NRIs stocking up on Indian spice powders, pickles and spices on theirIndiavisit is a given. Non-resident Chennai-ites visiting Chennai, make sure to include Grand Sweets in their hectic itineraries. This sweet shop is as famous for its sweetmeats and snacks as it is for its thokkus (pickles) and podis (raw spice powders used in cooking curries, rasams and sambhars or roasted spice-mix that can eaten mixed with rice).
I fell in quite the same category till some 3 years ago when we lived inBangalore. We’d visit Chennai at least once every 3-4 months, usually during weekends and, more often than not, for family functions. And we definitely made it a point to visit Grand Sweets. My MIL made sure I was always adequately stocked with sambhar and rasam podis plus paruppu podi (dry ground dal powder) and milagai podi (gunpowder) as well Ram’s favourite pickles (manga thokku and avakkai).
But Grand Sweets’ thokkus were a different story altogether. Their tomato and kothamalli (coriander) thokkus are to die for. Last month, my MIL managed to crack their tomato thokku and prepared such an awesome one, that it took less than a week for the entire batch to be polished off (well, before you think we are all pickle hogs and have pickle-laden breakfasts, lunches and dinners, I must tell you this was at a time when my sisters-in-law had come over with their kids at the start of the summer vacation!).
Earlier, Grand Sweets had just one outlet in Gandhi Nagar in Adyar and, despite its spacious layout, the shop was always bursting at its seams with customers. Last year, they opened a few more branches, one of them being a 2-minute walk from our place (wide grin!). These days, the shop also sells tiffin and snacks in the evenings. So, last Sunday, after a long tiring ride down the ECR in the evening (did I mention on the blog before that I’ve started using hubby’s Enticer?), we decided to stop by at Grand Sweets for some idiappam and adai (both traditional south Indian tiffin items).
And while we were waiting for our order to arrive, hubby dear quickly (and helpfully for my waistline!) picked up a few packets of fried savouries. He also picked up a bottle of kothamalli thokku. That’s when I was tempted to intervene. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at preparing the thokku (especially after MIL’s conquest of the tomato version) and I took this opportunity to put the bottle back on the shelf and announced to Ram that the kothamalli thokku was next on my burgeoning to-try-for –the-first-time recipe list.
And that’s how I got down to getting the ingredients ready for the mega challenge this morning. Incidentally, I finally bought a chef’s knife in addition to proper measuring cups and spoons yesterday. Am too tired to go into my month-long search (which is unfulfilled as yet) for the perfect chef’s knife, but will definitely put up a post on that tomorrow. That’s the knife you see along with the chopped coriander in the pic.
PS: Despite all the build-up, the kothamalli ‘thokku’ was more thogayal (a coarsely ground version of a chutney) than thokku, but it was yummy. Do try this version while I take a shot at cracking the Grand Sweets version!
Fresh coriander leaves – 1 bunch
Tamarind – 1 tbsp paste or pulp extracted from a small lemon-sized ball of tamarind)
For the powder:
Red chillies – 3-4
Dry coriander seeds – 2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – ½ tsp
Chana dal – 1 tsp
Hing (asafoetida/peringayam) – 1 pinch
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
Oil – 2 tsp
Heat 1 tsp of oil. Add chana dal
When dal starts to change colour (don’t wait till it becomes golden brown though), add coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, red chilies and hing
Take off heat when dal turns golden-brown and the chilies bloat and turn deep red
Cool and grind along with turmeric powder. Keep aside
Thoroughly wash the coriander bunch and chop it up roughly (do not discard stem)
Heat 1 tsp of oil. Splutter a pinch of mustard seeds to test heat
Add tamarind and sauté for 20-30 seconds
Add chopped coriander and sauté for 5-6 minutes. Coriander leaves must be properly wilted and start turning dark green
Let it cool and grind it with 1 tbsp (3 tsp or 15 gm) of ground powder and salt into a coarse paste with very little water
Note: This spicy-tangy thogayal tastes awesome with rice. It is also a good accompaniment for idli and dosa