Friday, 18 April 2014

Vegetarian varuval (very dry curry)

Varuval is the driest form of curry in South Indian cooking. Often, the main feature is chicken or mutton-meats that would not disintegrate with prolonged cooking or stirring. The intense, rich flavour of this dish is achieved by starting with a perattal (dry curry) and dehydrating all moisture in it.

While vegetarian/mock meats are still not very popular among non-vegetarians in the western world, the reverse is true in many eastern countries including Malaysia, where production of these meat-replacements have concentrated on not only the taste but also its texture. I've used a Malaysian brand vegetarian meat (made of mushroom protein, soy) this time and therefore took only about 25 minutes to make. A meaty variant of this recipe will take much longer, depending on quantity and size of the meat chunks. Best to use a non-stick pan to cook this, by the way.

1/2 onion
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
4-5 slices of ginger, minced
1 cinnamon stick
4-5 star anise
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 stalks of curry leaves
400 g of vegetarian meat pieces
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 lime juice
1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce (should be a dark sauce as the purpose of adding it is to acheive a dark colour. Use half a teaspoon of dark soy if you don't have this)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1 teaspoon ghee

Curry powders
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon chilli powder
2 tablespoon meat curry powder

Saute the cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, onion, garlic, ginger and curry leaves in 2 tablespoon of oil over low heat. Add ghee and fry until the onion starts to brown. Pour the curry powders into the pan, add water and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add the lime juice, sweet soy sauce salt and sugar- season to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the curry is very dry, whichever first, constantly stirring to avoid burning.

Serve with rice and mild curries like sambar or spinach curry. This recipe makes 3-4 portions.