I absolutely love coriander. The smell of fresh coriander uplifts me. I love garnishing my food with generous amounts of finely chopped coriander. To me, some things especially – like rasam, Undhiyu and Chana Masala – are incomplete without some fresh coriander added on top. So, it is but natural that I adore Kothamalli Thokku, a Tamilnadu-special instant pickle made using coriander leaves.
Kothamalli Thokku, a wonderful way to preserve fresh coriander
Kothamalli Thokku is a heritage recipe from Tamilnadu, somewhat of a ‘lost recipe of India’. It is a wonderful way to use fresh coriander when it is available in abundance. In the months of winter, you get beautiful big bunches of coriander rather cheap – and making this thokku is a great way to preserve that fresh produce. It is rather simple to make as well. Once you have the coriander prepped and ready, the thokku can be made within 15 minutes.
In the olden days, this pickle would be made by sun-drying the coriander, then hand-pounding it with some spices on a stone mortar and pestle – a rather cumbersome process, but one that would yield an utterly delightful thokku that would keep for years on end. We pat dry the coriander using a cotton cloth instead or spread it out under a fan for an hour or so, to remove all the moisture from it. The use of a mixer also helps prepare the thokku much, much faster. This instant pickle can be bottled up and kept refrigerated for quite a few months.
If you ask me about how this Kothamalli Thokku tastes, I would tell you ‘brilliant’. Tangy, a little spicy and sweet, this thokku is a robust blend of flavours. Someone used the word ‘electric’ to describe this instant coriander pickle when I wrote about it on my Instagram page, and they are absolutely right. It is, indeed, electrifying – the first taste of it can rock your tastebuds out of sleep. 🙂 No wonder this thokku goes with just about everything.
The many uses of Kothamalli Thokku
Not only does the thokku make for a nice accompaniment to idlis and dosas, but also goes with parathas and rotis, and doubles up as an awesome sandwich spread too. Mix some of the thokku with hot, steamed rice, and you have a delectable meal ready in seconds!
Making Kothamalli Thokku at home
Today, I’m going to share with all of you our family recipe for Kothamalli Thokku, the way we always make it at home. I’d strongly recommend making it at home, too. You do get this thokku ready-to-use as well, but it’s usually loaded with oil and salt and preservatives. It is the sort of thing you need to make fresh, from scratch, with minimal ingredients the way our ancestors made it, to really appreciate it.
This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet. Omit the asafoetida used in the tempering, and it can easily be made gluten-free too. This is because most brands of asafoetida available in the market today contain some amount of wheat flour. However, in case you can get your hands on completely gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.
Kothamalli Thokku recipe
So, here’s how you go about making Kothamalli Thokku. This is definitely something you must try out this winter – I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this, if you aren’t already.
Ingredients (makes about 1 cup):
- A big bunch of fresh coriander, about 4 cups when chopped roughly
- A small gooseberry-sized ball of tamarind
- 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 7-8 dry red chillies
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon jaggery powder
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
1. Wash the coriander well under running water. Place in a colander and let all the water drain out. Then, place the drained coriander on a cotton cloth. Pat dry gently, removing as much of moisture from it as possible. If you have the time, you can dry the coriander under a fan or in the sun for an hour or two, ensuring that all the moisture goes away. Now, chop the coriander roughly. Keep aside.
2. Soak the tamarind in boiling water for 10-15 minutes or till it softens. When it is cool enough to handle, extract all the juice from it, adding a little water if needed. Keep aside.
3. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan, and add in the coriander seeds and dry red chillies. Dry roast on medium flame till the ingredients start giving out a lovely aroma. Take care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Switch off gas, and allow the roasted ingredients to cool down fully.
4. Transfer the chopped coriander to a mixer jar. Add in salt, turmeric powder and jaggery powder. Also, add in the tamarind extract.
5. When the roasted coriander seeds and dry red chillies have completely cooled down, add them to the mixer jar too. Grind everything together to a smooth paste. You can add in a little water, if you find the grinding difficult.
6. In the same pan we used earlier, add in the oil. When the oil gets hot, add in the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Add the asafoetida, and let it stay in for a couple of seconds.
7. Now, add the coriander paste we prepared earlier, to the pan. Turn the flame down to medium. Keep cooking till the paste starts turning a darker shade of green. This will take about 2 minutes. Stir intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan.
8. Continue cooking on medium flame till the mixture turns darker and starts thickening, about 2 more minutes. Continue to stir intermittently.
9. Keep stirring intermittently and cooking on medium flame till the mixture has thickened to spreadable consistency and has started to come together nicely. This should take another 2 minutes or so. Switch off gas at this stage. Your Kothamalli Thokku is ready.
10. Allow the Kothamalli Thokku to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, air-tight, dry bottle. Use as needed.
Tips & Tricks
1. Use fresh, tender coriander for best results. I prefer using the desi or Nati coriander, rather than the ‘farm’ variety.
2. Adjust the amount of salt, dry green chillies, tamarind and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.
3. Sesame oil works best in the making of this Kothamalli Thokku. However, you can use any variety of oil you prefer. Feel free to use more or less oil, as per your preference.
4. Make sure you cook the thokku on medium flame, stirring intermittently. Do not let the paste burn, for this will alter the taste of the dish.
5. I have used the hot Salem Gundu dry red chillies here. You can use any other variety you prefer, too.
6. You can skip the jaggery powder if you prefer it that way. We like adding it in.
7. Different families have their own little variations in the way they make this Kothamalli Thokku. Some add in a lot more ingredients and spices. Some saute the coriander first in oil, then grind it to a paste along with the other ingredients. The above recipe depicts the way we do it in our family.
8. Store the thokku refrigerated, and use only a clean, dry spoon for the same. This way, the thokku stays for months on end (when one is making it in large batches). However, we prefer making it in small batches, and using it up sooner rather than later.
9. If you wish to make the Kothamalli Thokku in large batches and refrigerate it, you could triple or quadruple the above-mentioned ingredient quantities. Make sure you use a generous quantity of oil and salt in that case, to prevent spoiling. Also, cook the thokku really well in that case, so it stays well for longer.
10. You can make thokku the same way using fresh mint (pudina) leaves or a mix of coriander and mint.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!