The tiny gooseberry sized potatoes add to the taste. This recipe belongs to the Kota household of Salem. This family of traders used to live inside the fort in Salem. Their family deity was Alagirinarhaswamy (Lord Balaji). The huge icon of Hanuman is popular here. Members of the Kota family were bankers, traders, and landlords. They owned vast properties those days. The entire family was a Vaishnavaite. They had their own spiritual mentors.
Swarnambal Chinnikrishna Chetty of this family was known for her culinary skills. She used to churn out recipes in a jiffy. Swarnambal was a learner all her life. She used the radio to learn English. Swarnambal taught Tamil to her co-sister, Ranganayaki, and learnt Telugu from her. Both used to write letters to each other in the language that was learnt. Ranganayaki had moved away to Bangarpet and hence letters were the only mode of communication those days. These daughters-in-law of Kota Lakshminarayana Chetty were good with recipes. The summers were spent making food for the grandchildren.
The urlagedda masala koora is one vegetable side-dish that can be eaten with hot ghee-rice, curd-rice, and rasam-rice too. It was a favourite with everyone in the family. All the daughters took this recipe to their homes post-marriage. The elders documented all the recipes and wrote it down for each lady in the family. These recipes were transliterated in Tamil. The cookery tradition of Salem is world famous. People of Salem were known for their refined taste and personality. The beeda podi from here was a favourite among all jewellers in Tamil Nadu. The tasty urlagedda masala koora continues to be an all-time favourite of many food lovers.
The family of Kota Chinnikrishna Chetty continues to enjoy eating it. This gentleman had a foreign liquor shop those days. He used to wear Glasgow mill clothes. They were washed by him every day and the people used to remember his clean white clothes. He founded the Salem Cycle Mart post-Independence, and this was the biggest cycle store in Salem District those days. The food traditions of this family continue to be remembered.
1. Baby potatoes (Cooked) – ½ kg
2. Tamarind pulp (Thick) – 2 tbsp.
Ingredients to Make Masala Koora:
1. Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp.
2. Bengal gram dhal – 1 ½ tbsp.
3. Red chilly – 4 to 5 nos.
4. Black gram dhal – ¼ tsp.
5. Grated coconut – 1 teacup
Ingredients Required to Garnish:
1. Oil – 2 tbsps.
2. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp.
3. Curry leaves – As preferred
4. One big onion chopped finely.
Wash and cook the baby potatoes. Cool them and peel. Sauté the ingredients required for the masala one by one and cook them till the Bengal gram turns brown. Add the grated coconut and sauté until the moisture from the coconut is removed. Cool it and grind using sufficient water to make it to a smooth paste.
Add oil in a deep pan and let it warm up. Then add mustard seeds and allow it to splutter. Proceed to add the curry leaves and the chopped onion. Sauté till the onions turn brown. Subsequently, add the tamarind pulp and the ground masala. Cook the paste till it thickens to form a coat over the potatoes. One needs to remember that for the cooked paste to form a coat, the consistency of the masala should neither be too thick nor too runny.
Cover the pan with a lid. Leave it for a few minutes to sauté. Sprinkle the coriander leaves which is an optional step. Serve hot with ghee or rasam rice.
Kota Chandra Bai Sampath Kumar is in her nineties. This hard working wife, mother, grandmother, and great grand mother, is known for her steel grit. She was known to cook very well and has documented her cookery. Chandra Bai is the first daughter of the hard working and soft spoken, N. V. Venkataswamy Chetty and Namagiri Thayar of Namakkal. She was married early with a lot of jewellery, silver ware etc. Chandra Bai looked after her entrepreneur husband, K. C. Sampath Kumar during the years when he had been afflicted by a paralytic stroke. She would read Tamil magazines during her spare time and the snacks made by her were first class. She lives in Coimbatore along with her family.
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