Tom Kha| Vegetarian Thai Coconut Soup

Have you had the pleasure of experiencing Tom Kha soup? You must try it out, if you haven’t already. It is such a beauty of a soup, inside and out!

What is Tom Kha?


Tom Kha refers to a Thai soup made using coconut milk. With hints of sweet and sour and spicy, it is bursting with flavours. It is a delicate soup, a harmonious balance between flavours the way most Thai dishes are. 

Tom‘ is the Thai word for ‘boil’, referring to the method of making the soup (as in Tom Yum). ‘Kha‘ in Thai means ‘galangal’, a rhizome similar to ginger, which finds pride of place in several dishes from the cuisine. Galangal is, indeed, the star ingredient in this soup too. Tom Kha is typically made using chicken pieces and broth (referred to as Tom Kha Gai, with ‘Gai‘ being the Thai word for chicken). I am presenting to you today the recipe for a vegetarian version of this soup, which is referred to as Tom Kha.

Traditionally in Thailand, Tom Kha is eaten as a side with rice, thereby making it a complete meal. Even on its own, too, this soup is hearty and hugely satisfying. I make it light, instead of rich and creamy as it usually is – we prefer it this way.

Tom Kha

My first tryst with Tom Kha

After a hot, sweaty and tiring morning exploring the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok last year, the husband and I were walking around with the bub, hunting for a place where we could partake of a vegetarian lunch. A small eatery right opposite to the temple caught our eye, offering quite a few traditional Thai vegetarian dishes. Something about the place called out to us, and we headed in. The owner was this very sweet, friendly, middle-aged Thai lady who lived and cooked in the tiny space behind the eatery. It was here that we had the most amazing Tom Kha soup, full of flavour. I couldn’t resist asking the lady how she made it and, in her broken English, she complied.

I have made this soup several times over since, tweaking little things here and there to suit my family’s taste preferences.

How to make Tom Kha or vegetarian Thai coconut soup


I outline below the way I make Tom Kha, and urge you to try it out too – I’m sure you will fall in love with it too.

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suitable to those on a plant-based diet. It is gluten-free as well.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

For the stock:
  • 1. 2-1/2 cups water
  • 2. 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3. 8-10 strands of lemongrass
  • 4. 2 green chillies
  • 5. 1 tablespoon fresh coriander stems
  • 6. A 1-inch piece of galangal
  • Other ingredients:

  • 1. 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2. 4 button mushrooms
  • 3. 1 small carrot
  • 4. Salt to taste
  • 5. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 6. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder
  • 7. 2 green chillies
  • 8. 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 9. A few strands of lemongrass
  • 10. A 1-inch piece of galangal
  • 11. 1/2 tablespoon soya sauce
  • 12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 13. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste

  • Method:

    1. We will first prepare the stock for the soup. Take 2-1/2 cups water in a pan. Tear the 2 kaffir lime leaves roughly and add them in. Roughly chop the lemongrass strands, galangal and coriander stems, and add them in too. Slit 2 slit green chillies length-wise, and add to the water. Place the pan on high heat, and allow the water to start bubbling. Then turn the flame down to medium. Cook on medium  flame for 5 minutes.

    2. Now, strain all the ingredients out. Reserve the clear, greenish stock.

    Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Bottom left and right: Steps 3 and 4

    3. Peel the carrot and chop finely. Chop up the button mushrooms length-wise. Keep aside.

    4. Heat a teaspoon of oil in the same pan, and add the chopped carrot and mushrooms. Saute till they are soft, but still retain a crunch.

    Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left and right: Steps 7 and 8

    5. Now, add the stock to the pan, along with salt to taste and jaggery powder. 

    6. Tear 2 kaffir lime leaves roughly and chop a few strands of lemongrass. Add to the pan. Roughly chop the galangal, and add to the pan too. Slit 2 slit green chillies  length-wise, and add to the pan. Mix well.

