the taste of the food is always considered more important that appearance. We also tend to prefer our vegetables to be well cooked. So it is ideal too cook the plantains till they’re well done.