Tirunelveli Sodhi (Stew)

Two of my favourite breakfast dishes are idiappam (stringhoppers) and aapam (crepe). That’s because I love the stew that they are served with. This vegetable stew, in common parlance in India, is ishtew. It is also called sodhi. It’s an astounding dish with vegetables and spices all in a base of coconut milk. I have loved this from childhood and the love affair has not ended.
When I was young, my family consisted of 8 members – dad, mom and 6 siblings. In those days, there were not very many contraptions to make idiappam – it was a laborious process requiring a lot of strength. With 7 mouths to feed, my mother had a really tough time making idiappam for everyone, especially since we were all young and had huge appetites. So, we decided that we would pick up the idiappam from a restaurant and only make the sodhi at home.
Tirunelveli is famous for its sodhi – almost as famous at its halva (sweet). This version is different from the Kerala version of sodhi. Both are equally tasty.

Tirunelveli Sodhi

1/4 cup split mung beans (moong dal, paasi parupu)
3/4 cup water
1 potato, diced
1 medium sized carrot, diced
10 French beans, chopped
1/4 cup peas
1 drumstick, chopped into 1″ pieces (this drumstick refers to the vegetable)
Unrefined salt to taste
1/4 cup water
2″ piece ginger
4-5 green chilis (adjust according to taste)
1/4 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1 sprig curry leaves
5 cashew nuts
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
Milk of 1/2 a coconut (1/2 cup first pressed milk, 1/2 cup second pressed milk, 1/3 cup third pressed milk) – see note for explanation
Cook the mung beans in a pressure cooker, adding 3/4 cup water
Switch off flame after three whistles
Let the steam release naturally and open the lid
Note: You can also cook this on stove top, adding water a little at a time
The mung beans must be slightly mushy
Set aside
Cook all the vegetables in a pressure cooker, adding 1/4 cup water and salt
Switch off flame after 1 whistle
Let the steam release naturally and open the lid
Set aside
Note: You can also cook the vegetables on a stove top adding water a little at a time
Make a paste of the ginger and green chilis, adding a little water
Set aside
Heat a wok and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the curry leaves, cashews and garlic
Sauté for about 30 seconds
Add the onion and continue to sauté till they turn translucent (sprinkle a little water if necessary)
Add the second and third milk, cooked mung beans and the ground paste
Adjust the salt
Let this come to a boil
Add the vegetables and the first milk
Mix well and simmer for a minute (don’t let the first milk boil for too long)
Let this sodhi cool
Add in the lime juice
Serve at room temperature with aapam or idiappam
Note: To obtain the coconut milk, cut the coconut flesh into small pieces
Transfer to a blender and grind till it becomes grated
Take the grated coconut in a bowl and add a little warm water
Press the milk out and set aside
This is the thick first milk
Repeat for second and third milk (add a little more water each time)
Note: This is technically not whole food since the coconut milk is a refined product, after it is extracted leaving the meal behind. I overcome this by saving the meal and garnishing some other dish with it.

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