    7. Add the coconut milk and soya sauce to the pan. Mix well. Let it all cook together on medium flame. Switch off gas when it comes to a boil. Then, mix in juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste.

    8. Serve hot, garnished with the finely chopped fresh coriander.

    Tips & Tricks


    1. Use fresh kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass for best results.

    2. I could find only strands of lemongrass, and that’s what I have used here. If you have access to lemongrass bulbs, do use them in the soup – they are super aromatic.

    3. Authentic Tom Kha Gai uses galangal or Thai ginger. You can substitute it with regular Indian ginger, but it alters the flavour of the soup quite a bit. You could choose to leave out the galangal or Indian ginger completely too, and the soup still tastes brilliant.

    4. Traditionally, oyster sauce or fish sauce is used in Tom Kha Gai. However, since this is a vegetarian version, I have used soya sauce.

    5. I have used naturally fermented soya sauce from Shoyu, a brand I picked up in Thailand. You can use any brand you prefer.

    6. If you can get your hands on Thai coconut palm jaggery and bird’s eye chillies, please do use them in the soup. I didn’t have these ingredients, so I have used regular Indian jaggery powder and green chillies.

    7. Adjust the quantity of chillies you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

    8. I have used button mushrooms to make the Tom Kha Gai. Other varieties of mushrooms can be used as well. I prefer only mushrooms and carrots in this soup, but you could add in any other vegetables you prefer.

    9. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice you use, as per personal taste preferences.

    10. I have used a pack of Dabur Hommade Coconut Milk here. You can use homemade coconut milk if you so prefer.

    11. The above quantities yield a light and flavourful soup – I prefer it this way. If you want a thicker soup, you can skip the water fully and use more coconut milk.

    12. I have used cold-pressed sunflower oil here. You can use any odourless oil you prefer instead.

    Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

    Jasmine Rice Khao Yum| Thai Rainbow Rice Salad

    Want to eat the rainbow? You should try Khao Yum!

    ‘Eat the rainbow, eat the rainbow!’

    Just how many times have we heard that being said? Studies have shown that eating different naturally coloured foods ensures that you get different types of nutrients into your system. And then, of course, there’s the leap that your heart takes when you look at all the pretty colours on your plate! The recipe that I’m about to share with you today, Khao Yum, will surely make your heart sing with joy with all its loveliness.

    It’s not for nothing that Khao Yum is called Thai Rainbow Rice Salad – it is, really and truly, a rainbow on your platter. I made this some time ago for lunch as a surprise for the husband. He came home from a meeting for lunch, expecting the regular fare, and you should have seen the look on his face when he was presented with a rainbow instead. 🙂 Take a look for yourself?

    Khao Yum aka Thai Rainbow Rice Salad. Ain’t it prettiness personified?

    What on earth is a Rainbow Rice Salad?

    It is a salad made Thai style, with rice being the main ingredient. Cooked jasmine rice is at the centre of this salad, with assorted accompaniments to go with it, a delicious dressing included. All of it is typically served separately as above, on a platter or bowl. The diners are expected to mix together the various components of the salad, as per their personal taste preferences.

    Now, the Thais, being the Thais, don’t do anything by half measures. On our visits to Thailand, I have always admired how the Thais make everything look cute and pretty – from pens and soaps to clothes and hot water bottles and, of course, food! At a little Thai restaurant, you could be ordering a simple Thai Sticky Rice With Mango that’s regular fare over there, but it’ll come to your table presented so beautifully it could give five-star chefs in big metros a run for their money! This Khao Yum is no exception – the jasmine rice is, traditionally, coloured blue using the butterfly pea flower, and colourful accompaniments are laid out all around it.

    The dressing served with Khao Yum is bursting with flavour, the way most Thai dishes do. It is sweet and sour and spicy, the kind of thing that will make your tastebuds wake up and take notice. I’m serious! With the dressing and the sides, this Thai Rainbow Rice Salad makes for a supremely delicious, hearty meal.

