Saturday, December 16, 2006

Upperi and Upkari

The wonderful Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes have been giving a fairly detailed description of the Konkani cuisine. I had been fascinated by the similarities between the cuisines of Kerala and the Konkan region. I would like to elaborate upon some of these likenesses.

A common term found in Konkani cuisine is 'upkari,' which is the stir fried vegetable dish with coconut. In Malayalam, it is 'upperi.' Especially in the central part of Kerala, 'upperi' is the generic name for all types of dry vegetable side dishes, with or without coconut. The term 'thoran' used to be more in usage in the southern parts of Kerala but now has spread out to other parts too. Generally a dish is called 'thoran' when coconut is added, with a seasoning of mustard, urad dal, green chillies and curry leaves. In some parts of Thrissur district, the coconut is added to the seasoning first and then fried to a reddish brown, before adding the vegetables cut finely. This is especially popular for cabbage thoran.

But, mostly, the coconut is added towards the end of cooking the vegetables, often with a dash of green chillies and shallots crushed together.

The mezhukkupuratti, on the other hand, has no coconut. In its purest form, mezhukkupuratti has only the seasoning of fresh coconut oil. Just a little water is added to the vegetables, which are almost stir-fried in a smattering of oil. This was the way the mezhukkupuratti was cooked in upper caste households where onion was taboo. Otherwise, a seasoning of onion and red chillies, sliced or crushed together, is popular. Sometimes, garlic also will be added, but the use of garlic was also taboo in many households.

In Kerala, a 'koottan,' and an 'upperi,' is the basic, must, combo for every meal. The basic minimum requirement of any decent meal !