My parents live in a beautiful temple town, Kumbakonam, which has over hundred magnificent temples, and some of them are over one thousand years old. Also, 40 out of 108 Divya desams (Vishnu temples) are located in and around Kumbakonam. These temples hold special significane because they are mentioned in the works of Alwars or poet saints in their “4000 divya prabandham”. I got to visit 35 of these divya desams during my stay this time and apart from the unparalleled beauty of the deity and the great spiritual experience, one interesting thing that I noticed was the food or “prasadam”. Every divya desam that I visted had a madapalli or temple kitchen where all the food was prepared and each temple had its own speciality item. Thanks to US visa delays and other administrative complications I got to spend extra time at home and enjoyed my mom’s cooking for an extended period of time. And during my visits to these gorgeous temples, I learnt a lot about temple food as well. So I’m going to share some of my mom’s South Indian Tamil Brahmin recipes, but I’m not going to stop there. Also, with each recipe I’m going to share a few interesting information about the temples that I’ve visited. So apart from learning about good food you will also learn something about our heritage. Sounds good right?
This post is all about a wholesome dish that’s going to nourish your system with lots of protein and carbohydates. “Kootu” combines lentils with vegetables and its one of the most popular recipes down south. Once you learn how to make the basic spice mixture you can add different vegetables each time you make it. Apart from sambar and rasam, kootu is an integral part of Tamil Brahmin cooking. There are so many varieties includin erucha kootu, porucha kootu and moor kootu. But this is a basic kootu that my mom makes on normal days (non festival days). It’s a very healthy way to incorporate a lot of vegetables into your diet. I’ve used Snake gourd in this recipe. It’s a light green snake like long cylindrical vegetable, pretty popular in Tamil nadu.
Moong dhal – ½ cup
Toor dhal – 1 tbsp
Snake gourd – 3 cup (You don’t have to remove the skin. Just slit them lengthwise and remove all the seeds and chop them further)
Urad dhal – 1 tablespoon
Channa dhal 1 tablespoon
Red chilli – 2-3
Cumin seeds – ½ tablespoon
Pepper – 3-4 pieces (just for flavor)
Coriander seeds – ¼ tablespoon
Coconut (shredded) – 1 ½ tablespoon
Turmeric- ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Chopping vegetable using an “Aruvamanai”
- Pressure cook (2 whistles) moong dhal and toor dhal along with chopped snake gourd. Make sure that the vegetable does not get over cooked.
- Fry urad dhal, channa dhal, red chilli, pepper, corriander and cumin seeds in 1 tsp oil. Grind them with shredded coconut with a little bit of water and make a smooth paste.
- To the cooked veggies and dhal mixture, add the spice paste from step 2 and let it boil for about 5 minutes. Finally, season with mustard seeds, urad dhal and asafoetida in ghee. Garnish with curry leaves.
Divya desam visit: The first temple that I visited is the famous Oppiliyappan temple, about 5 kilometers from Kumbakonam. The main deity is Sri Oppiliyappan who is seen standing and his consort is Sri Bhoomadevi. An interesting thing about this temples is that none of the food prepared at this temple contains salt. Also, sweet appam is very famous at this temple.