    It is quite a healthy thing, too, this salad, with no artificial colours or flavours going in, with limited usage of oil.

    Is Khao Yum a very difficult thing to make?


    We didn’t come across this dish in any of the Thai restaurants we visited, in Bangkok and Pattaya. It was only recently, while I was reading up about the country’s cuisine that I came across this dish on Hot Thai Kitchen, a treasure trove of Thai recipes that I have come to love. I’m wondering if this salad is more of a family thing in Thailand, and hasn’t really made it to the mainstream restaurants. I’m not sure.

    Anyways, Khao Yum isn’t a difficult thing to make at home, at all. If you have all the right ingredients at hand, it is super simple to put this salad together. In Thailand, I understand this is a non-vegetarian salad, with shrimp being used in the dressing as well as a side. I have, however, made a vegetarian version here.

    Are the ingredients for Khao Yum tough to find in India?


    Depends on where you are based in India, I would say. However, you can definitely make this salad using vegetarian ingredients commonly available in most Indian cities. Here’s a breakdown of the ingredients for you.

    Many departmental stores and gourmet food stores stock jasmine rice – the heart of this salad – these days. In a pinch, basmati rice or any other fragrant variety of rice can be used, but I would really suggest hunting down some jasmine rice.

    Dried butterfly pea flowers are easily available online, albeit a bit expensive. In case you have the fresh flowers – called Shankha Pushpam or Sangu Poo down South – growing somewhere around you, you could use them too. You could leave the rice plain white, too, if you so prefer, or colour it a different colour using handy stuff from your kitchen – a pinch of turmeric, maybe? I have used butterfly pea-infused jasmine rice that I picked up in Big C, Thailand, to make this salad. I just had to pressure cook the rice like we do usually, and I ended up with this naturally coloured, beautiful blue cooked rice. In this video, Pailin of Hot Thai Kitchen shows how you can achieve the same blue effect using purple cabbage and baking soda. Yes!

    There are no hard and fast rules as to what accompaniments this salad should have. The rice and toasted coconut is a must, as far as I understand, as well as the dressing. There should, ideally, be a sweet-sour juicy fruit too, like pomelo, pineapple, raw mango or apple – I have used pineapple. Tofu can be used in place of the paneer I have used here. I have also used lemon wedges, sweet corn, carrot, moong sprouts and seedless cucumber as accompaniments. All of these ingredients are fairly easy to source across India.

    The dressing needs ingredients like tamarind, ginger, jaggery, dry red chillies, small onions, lemongrass, soya sauce, garlic and lemon zest, which aren’t difficult to find either. I have used regular Indian tamarind, ginger and jaggery in place of the Thai tamarind, galangal and palm jaggery that typically goes into the dressing. The lemongrass came from a potted plant in my balcony, but it is commonly available in stores like Namdhari’s and MK Retail in Bangalore. I used naturally fermented soya sauce from Shoyu, a Thai brand, in the dressing. You could use a regular Indian brand or look for naturally fermented versions online or in specialty stores.

    All set to make your Thai Rainbow Rice Salad? Here’s how you roll!


    Please find below instructions to put together Khao Yum or Thai Rainbow Rice Salad at home. Don’t be fazed by the number of steps in there – that’s only because I have tried to explain everything in great detail. In reality, this is a very, very simple thing to make. I have adapted the original recipe from Hot Thai Kitchen to suit my family’s vegetarian preferences, tastebuds and availability of ingredients.


    I’m sharing this recipe with the A-Z Recipe Challenge group that I’m part of. Every alternate month, the members of this group present recipes made from ingredients in alphabetical order. The letter for this month is J, and I chose ‘jasmine rice’ as my star ingredient.

    I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #301, co-hosted this week with Antonia @ Zoale.com. Now, without further ado, over to the recipe!

