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.
Vazhakkai Mezhukkuvaratti or Pan Fried Raw Plantains
- 4 plantains raw
- 2 tbsps yogurt (or turmeric powder)
- 2 to 3 tbsps coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chilli pwder
- to taste salt
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 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.