I bring to you today the recipe for Alasande Gassi, an Udupi-style gravy made using black-eyed peas.
A peep into Udupi cuisine
I’m a big fan of Udupi cuisine, i.e. food from the temple town of Udupi, located on the southwest coast of India. The generous use of coconut and coconut oil, the richly flavourful dishes, the perfect balance of sweet and spicy and sour – it’s exactly my type of cuisine. The cuisine is primarily vegetarian, and boasts of some hugely popular foods like Gassi, Mangalore Buns, Kodhel, Goli Bajje, Menaskai, Udupi Saaru and Sasmi, as well as desserts like Hayagreeva and Rasayana.
While I’ve had the pleasure of sampling quite a few dishes from the beautiful land of Udupi, I haven’t really tried making many of them at home, myself. I do make Bonda Sherbet and Kodhel aka the sweetish Udupi sambar often – big favourites with the family – but that is about it. Alasande Gassi is something I recently prepared from the cuisine, and it went on to be much loved by everyone at home.
What is Alasande Gassi?
The term ‘gassi‘ refers to a fragrant and flavourful gravy made using coconut, tamarind and a few spices. There are several varieties of gassi prepared in Udupi – non-vegetarian versions including chicken or prawns, and vegetarian versions that use mixed vegetables, paneer, chickpeas, potato or cowpeas (black-eyed peas). Gassi made using cowpeas is called Alasande (Kalu) Gassi.
Cowpeas are soaked for 8-10 hours or overnight, then cooked in a gravy. A freshly ground spice paste is added in, which makes the dish taste and smell heavenly. Mildly sweet, with the right amount of spicy and sour, this Alasande Gassi makes for a wonderful accompaniment to rotis or parathas, dosas, as well as steamed rice. It is a simple recipe to boot, not requiring much time to put together.
Udupi Cuisine theme at Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge
Shhh Cooking Secretly is a group of food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every month. The participants are grouped into pairs, and each pair exchanges two ingredients which should be used to cook a dish for the month’s theme.
The theme at Shhh this month is ‘Udupi Cuisine’, suggested by Jayashree of Evergreen Recipes. I welcomed the theme whole-heartedly as it gave me the chance to dig deeper into the temple town’s foods, something I had always wanted to do but never really got around to. Swaty of Food Trails, my partner for the month, assigned me the ingredients ‘onion’ and ‘coconut’. I chose to use them to showcase this beauty of a dish, Alasande Gassi. Next up, I want to try out a couple of the interesting Udupi recipes on Jayashree’s blog – Neer Dosa and Moong Dal Payasam, for instance.
Do check out the lovely dish Swaty made, using the two ingredients I assigned to her!
How to make Alasande Gassi
I prepared the Alasande Gassi based on a family recipe shared with me by a dear friend and professional chef, Manali Potnis. Here’s how I made the gassi, with a few variations to the original recipe.
This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet. It can be made gluten-free by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
1. 3/4 cup black-eyed peas aka cowpeas or lobia
2. 1 medium-sized onion
3. 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
4. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
5. 2 pinches of asafoetida
6. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
7. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
8. 3/4 to 1 cup water
9. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
1. A small piece of tamarind
2. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
3. 1 small-sized onion
4. 3/4 tablespoon coriander seeds
5. Salt to taste
6. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
7. 1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder
8. 3 Bydagi dry red chillies
9. 1 Salem Gundu dry red chilli
1. Soak the black-eyed peas in enough water to cover them, for 8-10 hours or overnight.
2. When the black-eyed peas are done soaking, drain out all the water from them. Transfer to a wide vessel. Add in about 1/2 cup of fresh water and place the vessel in the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for about 4 whistles on high flame, or till the peas are cooked through. Let the pressure release naturally.
3. In the meantime, soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for about 15 minutes. Let it soften.
4. Now, we will prepare the spice paste needed for the gassi. In a small mixer jar, add in the grated coconut, coriander seeds, salt, cumin seeds, jaggery powder, the Bydagi and Salem Gundu dry red chillies. Add in the softened tamarind too, along with the water it was soaked in. Peel the onion, chop it roughly, and add it to the mixer jar too. Grind everything together to a slightly coarse paste, adding a little water if necessary. Keep aside.
5. Chop the medium-sized onion we will need to make the gassi. Keep it ready.
6. We will now begin to prepare the gassi. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add in the mustard seeds. Let them sputter. Now, add in the asafoetida and curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
7. Add the chopped onion to the pan. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame for about 2 minutes, or till the onion starts browning.
8. Add the cooked black-eyed peas to the pan, along with the water they were cooked in. Add in the turmeric powder and the spice paste we ground earlier. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt and add red chilli powder if needed.
9. Let everything cook together on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the raw smell of the spice mix has gone fully. In between, if the mixture feels too thick, you can add in water as needed to adjust consistency. The Alasande Gassi is done when everything is well integrated together and there’s no raw smell of the spice paste. Serve hot with rice, with a dollop of ghee, or rotis. The gassi goes well with parathas and dosas too.
Tips & Tricks
1. Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies, jaggery, tamarind and coconut as per personal taste preferences.
2. Make sure the black-eyed peas are well cooked before adding them to the pan. However, they should not be overcooked or mushy.
3. Coconut oil works best for the tempering in this dish. I would highly recommend using coconut oil, but if you don’t have it, you may use any other type of oil you prefer.
4. The tempering (mustard, asafoetida and curry leaves in coconut oil) can be done at the very end, too, after the gassi is ready. This gives more flavour and fragrance to the gassi.
5. Typically, the ingredients used in the spice mix for gassi are kept raw and are not roasted. The spice mix gets cooked when it simmers in the pan, along with the black-eyed peas.
6. I have used a mix of the less spicy Bydagi dry red chillies and the hot Salem Gundu dry red chillies, in the spice mix. You can change the ratio of these chillies as per your taste preferences. The colour of the gassi depends upon the type of dry red chillies you use.
7. If the heat from the dry red chillies is enough, you can skip the red chilli powder altogether.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!