Now I'm back to cooking Indian food again after several days and after many forays into French and Thai cuisine. Everybody at home enjoys the difference and are quite used to having two completely different types of cuisine in a single day. Since all of us have an adventurous palate one would think that, when things got a bit boring, the rest of the family would take to the kitchen as well and cook up something really inventive. No such thing. My daughter states categorically, " I like eating. I dont like cooking". Hmm.
So sometimes, when I get fed up and go on strike..we starve.
Well fasting is considered a good thing here. Something to do with feeling holy. I guess it's a bit like the hair shirt business. Mortification of the flesh. Not that I think that is so great. But I am told fasting is very good for the digestive system. I think it is even better for the family system. Family members suddenly remember they can make omelettes or a stir fry or fruit yogurt, in any case, something simple and filling. I always say "a little strike and a bit of hunger can change even the most spoilt diners"*. They see the light. They are willing to eat anything...even their own cooking.
I can hear a howl of protest in the distance, from one small creative cook, so I shall stop with that homily and get on to the main dish. Today it is Arvi Lal Mirchi.
- 500 gms arvi / taro root
- 4 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 2 cups yogurt/ curds
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 inch piece of dalchini / cinnamon
- 6 black peppercorns
- 2 large black cardomoms
- 4 cloves
- 4 dried red chillies
- 3 tsps dhania/ coriander seeds
- 1 tsp jeera .
- Powder in a coffee grinder and then add the following to the mix.
- 1/2 tsp haldi / turmeric powder
- Marathi-Arukudya, Alukandhagandhi
- Hindi- Arvi
- English- Colocasia or Taro root
- Tamil- Chembu,Cheppankizhangu
- Telegu-Chamagadda, Chamadumpa
- Malayalam- Chembu
- Konkani- Alvamande
Garam Masala powder mix
Dry roast the following spices in a cast iron pan while stirring constantly so they do not get burnt.
Boil the arvi till done. ( Do not over cook or it becomes a slimy mush. Check for doneness as with a potato) Skin and cut into 1/2 " circles. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and fry minced green chilli and onion. Cool and grind to a paste in a blender along with the garlic and ginger. Heat 2 tbsp of oil and fry the arvi pieces till crisp and slightly brown. Remove from pan. Heat 1 tbsp oil and saute the bay leaf along with the onion and garlic paste. Fry the masala mix next . Keep stirring till the oil seperates from the mixture. You see a slight shininess on the surface of the mixture. Now beat the curds along with the sugar till smooth. Add to the masalas in the pan and mix well. the fried arvi and salt. Cook for 5 minutes on low heat stirring gently a couple of times. Finally add the pinch of nutmeg. Serve hot
Many of us call Arvi by some other name but it still tastes as nice. Here is my usual glossary for those who have no access to one.
It is also known as Eddo and Dasheen in the West Indies, in Cuba, melanga, in Japan,sato-imo or serebesu, in Korea,toray, in Malay ubi keladi, in China woo tau,hung nga woo tau, and in the Phillipines- gabu or dagmay psing. Many more local names exist in all these languages.
It seems to have originated in India which may explain the such high genetic diversity in the germplasm found here, as compared to, say, the taro found in Hawaii or Polynesia or Africa, all of them places where colocasia grows in abundance. It grows with relative ease in marshy wetland and requires little care. Farmers invest less in the growing of arvi as compared to brinjal, tomatoes, onions, potatoes or okra . No seeds need to be bought as they reproduce from the underground stems, the corms, which we make into a number of different tasty dishes. And the middleman, without whom, sadly, the farmers produce could not reach the market, makes more on this vegetable than any other, as it keeps well and he is able to sell it for substantially more than he bought it.
Arvi is a standard among the vegetables grown by shifting cultivation, a system common among tribals and called "jhum " in the North East
Among the types of colocasia grown in India, Arvi is colocasia esculenta while Bunda is Colocasia antiquorum, a variety which has the smallest of the colocasia leaves.
It can even be grown in the west and has quite showy leaves which makes it nice as a potted plant. Be warned though; it can take up a lot of space. It's elephant ears spread far and wide, much like the plant itself has done over the centuries.