    Ingredients (serves 2-3):

    For the salad dressing:
    1. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
    2. 3-4 tablespoons jaggery
    3. 1 teaspoon lemon zest
    4. 3-4 dry red chillies
    5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
    6. 3-4 strands of lemongrass
    7. Salt to taste
    8. A small onion
    9. 1 tablespoon dark soya sauce
    10. 5-6 cloves garlic
    11. Water as needed

    For the salad:
    1. 1 cup butterfly pea jasmine rice
    2. 1/3 cup peanuts
    3. 1 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon oil
    4. 100 grams paneer
    5. 1 lemon, cut into wedges
    6. About 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
    7. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
    8. 1 medium-sized carrot
    9. 1 medium-sized cucumber
    10. 1/3 cup sweet corn kernels
    11. 1/2 cup moong bean sprouts

    Method:

    Let’s first make the salad dressing.

    1. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water for at least 15 minutes. When it cools down enough to handle, extract a thick paste out of it. You may add a little more water if needed, to help extract the juice. Keep aside.

    2. Peel the onion and ginger and chop roughly. Peel the garlic cloves. Add these to a small mixer jar.

    3. Roughly chop the lemongrass strands. Add to the mixer jar.

    4. Break the dry red chillies roughly using your hands. Add to the mixer jar.

    5. Grind the ingredients in the mixer jar coarsely or to a smooth paste, as you prefer.

    6. Transfer the ground paste to a pan, and place on high heat. Add in tamarind extract and salt to taste. Cook on high flame for 2-3 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.

    7. Add soya sauce, lemon zest, jaggery and enough water to bring the sauce to a runny consistency. Cook on medium flame till all the ingredients are well combined together and the sauce thickens a bit. This should take about 2 minutes. Switch off gas and allow the dressing to cool down fully.

    Now, we will do the prep work that is needed for the salad.

    1. Cook the butterfly pea rice as per the instructions on the package. I cooked the 1 cup of butterfly pea rice I used in a pressure cooker. I added 2 cups of water and cooked for 3 whistles on high flame. Let the pressure release naturally.

    2. Make sure all the thorns and cores are removed from the pineapple, and that it is chopped into bite-sized pieces.

    3. Peel the carrot and grate medium-thick.

    4. Chop the cucumber into batons or rounds, as you prefer.

    5. Dry roast the peanuts on medium flame till crisp. Ensure that they do not burn.

    6. Dry roast the grated coconut on medium flame till it gets brown. Ensure that it doesn’t burn.

    7. Cut the lemon into wedges.

    8. Chop the paneer into cubes. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pan, and add in the paneer cubes. Saute gently till they turn slightly crisp and start browning.

    9. You may saute or blanch the moong bean sprouts if you so prefer. I kept them raw.

    10. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in the same pan, and add in the sweet corn kernels. Saute on medium flame till the kernels are half cooked but retain their crunch.

    Now, let’s assemble the Khao Yum or Thai Rainbow Rice Salad.

    1. When the pressure from the cooker has entirely gone down, get the cooked blue rice out and let it cool down a bit. Then, fill a bowl tightly with the rice and invert it in the centre of a large serving plate. Sprinkle some finely chopped coriander on top of the mound of rice.

    2. Arrange some of the moong bean sprouts, roasted peanuts and coconut, sauteed sweet corn and paneer, pineapple pieces, grated carrot, lemon wedges and grated carrot attractively all around the rice. Serve immediately, with some dressing poured into a small cup. Prepare salad platters for all the diners similarly.

    And you’re all set!

    Tips & Tricks

    1. I used a mix of the hot Salem Gundu and the not-very-spicy Bydagi dry red chillies to make the dressing. Adjust the quantity of chillies you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

    2. I grated the skin of two regular-sized lemons to get 1 teaspoon zest, for the salad dressing. If you have kaffir lime leaves, you could use two of them in place of the lemon zest.

