21 March 2014

Chembu Thal thoran|Taro stem dish made with ground coconut and lentil,a Kerala speciality


Warm memories of my childhood days, whenever I used to visit my grandparents during vacations in Kerala,reminds me of the looong backyard and the front yard of the house covered in greenery....Swaying loaded coconut trees,palm trees sprouting with young betel seeds,tapioca plants standing tall like long Bamboo trees ,swinging to and fro ,different types of mango trees with green and yellow mangoes,Jackfruit trees pregnant with heavy Jackfruits - mushy and hard,cashewnut trees full of cashew fruits hanging like lanterns,Rose apple trees (Chambakka) blooming with rosy goodness,bilimbi trees with Kokums(Kodumpuli) hanging like green earrings, and many more, to be frank I don't know their names in English and even in Malayalam all I remember are the lingering tastes :D ...and among all these lushful long trees competing with each other are elephant ears playing hide and seek ...Not the real Elephant's ears but the Taro Plants ,the vegetarian look-alike of Elephant's ears ...scattered all across ...what I loved about them was a weird thing...the leaves embellished with rain drops (usually) which looked nothing less than sparkling pearls ..I admired them :)...small thing enough to light up my face :)...

However,what my parents,grandparents admired about them was this plant was a whole food and when I looked from their point of view I felt really sorry for this plant, for they looked like a bali-ka-bakra(in Hindi)/Scapegoat to me ...because right from their root to stem to leaves everything was edible and cook worthy ,from tip to toe they were going to be brutally butchered sooner or later & transformed into a treat to human palate.!....theoretically speaking, Rest in Peace !! but practically speaking ,ironically it is indeed yummy in every way...Tip to toe !! ...that's what I realized when I made a Kerala special Taro stem side dish/Chembu Thal Thoran (In Malayalam),made with a healthy kick of lentils and a Kerala touch of coconut mix sauteed in coconut oil...The outcome ?..well,every weekend I rush to Asian store (only they carry this produce ),which is like an hour away from my home exclusively to buy Taro stems for sure.....

Taro stems
 By the way like any other vegetables ,they are also very healthy.The health benefits of Taro stems are they have a large amount of Vitamin A, which is needed for proper growth, healthy eyes and protection from disease. They are a good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) as well. (Source:KupunaKalo.com).However no part of this plant is recommended to be eaten raw .It must be cooked thoroughly to leach out the calcium oxalate (associated with gout and kidney stones)(Courtesy:fitday.com).

Now,let's see how to make a Taro stem side dish in a Kerala way ..............

Chembu Thaal Thoran


Taro stems,peeled and chopped - 3-4 cups
Yellow lentil/Thuvara Parippu ,boiled and drained - 1/2 cup
Coconut,grated - 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds/Jeera - 1 teaspoon
Garlic pods,peeled - 1-2 nos.(optional)
Green chillies - 1-2 nos.
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
Red chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon (optional)
Salt to taste

To temper :

Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Red chilli,broken - 1-2 nos.
Small onions/Shallot,chopped - 2 nos. 
Curry leaves - a stalk
Coconut oil - 1 tablespoon

Method: Watch & learn the correct way of peeling & chopping the taro stem/chembin thal/chembu thal...

  • Heat a pan with coconut oil,splutter the mustard seeds ,followed by shallots (let it brown slightly),red chillies,curry leaves.
  • Add the chopped taro stems ,turmeric powder and saute for 1 minute on low flame.Cover the chembu thaal/taro stems with a lid and let it cook for a few minutes until tender and dry.
  • Add the boiled and drained lentils to it.
  • Coarsely grind the coconut,cumin seeds,garlic pods in a mixer and add it to the above cooked taro stems and lentil mixture.
  • Add salt.Mix everything well.Saute for a minute or two until the raw smell of the coconut paste disappears.
  • Serve hot with boiled rice and any curry especially sambar,Rasam etc.
  • Instead of yellow lentils, you can also use green gram/cherupayar.Pressure cook it with 3/4 cup water,salt and turmeric for 1-2 whistles until tender and cooked.Make sure they don't turn mushy/mashed.Drain well and use.
  • The outer layer/skin of the taro stems should be peeled down and chopped. 

Happy weekend,