Friday, 18 November 2011




     1)    Elephant foot yam (sûrnu in Konkani, Chèna in Malayalam) – 300 gm.

     2)    Hot red chili powder – 4 teaspoons
     3)    Fenugreek seeds – 1 pinch
     4)    Tamarind – an olive sized bit.
     5)    Mustard seeds – ½ teaspoon
     6)    Tender curry leaves – 2 sprigs
     7)    Asafoetida powder – 2 pinches
     8)    Water – 400 ml.
     9)    Salt – 2 teaspoons
     10)     Coconut oil or other cooking oil to deep fry the yam

To Make:

          Peel the elephant foot yam. Wash and cut into small cubes of around 1 cubic centimetre size (if you have sensitive skin, use a glove while cutting the yam since it is itchy while raw). Set a wok on the stove and pour in the cooking oil. As soon as the oil is hot, tip in the yam cubes. Stir occasionally and deep fry until the cubes are crispy. You will know that they are getting ready when the bubbles become lesser and the cubes feel like lightweight wooden or plastic pieces as you stir them (it is very important that the cubes are crispy in order to have the perfect pickle. However, care should be taken to see that the cubes are not burnt). Lift out the crispy cubes and drain off the excess oil.

          Put the tamarind in a bowl. Pour in 50 ml. of water. Squeeze nicely and sieve off the chaff. Set a sauce pan or cooking vessel on low heat. Pour in a tablespoonful of the deep fried oil (this will enhance the flavor of the pickle). Throw in the mustard seeds. As soon as they are about to finish popping, tip in the fenugreek seeds. As they begin to crackle, turn off the heat and quickly tip in the tender curry leaves and the chili powder. Stir for a minute and put in the asafoetida powder and the tamarind juice. Turn on the heat to full. Pour in 350 ml. of water and tip in the salt.

          As soon as it comes to a boil, slide in the fried elephant foot yam cubes. Boil for 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if required. The pickle may feel very hot to the taste. Switch off the heat and cover with a lid. Let rest for 5 to 6 hours. Most of the sauce is absorbed by the yam cubes. It is so much less hot now. Serve with surnali (recipe given separately) or with kotto. This supremely tasty elephant foot yam pickle can be stored at room temperature and used over a period of 2 to 3 days, but it needs to be heated up every 12 hours. The taste increases every time it is heated up. In the fridge, it will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Sûrna nonché with ittu (country idli)


     1)    This pickle can also be prepared with deep fried potatoes or with a particular variety of maddi (taro, ‘iiya chèmbe’ in Malayalam).

     2)    In the traditional Konkani method, chili powder is not used. Instead, 15 to 20 hot red chiles are deep fried in the yam fried oil. Then they, along with the tamarind bit are ground to fine paste. This paste is then diluted with water and boiled. Then the cubes are added and boiled again. Finally, the other ingredients are pan fried and added in the order described in this recipe. This pickle is much hotter than the one given in this recipe. Hot chili lovers love this traditional eye watering version.

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