Wednesday, 7 August 2013




In India, elephant foot yams (Chéna in Malayalam) are planted before the monsoon and dug up around 8 to 10 months later in summer when the plant foliage dries up. If however, you fail to harvest the yam or just leave it in the ground to grow further, the next season, it always brings forth a bloom long before the foliage shoot appears. This bloom is extraordinarily beautiful and you would feel reluctant to pluck it because of its bewitching beauty.

However, do not hesitate to pluck it before it opens fully; for once it opens, it gives out the foulest of odours like that of rotting flesh and is covered with hundreds of flies. The smell is so strong that your neighbours are likely to call the police. It would remind one of Rafflesia, the world's biggest and foulest smelling flower.

You can harvest this bloom any time before it blossoms or immediately after it opens in the morning. Never wait till late afternoon or you will have to pinch your nose and bury the flower. Yet before the smelling process starts, the bloom has no odour whatsoever. But for the dry outer sheath, every portion of the bloom when well-cooked is edible and unbelievably tasty. Every part of the bloom has got its own unique taste. The stir-fry is quite fragrant too.

I'm sure you will love it and enjoy it as much as my family does.


     1)    Elephant foot yam blooms – 2 Nos.
     2)    Dry hot red chilies – 4 Nos.
     3)    Coconut oil (for best taste) or any other cooking oil – 1½ tablespoons
     4)    Mustard seeds – ¼ teaspoons
     5)    Powdered salt – ¾ teaspoons
     6)    Water – 150 ml.

To Cook:

Wash the bloom and chop it finely. Break each dry red chili into 2 or 3 pieces and set aside. Set a cast iron wok (for best taste and soluble iron for health) on high heat. Pour in the coconut oil and tip in the mustard seeds.

As soon as the mustard seeds are about to finish crackling, throw in the broken red chilies. Stir twice and chuck in the chopped flower. Pour in the water and tip in the salt. Stir once and cover with lid. As it comes to a boil, turn down the fire and let cook slowly giving it an occasional stir. As soon as all the water has evaporated, the surna phulla upkari is ready to serve. Serve hot with rice or with cherupayar kanji or with porridge or by itself.



          While preparing any curry in which elephant foot yam cubes are used, you can substitute them with chopped elephant foot yam blooms for still better taste and texture.

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