    3. Filter out the seeds and impurities from the tamarind before using them in the dressing.

    4. Sugar, honey, palm jaggery or coconut sugar can be used in the dressing. Here, I have used regular jaggery powder.

    5. I used home-grown lemongrass to make the dressing. If you don’t find lemongrass leaves, you can use about 2-3 inches of the bottom, bulb-like part of lemongrass. It is even more fragrant.

    6. Adjust the quantity of tamarind and jaggery as per personal taste preferences. Similarly, adjust the amount of water you use, depending on how thick you want the salad dressing to be.

    7. The salad dressing can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Similarly, any leftover dressing can be bottled and refrigerated for later use. However, I prefer making it fresh.

    8. This salad is typically served at room temperature. Hence, you must allow all the cooked ingredients to fully cool down before you assemble the salad.

    9. This is a completely vegetarian recipe. You may substitute some of the ingredients in case you wish to make a non-vegetarian version. This is a gluten-free recipe as well. Using tofu in place of the paneer here will also render it a vegan or plant-based dish.

    Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

    Karuppu Mocchai Sundal| Purple Hyacinth Bean Stir-Fry, South Indian Style

    Navratri and sundal are synonymous with each other, in the south of India. The typical sundal is made using legumes like black chana, moong beans, hyacinth beans, dry green peas, black-eyed peas or kabuli chana, tempered simply with mustard and red or green chillies, with a good amount of coconut added in. Some families also add in a sundal podi – made using dry red chillies, chana dal, urad dal and the like. The sundal recipe I present to you today – Karuppu Mocchai Sundal – is made using dried purple hyacinth beans (yes, such a thing does exist!). I did not have sundal podi ready, so I took my mom’s advice and flavoured this with home-made dosa milagai podi aka gunpowder. I’m so glad I did, for the end result was beautiful!

    That’s how them dried purple hyacinth beans look like!

    Each time I go to my Mama‘s place in Madras, I sneak in a visit to the Pazhamudir Cholai in Nanganallur. For the uninitiated, Pazhamudir Cholai – literally ‘orchard of abundant fruits and vegetables’ in Tamil – is the name by which large vegetable shops are referred to in Tamilnadu. Most of these shops stock flowers, grains and pulses, various other items of household use, chocolates, ice creams and fresh fruit juices, apart from a vast variety of fruits, leafy greens and veggies. I adore the Pazhamudir Cholai in the Nanganallur area – situated very conveniently right next to a Murugan Idli Shop which serves some seriously delicious food. The shop is a treasure trove of unique food products, some indigenous to Tamilnadu, which aren’t easy to come across elsewhere. The food blogger in me is overjoyed to see things like baby bitter gourds, the longest of snake gourds, purple hyacinth beans, fresh black nightshade berries, moringa flowers, and greens like Maderaspatana, Vallarai and Pirandai. I picked up a pack of dried purple hyacinth beans (‘karuppu mocchai‘ in Tamil) here on my last visit, a novelty to me. Some of these beans went into the making of this Karuppu Mocchai Sundal, a delicious prasadam that all of us enjoyed heartily.

    Hyacinth beans – also called lablab, lima beans, field beans, avarai (Tamil) or mocchai (Tamil) – usually have green pods, which bear green-coloured seeds (yellowish when dried). However, there is also a purple version of these beans available – the fresh pods are a pretty purple in colour, and they bear deep purple seeds. The blackish-purple seeds can be dried too, in which case they need overnight soaking before cooking. The presence of anthocyanins is what gives these beans their purple colour, similar to black rice, purple corn, purple cabbage and cauliflower, blackberries and blueberries. The high-protein beans lose their purple colour upon cooking, though, but they do possess a certain characteristic scent which might not be agreeable to everyone. The dosa milagai podi I used in the Karuppu Mocchai Sundal helped mask the smell of these beans greatly. The sundal was absolutely flavourful and very lovely!

