South Indian Spicy Coconut Chutney
If you’re not impressed yet, my theory is that either you have much more experience with South Indian cooking than I do, or you’ve never heard of Masala Dosa. For those in the latter group, let me explain.
You make a thin, crispy, buttery (except made with ghee, not butter) crepe using a batter made from fermented rice and lentil pastes (no eggs). Then you wrap the crispy dosa up around a savory spiced potato curry. Then you slather on some coconut chutney and dig in.
Oops, I couldn’t help it: my description quickly shifted from the making to the eating… but with good reason. Masala Dosa is subtly and distinctively flavorful; it makes for an immensely satisfying meal.
It’s difficult to find South Indian food in the states, where North Indian restaurants and curries predominate. So I’ve wanted to make my own Masala Dosa for quite some time.
I even ran right out to buy an instant dosa batter mix back when my sisters gave me an electric crepe griddle for my birthday last year. I never opened the mix, though. It wasn’t that I was lacking for time or inspiration. I suppose was only lacking for coconut chutney.
So when my spontaneous coconut purchase— and my girlfriend’s persistence with a hammer, knife, and spoon– resulted in three whole cups of fresh grated coconut, I knew it was time.
I didn’t even use the instant dosa mix for the lentil crepe batter; I made it all from scratch. All in honor of the coconut.
My coconut chutney recipe is roughly adapted from a cookbook by Anjum Anand (who I discovered thanks to this post on the blog One Picture, A Million Words). I used green chili peppers instead of red chili powder, and I only removed the seeds from one of the peppers, which resulted in a much spicier chutney than most that I’ve tried. (But I’m writing this now that we’ve consumed the whole jar of it, and I wouldn’t change a thing.)
Stay tuned for my next post with recipes for the Masala Dosa crepe and potato curry filling!
And in the meantime, should you find yourself with any extra grated coconut on your hands, consider tossing some of the ingredients below into the blender for one of the tastiest sauces I’ve ever made in 10 minutes. (Not counting all the time it took to scrape and shred the coconut in advance.)
Spicy Coconut Chutney
(Adapted from Anjum’s New Indian by Anjum Anand.)
(Makes 1 cup, or 4-6 servings)
~ ⅔ cup grated coconut
~ ½ – ¾ cup coconut milk
~ 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
~ 1-2 green chili peppers, seeds removed (I left the seeds in one, which made it pretty spicy)
~ 2 tsp. tamarind concentrate (if you don’t have this, at least include the lemon juice)
~ pinch of salt
~ 1 Tbsp. (or less) vegetable oil
~ 2 tsp. black mustard seeds
~ 1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
~ pinch of asofoetida powder
~ 3 tsp. urud dal
How to make it:
1. In a blender or food processor, combine: the grated coconut, some of the coconut milk, the ginger, the chili pepper(s), the tamarind, salt, lemon juice, and asofoetida power. Add more coconut milk gradually if needed to blend to the desired texture. (The chutney should be liquidy, like a sauce, but with some body and substance.)
2. Transfer to a serving bowl or jar, and adjust flavors to taste.
3. In a very small saucepan, heat vegetable oil, then add the black mustard seeds, and optionally the urud dal. Fry the seeds and dal, stirring occasionally, until the seeds start to splatter. Then pour the mixture– including some, but ideally not all, of the oil– into the coconut chutney, and stir to combine.
4. You can store this chutney in the fridge for up to a week or two (and chilling it will give it a thicker texture if you find your version is too liquidy). Serve at room temperature with idli or dosa, like the Masala Dosa recipe that I will post here soon…