Sunday, May 27, 2007


Having a dental job done is one of my worst nightmares. Not only mine, I realised of late as I bumped against one after another of friends with strong dentist-phobia. I even realised that I might be the bravest of all, even. More so because I have a nice dentist who at least comforts you and describes meticulously what all her instruments had been poking in and scrapping away at some of the most sensitive spots in your mouth.

But the worst part of a dental treatment is the after-part, for me. I simply hate that 'after-taste' of chemicals, flavoured with a dash of cloves. Why they use so much of cloves in everything associated with the dental stuff so as to make you hate cloves for the rest of your lives ! And the abhorrent mouth-washes !!! Just one mouthful and it is enough to make your taste buds warp down and scrap away the whole lining of your mouth. Add to it the gels that leaves a sense of numbness and a course of antibiotics that plays havoc with your taste, mouth and your stomach.

So, for the past one week, I had been going through all this, worser than ever as this time it was a surgical procedure for the gums. The 'procedure' itself was brief, but the after-effect not so brief ! One week later, I can't still chew properly, nor can I have anything spicier than bread soaked in milk or idlies soaked in moloshyam. Yes, moloshyam, that's what inspired this whole diatribe about the dental problems.

I don't how familiar are the Malayalees from other parts of Kerala with this curry, but in the part where I hail from, this is a staple. 'Moloshyam,' or 'Mulakushyam,' ('l' pronounced as in, what should I say, 'Kerala,'), is actually a 'corruption' or a shortening of 'Mulaku dooshyam.' Literally meaning, 'Chillies are bad !' The etymology can be anything, but the curry is least spicy. Of course you can make it hotter by adding more green chillies, but it can be the least spicy, comfort food for the convalescing.

Tuvar dal and ash gourd are the ingredients of the basic moloshyam. There can be many, many other variants. But, learn the basics first. As I had said earlier, I don't know the measures. I just make it. Here's how I make the basic moloshyam -

I take some tuvar dal, wash it well and put it to boil. Then, chop up some ash gourd into bite-size pieces, add it to the dal, add a pinch of turmeric powder and, usually I pressure cook it. Pressure cooking is the easiest and fastest method with all dals, you know. You can cook both the dal and gourd together as ash gourd takes some time to cook, also because this curry needs it cooked to a mushy consistency. You can add salt if you are using a pressure cooker, if not, add the salt only towards the end. Otherwise, salt has a tendency to slow down the cooking process. Also, add a few drops of oil (coconut oil, for me), before you close the lid, so that the dal will not cause overflowing through the valves. If you want to make it hot, add green chillies, according to your taste, also. Only green chillies, no red chilly powder.

If you are using a powerful pressure pan, cook until two or three hisses. Then turn down the heat and leave it till the steam cools down. The steam will continue the cooking process. After you open the lid, stir the curry, check the salt and simmer without lid for a few minutes, till that 'steamed' smell leaves. Then, add a generous handful of curry leaves (crush them in your hand slightly after washing so that they release the fragrance), and drizzle some coconut oil. Coconut oil, it has to be, mind you all cholesterol-phobiacs, otherwise, this is not moloshyam. You can call it by any other name !!! Those who are scared of coconut, fearing it will build walls within their arteries, can keep their hands off this lovely dish.

So, after the curry leaves and oil, just keep the curry in the cooking vessel, and close lightly. Let it sit there for some time before serving, to let the tastes blend well.

This is the basic moloshyam. Once you have mastered this, there can be endless improvisations. The ash gourd can be replaced by any vegetable, except something mushy like vendakka (okra) or vazhuthinanga (baigan). I've once tasted an exquisite moloshyam with dal and carrot. Chena (elephant-foot yam), makes a great combo. As well as raw banana. Moloshyam can also be made with chena and banana alone, without dal.