    Now, without further ado, let’s check out the proceedure to make the Karuppu Mocchai Sundal. I’m linking this recipe with My Legume Love Affair (MLLA), an initiative started by Lisa’s Kitchen, to familiarise people with the several types of legumes that exist. This month, it is the 132nd edition of MLLA, and it is being hosted by Kalyani of Sizzling Tastebuds.

    Ingredients (serves 5-6):

    1. 1 cup dried purple hyacinth beans or karuppu mocchai
    2. 1/2 tablespoon oil
    3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    4. 2 pinches of asafoetida
    5. 3-4 dry red chillies
    6. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
    7. Salt to taste
    8. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
    9. About 3 tablespoons dosa milagai podi or as needed
    10. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or as needed
    11. Red chilli powder to taste
    12. 1/3 cup fresh grated coconut or to taste
    13. A dash of lemon
    14. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

    Method:

    1. Soak the dried purple hyacinth beans for 8-10 hours or overnight, in enough fresh water to cover them completely.

    2. When the beans are done soaking, drain out all the water from them and discard. Transfer the drained beans to a wide vessel, and add in enough fresh water to cover the beans completely.

    3. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook the beans for 4-5 whistles or till they are well cooked. They shouldn’t get overly mushy. Let the pressure release naturally.

    4. Drain out all the water from the cooked beans, once the pressure has gone down completely. Reserve the water for future use.

    5. Heat the oil in a pan. Add mustard, and allow it to pop. Add in the dried red chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves. Let the ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds.

    6. Add the cooked and drained hyacinth beans to the pan, along with salt, red chilli powder, jaggery powder and turmeric powder. Mix well.

    7. Cook on medium flame till all the water from the beans dries up and all the ingredients are well combined together, 3-4 minutes.

    8. Add the dosa milagai podi and grated fresh coconut. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for a minute more. Switch off gas.

    9. Add in lemon juice and finely chopped coriander. Mix well. Your Karuppu Mocchai Sundal is ready – serve it warm or at room temperature.

    Notes:

    1. Use fresh, soft water to soak the hyacinth beans.

    2. Make sure the beans are well cooked but not overly mushy, before proceeding to make the sundal.

    3. Coconut oil or gingelly oil (nalla ennai) works best in the making of this sundal.

    4. If you don’t have dried purple hyacinth beans, you can use the regular dried yellow ones instead. Follow the above proceedure for the same, too.

    5. Adjust the quantity of coconut you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

    6. I have used home-made dosa milagai podi to flavour this sundal. Since the podi is quite mildly spiced and sweet, I have added some red chilli powder and jaggery powder to the sundal. Adjust the quantity of dosa milagai podi you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

    7. If you have sundal podi ready, you may use it in the above recipe, instead of the dosa milagai podi.

    8. The water used to cook the beans in is rich in nutrients. Do not discard it. This water can be used to make rasam, soups and gravy-based dishes.

    Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

    Momo Achar| Peanut Chutney For Momos

    The husband was in Sikkim earlier this year on an official get-together, and he told me endless stories about the place on his return. He loved the Sikkimese momos especially, the many varieties that are available. I was intrigued by his descriptions of the yellow chutney served alongside momos by the streetside in Sikkim, Momo Achaar in local parlance. In Bangalore, we only get a spicy red chutney with momos, so this was new and interesting.

    So, this yellow Momo Achaar was what I decided to make when Sikkimese cuisine was chosen as the theme for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge this month. The Sikkimese follow a mostly non-vegetarian diet, with simple food made using minimal ingredients. That said, the food is hearty and delicious, several locally grown spices, herbs, greens and vegetables featuring in the dishes.

    Coming back to the Momo Achaar, I made it using this recipe from Healthy Recipe Home as the base, with a few little changes here and there. Peanuts are the major ingredient in this chutney, which tastes absolutely delightful. I kept it mildly spicy with a hint of sourness, and it went beautifully with not just the momos I prepared, but also with rotis, parathas, dosas and idlis. You have to try this out, if you haven’t already! The husband loved it to bits and said it tasted exactly like the chutney he had had in Sikkim, I’m happy to report.

