M adyechi Usli is a traditional Konkani (Goa region) vegan preparation, which does not use onion or garlic as an ingredient. 'Usli' is the Konkani word for stir fry while 'maddi' means the taro or colocasia (arbi) root. In the Konkan region, there are different varieties of colocasia plants available and each of them has certain distinct properties which are then taken into account while preparing dishes out of various parts of the plant. In general, Indian cuisine utilises the colocasia plant in its entirety -- right from the leaves to its stem and roots. In Konkani, the colocasia plant is called 'alva paan' and it holds a special place in the community. While the Pathrado (pinwheels made out of colocasia leaves) is an absolute favourite among the Konkanis, Madyechi Usli/ Maddi Sukke is known for its spicy flavour despite the use of minimal ingredients.
To prepare Madyechi Usli, one needs to heat oil in a wok and add the seasoning consisting of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida, and some dry red chillies. Once the seasoning starts crackling in the hot oil and the aroma of the spices comes out, the chopped bite-sized taro chunks are added. Then follows grated coconut, kokum and turmeric powder. After the mixture is stirred properly, some warm water is added to it and allowed to cook till the taro chunks are tender and the mix is dry and spicy. This is a dry preparation and a great accompaniment with steamed rice, chapatis or even parathas.
Taro is a tuber with various health benefits as it is known to control blood sugar and reduces the risk of heart disease. It is gluten-free and is also a good source of vitamins and dietary fibre. It also contains high levels of antioxidants that help in slowing down the ageing process of human cells and boosts immunity. It is also known to reduce fatigue and promote skin health. Studies have also found that the antioxidants -- beta-carotene and cryptoxanthin -- in the colocasia/taro roots help in fighting lung and oral cancer.
The taro plant however contains a chemical called calcium oxalate, which makes the hand and throat itch on contact with the root or plant. This, however, is neutralised in the cooking by the addition of a sour ingredient like kokum or tamarind. When cutting and skinning the root, it is advisable to smear the hands with oil or wear gloves to avoid contact.