Chembu Mor Kootan (Taro Root Curry)

Kerala and Tamizhnadu have a large number of yogurt based dishes that can loosely be called ‘kadhi’ in North Indian terms. Each one is tastier than the other. When I first turned vegan, I rued the fact that I could no more enjoy these wonderful dishes. Thanks to Dr. Rupa Shah, I learnt how to make peanut yogurt and therefore began to make these yogurt based dishes once again. Of course, it is another matter that it took me 9 years to perfect the yogurt.
But I have served these dishes to several friends from Kerala and Thamizhnadu – and they never noticed the difference until I told them that this was with peanut yogurt. I am therefore, doubly delighted. The yogurt tastes a little different on its own, but the moment a dish is made with it, there is no difference in taste.
Taro root mor kootan (kootan is a wet dish to be mixed with rice) is often made in my home. But I have never posted the recipe. So, I am now correcting this omission.

Chembu Mor Kootan

3 taro root tubers (arbi, sepankizhangu), washed, peeled and cubed
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
3/4 tsp red chili powder
About 1 1/2 cups water
1 sprig curry leaves
3/4 cup grated coconut
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
2-3 green chilis
1-2 garlic cloves (optional)
2 1/2 cups vegan yogurt, beaten thoroughly
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chilis, broken into 2
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi dhana, venthiyam)
Salt to taste
Transfer the taro roots to a saucepan
Add 1 1/2 cup water and cover
Boil till the taro roots are soft
Meanwhile, grind the coconut, green chilis, garlic (if using) and cumin seeds to a fine paste, adding a little water
Set aside
Once the taro roots are done, add the ground coconut mixture and cook on low flame for a few minutes till the raw smell of the coconut has completely evaporated
Add the yogurt and salt
Let this mixture come to a boil (no longer than that or the yogurt will curdle), stirring continuously
Switch off the flame
Set aside
Heat a wok and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the curry leaves and fenugreek seeds
Finally add the red chilis
Sauté for a few seconds (ensure that the chilis do not burn)
Once the fenugreek seeds turn brown, switch off the flame
Add this tempering to the cooked taro root curry
Cover and set aside for 10 minutes
Finally, serve at room temperature with steamed brown/red rice or millet rice

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