    Luckily, the two secret ingredients my partner Aruna gave me for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge – garlic and peanuts – were just right for me to make this chutney. On that note, you must check out Aruna’s blog, Vasu’s Veg Kitchen, a treasure trove of well-explained recipes from around the globe. Look at the beautiful dish that Aruna made using the two secret ingredients I assigned her!

    Now, let me take you through the way I prepared the Momo Achaar. I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #292. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You.

    Ingredients (makes about 2 cups):

    1. 1/3 cup sesame seeds
    2. 1 cup peanuts
    3. 1/2 tablespoon oil
    4. 2 dry red chillies
    5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
    6. A small onion
    7. 5-6 garlic cloves
    8. 6 medium-sized tomatoes
    9. 2 green chillies
    10. Salt to taste
    11. 2 tablespoons chopped coriander
    12. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
    13. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
    14. Juice of 2 lemons or to taste
    15. 1 tablespoon honey or to taste (optional)

    Method:

    1. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Peel the garlic cloves. Peel off the skin of the onion and chop roughly. Chop the green chillies and tomato roughly, too. Keep aside.

    2. Dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds together, on medium flame, till they start turning brown and crunchy. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer to a plate. Keep aside.

    3. In the same pan, add in the oil. Then, add the chopped ginger and onion, garlic cloves and the dry red chillies. Saute on medium flame till the onion starts to brown, 2-3 minutes.

    4. Add the chopped tomatoes and green chillies to the pan too. Cook on medium flame till the tomatoes turn mushy, 2-3 minutes. Switch off gas and allow all the cooked ingredients to cool down fully.

    5. When all the cooked ingredients have entirely cooled down, transfer to a mixer jar. Add in salt to taste, turmeric powder, roasted cumin powder, chopped coriander, lemon juice to taste and a little water. Grind everything together to a smooth paste.

    6. Mix in honey to taste, if using.

    7. Allow the chutney to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Store refrigerated when not in use.

    Notes:

    1. I have used country (Nati) tomatoes here, for the beautiful flavour and tartness they impart. If these are not available, you may use the ‘farm’ variety of tomatoes.

    2. I have used dry Bydagi red chillies here, for the lovely colour they give to the dish, without adding too much spiciness.

    3. Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies and green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the chutney to be. The above quantities yield a medium-spicy chutney.

    4. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the chutney you prefer.

    5. Using the honey is purely optional.

    6. White vinegar can be used in place of the lemon juice in this momo chutney. I have used lemon juice here.

    7. This chutney stays well for up to a week when refrigerated and used hygienically.

    8. Make sure all the cooked ingredients have completely cooled down, before grinding them.

    9. I didn’t remove the skins from the peanuts before grinding.

    10. You may reduce the quantity of peanuts you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

    11. Traditional Sikkimese recipes suggest the use of soyabeans, the local Timur peppers and green Dalle chillies in this Momo Chutney. Each of these ingredients adds a special flavour and fragrance to the chutney. I didn’t have any of these, so I have omitted the soyabeans and Timur completely and used ordinary green chillies in place of the Dalle.

    Did you like this recipe? Please do tell me in your comments!

    Weekend Getaway To Pearl Valley, Near Anekal

    We are trying to make the most of the beautiful, beautiful weather in Bangalore lately. Of late, weekends see us on heading out on long drives, exploring places, seeing the city we live in with new eyes. One of my cousins has moved from the US of A, and we are – sort of – helping him get acquainted with Bangalore. Suits me just fine! So, that’s how we came to be checking out this place called Pearl Valley one gorgeous rainy weekend.

    And we’ve arrived at Pearl Valley!

    Located about 40 km from Bangalore, Pearl Valley needs just about an hour’s time to drive down. The roads are in great condition, and the ride is smooth. You pass through some narrow roads and little villages en route, all of it made extra charming by the pretty weather. Google Maps is a great guide to take you to this little known picnic spot, just 5 km or so away from Anekal district.

