The iconic vegetable accompaniments that make up for an essential component in Keralan home-style meals, are common in many ways but also distinctly different in more ways than one. Read to know more.
Within the concept of a classic Kerala-style lunch or dinner, vegetable preparations play a key role in contributing to the nutritional value and component of a plate. Besides the rice, sambar, poppadum and wet curries, dry preparations like the thoran and mezhukupuratti are staple dishes that feature pretty much on all regular and Sadya menus. Made with commonly eaten ingredients like raw banana, beans, cabbage, carrots and gourds, these dishes add texture, flavour and colour to a plate, while enhancing the simplistic nature of these largely healthy meals. Seemingly, both – the thoran and mezhukupuratti are vegetarian dishes that are dry and also quintessentially Keralan – pretty much serving the same purpose. But what makes one different from the other?
This traditional vegtable preparation from central Kerala is made by stir-frying vegetables with spices like mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, smashed red chillies and sometimes grated coconut. The key vegetable is typically cut into small pieces and cooked with spices until they are well-coated and slightly browned and crispy on the outside. The mezhukupuratti is usually served as a side dish with rice in a standard home-style meal and is known for its delicious flavours and simplicity. One of the things that makes it different from the thoran is that this style of cooking ingredients results in a slightly crispy texture on the outside of the vegetables due to the stir-frying process; with spices that coat the vegetables, providing a savoury taste. The meal prep for a mezhukupuratti also involve cutting vegetables into smaller pieces or cubes before stir-frying.
One of the most popular styles of cooking vegetables in Kerala, thorans are essentially dry vegetable stir-fries that consist of finely chopped or grated vegetables, cooked with grated coconut, mustard seeds, curry leaves and spices like turmeric and green chilies. This preparation method usually is milder in flavour compared to the mezhukupuratti, due to the usage of minimal ingredients and hardly any spices. For a thoran preparation, the vegetables are sautéed in oil until they are cooked just enough to retain their natural textures. A paste made of grated coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds is usually added towards the end and mixed into the vegetables. This nutritious dish involves finely chopping or grating, along with the addition of grated coconut which adds a unique flavour and texture to the dish. The smaller bits of these vegetables means that the thoran has a shorter cooking process compared to the mezhukupuratti, making it a quicker recipe to execute than the latter.