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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Heart of palm Molagoottal

easy recipe milagoottal molagoottal heart of palm
Molagoottal (milagu kootal, milagoottal) is a south indian dish which my mom usually makes with bland vegetables like chayote squash or cabbage or spinach.It is pretty mild, with just a few dry red chilies bringing in some heat. Typically it is accompanied by a sweet-and-sour dish called Pachadi, usually made with pumpkin or eggplant or okra.

Vaazha Thandu is a specialty item (not sure if it classifies as a "vegetable") - a thing i haven't had in decades - roughly translates to "banana plant stem": That is really what it is :-)

After peeling away the outer fibrous layers, the inner part of the stem - the "cylindrical core" is softer and has a wonderful texture when cooked into koottu or even milagoottal or pachadi.

The main objection my mom has to making this often is the labor involved in "cleaning" it up for consumption - removing the fibers and chopping them finely.

I was craving for some vaazha thandu, but, i haven't been able to find any around here. So, i decided to try Heart of Palm, as a substitute:
When harvesting the cultivated young palm, the tree is cut down and the bark is removed leaving layers of white fibers around a center core. During processing the fibers are removed leaving the center core or heart of palm. The center core is attached to a slightly more fibrous cylindrical base with a larger diameter. The entire cylindrical center core and the attached base are edible. The center core is considered more of a delicacy because of its lower fiber content.
I found some heart of palm at the asian supermarket nearby. It comes canned, usually in water, with some citric acid for preserving. I was curious about how good a substitute it will be for vaazha thandu, and decided to find out.

Molagoottal is a simple dish with a spice paste using coconut, and some cooked toor (tuvar, split red gram/lentil) dal and a suitable vegetable. I get excited about fusion cooking and experimenting, so, instead of traditional dry red chilies, I decided to use ancho-pasilla dry red chilies - just soaked them in some hot water to reconstitute them a little before making the paste.

easy recipe milagoottal molagoottal heart of palmIngredients:
1 can heart of palm, drained, diced
1 cup cooked toor dal (split red gram/lentil), mashed
water as needed
salt to taste
2 Tbsp canola oil

for the molagoottal paste:
½ cup dry grated coconut
1-2 ancho pasilla chilies, reconstituted in hot water
2 Tbsp urad dal
1 Tbsp par-boiled rice (or jasmine rice)
1 Tbsp cumin seeds

tempering: ½ tsp mustard seeds, 1-2 curry leaves, chopped, ¼ tsp asafoetida powder, 1 tsp canola oil


heat 1 tsp oil in a pan, add urad dal, rice and cumin seeds and toast till urad dal is fragrant and light brown; remove from heat; allow to cool; combine with the rest of the molagoottal paste ingredients and grind to a fine paste

heat 1 Tbsp oil in a pan, add the heart of palm and sauté a bit; then add the molagoottal paste, cooked toor dal, some salt, some water, and let it simmer gently on medium low heat till the flavors have come together, stir on and off

meanwhile, get the tempering ready:in a separate pan, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, when it pops, add the curry leaves and asafoetida and turn off heat

when molagoottal is ready, garnish with the tempering, serve warm with rice

optionally, serve with smoked eggplant pachadi

Heart of Palm is fairly new to me and this is the first time I am using it in this sort of experimental fusion cooking, instead of in tried-tested recipes. It is clearly not the same as vaazha thandu, but, it is quite interesting in this recipe nonetheless. Will I use it again? Of course! I am already searching for some Costa Rican recipes to use it in...

And, the ancho-pasilla chilies gave a beautiful smoky flavor, plus a rich deep color to the molagoottal. Not the traditional molagoottal my mom makes, but, I am sure she will like it nonetheless when i make it for her next time :-)

Nupur at OneHotStove is hosting an A to Z Indian vegetables event, which is pretty exciting and this is my experiment with 'H' for this week :-)

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