More often than not we are so mesmerized with international cuisines (not saying it is bad!) that we forget good old recipes from our own backyard. Especially when we start to cook on our own, the tendency is even higher to prepare the most loved recipes, favorite dishes and popular restaurant style food, isn’t it? It is nothing to do with whether that is good or bad. Just that, the ingredients grandma or ma once used in her homestyle cooking (which we remember our childhood fondly for), much of those get lost somewhere in between. This post is a tribute to one such forgotten ingredient.
So, ever heard of Sundakkai or Shundakkai?
I found myself literally scratching my head on how to describe it, not knowing it by any other name in any other language. So, when I landed on this article about Sundakkai I was pleasantly surprised and happy that Wiki saved me from the awkwardness I was having to put myself into in order to explain what Sundakkai is, with my limited knowledge of it!
Now I can gladly say, it is Turkey Berry otherwise known as Devil’s Fig, Prickly Nightshade, Shoo-shoo Bush, Wild Eggplant, Pea Eggplant, courtesy Wiki.
I have no idea what it’s called either in Kannada or Telugu – never found the need to know until today! In case you happen to know, please share it with me.
As much as I hated the frigid weather over the past week and couldn’t wait for it to pass, I am even thankful for the same for providing me the opportunity (à la house arrest!) to think of Sundakkai for the lack of any vegetables in an otherwise stocked refrigerator. There are few times when no planning results in better things…and this is one of them.
Raw berries are bitter, I have never eaten fresh berries raw or cooked directly nor aware of recipes using them. The only way I have known Shundakkai is in its sun-dried form – soaked in salted buttermilk and sun-dried until shrunken crisp, similar to salted sun-dried green chillies.
Before we move on to the recipe, let me tell you that this is not the traditional way of preparing Shundakkai, but an easy way of incorporating Shundakkai into your meal on a frigid and gloomy day. There is no need for a custom-made spice powder nor that of a blender, just a plain simple recipe calling for not more than a couple of spices. The heat from whole black pepper keeps you feeling warm and comforted.
Traditional way of cooking Shundakkai though, would be more elaborate as in Shundakkai Vathal Kozhambu, which makes for a beautiful classic dish in itself.
Salted sun-dried Sundakkai fried in ghee (known as Sundakkai Vathal) is good to be eaten by itself with hot rice. When eaten as the first morsel of the meal it is believed to improve digestion.
In Iyengar cuisine, Sundakkai vathal is an important part of the Dwadashi meal (Dwadashi is the 12th day of the lunar fortnight in the Hindu calendar or Panchangam)
The day before Dwadashi i.e, Ekadashi (11th day) is a fasting day for many. Such a fast is usually broken on the Dwadashi day and hence the menu for this day is specifically geared towards leveling the acidity and getting the digestive juices flowing.
Sundried Turkey Berries and Pepper Rasam
- 1/4 cup split yellow dal / moong dal
- 1/4 cup toor dal
- 1 tsp jeera powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp whole black pepper freshly cracked
- lime sized tamarind soaked in warm water
- sea salt
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
- 1/8 tsp hing/asafoetida
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 red/green chillies seeded and torn in 1" pieces
- 10 curry leaves washed and dried
- 3 tbsp salted sun-dried Sundakkai / Turkey berry
Wash the lentils well until water runs clear. Add turmeric and more water than enough to cover the lentils and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles or until well cooked and mashable.
When the cooker cools, whisk the cooked dal well until mashed and stir in about 2 cups of water.
For the tempering, heat oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start spluttering, reduce heat to medium and add jeera, hing, torn chillies, sundakkai and curry leaves in the same order and saute until curry leaves are crisp and sundakkai berries turn brownish black and crumbly crisp.
Add turmeric, freshly cracked black pepper and jeera powder. Squish the soaked tamarind well and strain its juicy pulp into the saucepan. Discard the seed, fibre and pulp remainders.
Add the watery dal and salt. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for 10 mins.
Serve hot with steamed rice, fresh ghee and your choice of papad.