    The little lake that greets you upon your arrival at Pearl Valley

    There’s not much to do at Pearl Valley, whose original name is Muthyala Maduvu. It is, however, a nice spot for a relaxed half-day picnic in natural surroundings, I would say. This is a green valley situated in the midst of mountains, and a trek through the valley will bring you to the star attraction – a waterfall. I’ll hasten to tell you that the waterfall isn’t much to look at (definitely not in the league of Jog Falls or Shivanasamudra), and the trek doesn’t really involve very rugged terrain or an extremely tough trail. That said, it’s still a scenic place to visit, especially in the monsoons, a quiet sojourn away from the chaos of city life. My 4-1/2-year-old did a fairly decent job of the trek, as did the other two little ones in our family. I’d say this is a nice place for beginner trekkers or for children to get a feel of trekking or walking amidst wilderness.

    Look at that green, green valley!

    A hotel run by the Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) – Mayura Nisarga – is the only sort of commercialisation you will find at Pearl Valley. Mayura Nisarga is, actually, a bar-cum-hotel serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The hotel premises are where you park your vehicle and take a loo break, before heading down to the waterfall in the valley. Beware – monkeys run amok at this spot and are known for snatching food and drinks from the hands of unsuspecting tourists!

    Up to monkey business!

    The trekking trail here is still under construction. You’ll find proper steps along part of the way, while the rest is just finding your foothold amidst worn rocks and bushes and mud. There are no signboards or restrooms once you begin the trek, descending into the valley. No monkeys inside the valley, thankfully!

    Down, down, down we went that steep flight of stairs!

    One little girl had her first ‘trek’ experience amidst narrow trails!

    The views en route are pretty, albeit nothing extraordinary. I especially loved the rustic temple we passed en route. If you need to take a break, rocks and grassy land are all you have to sit on.

    Captured on camera en route

    This temple had me charmed!

    The waterfall you reach after the trek is, really, just a little trickle. Don’t go for the waterfall – go with family and friends to make memories along the way.

    The little waterfall at Pearl Valley

    Notes for travellers:

    1. The villagers of Muthyala Maduvu charge an entry fee of INR 30 per vehicle. Apart from this, there’s a small parking fee to be paid for using the premises of Mayura Nisarga.

    2. The food and beverages at Mayura Nisarga are pretty sad – speaking from personal experience. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry a lunch hamper from home. It would be best to leave the hamper in your vehicle – thanks to the monkeys – and wait till you reach a safe spot somewhere nearby, to eat.

    3. The trek can be a bit much for the aged and infirm. Children above 4 can head in, I’d say, provided they are able to walk independently. It’s about a 45-minute walk in all.

    4. Like I was saying earlier, there’s not much of development or vigilance inside the valley. We spotted bunches of people ducking under bushes with bottles of alcohol, and a few couples trying to get close. That said, there were quite a few families trekking the day we visited too. There’s really no one to keep an eye on the place, a sad fact.

    5. Carry a backpack with water bottles, umbrellas and/or rain coats, and a few snacks while you trek. Comfortable attire for trekking is highly recommended.

    6. The valley is not the cleanest of places. Be prepared to see several plastic bags and bottles, juice cartons, snack covers, alcohol bottles and the likes strewn all over.

    7. There’s nothing much to do or explore in the immediate surroundings. Plan your visit accordingly.

    8. Mayura Nisarga offers some good views of the valley, which you might want to check out.

    9. The valley was quite green and pretty when we visited, probably because we visited in the peak of monsoon. We had good weather too, as we trekked. I doubt either of this would be the case, if you visit in the non-rainy months.

    10. We didn’t come across any flora or fauna of interest, in the course of our trek.

    11. Pearl Valley is open from 7 am to 7 pm every day.

    ********

    I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #290. The co-host this week is Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.