When we drive down to the south of India, usually a 2 days journey, we eat at the restaurants on the highways. As we cross a border to state of Kerala, we look the stalls that serve traditional meals, meals in banana leaves. Sadik calls them Nadan Bakshanam.
These roadside restaurants are modest, with a light roof made of dried coconut leaves, and airy, cozy atmosphere.
From the road, we pick a restaurant. The smoke trails up from the kitchen in the back. Something is being cooked on the wood-burning stove, and it must taste rustic and delicious. The smell of fried fish instantly makes my stomach growl, and we are absolutely going to have another great meal.
As we sit down, an old man walks towards us with some banana leaves. He tells us about the special of the day and places 3 glistening fresh green leaves in front of us. There is no menu, and the food is cooked based on local and seasonal produce. Sadik speaks to him, and I can understand a bit of their conversation. “Meen” means fish. And today we are getting some spiny eels on the side. The man smiles at me and Yaseen after he asks Sadik where we’re from. A place like this is always so friendly, and the meal is always great.
Food is served really fast, and in a way that makes us respect a meal. I don’t know how to explain it. I think we especially feel appreciated when we’re treated like family in these humble places.
Few cooked vegetables are spooned to the banana leaves, then rice, so much rice, some spicy pickle of course, and then the thick, spicy vegetable stew called Sambar is ladled over the rice. Papadum is deep fried lentil cracker, kind of. It’s something we like to steal from each other’s plate. And oh, here it comes, my favorite dish, yellowish, creamy yogurt curry with pieces of winter melon in it. This curry is sour and packed with flavor. I always ask for more to mix with rice. The sour flavor of homemade yogurt is gorgeous, light and fresh. A plate of fried fish comes to complete a meal. It’s hot and smells divine. This is a meal we’re going to remember for a long time.
Winter Melon and Yogurt Curry is called Moru in Malayalum (Kerala Language). There are many varieties of Moru Curries. Some has pumpkin, some has yam, some has winter melon and some is made with just rice flour. The key ingredient is fresh yogurt. It should be sour and creamy. This curry is very easy to make, and it requires minimal and basic ingredients. Moru Curry should be served with rice, and my favorite way to have this curry is to add some spicy fried fish or meat stew on the side.
Winter Melon and Yogurt Curry
500 gm Winter Melon
2 cup Yogurt
2-4 fresh green chilies- slit in halves
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Peel winter melon, discard the seeds, and slice it into chunky cubes.
Add winter melon cubes into a pot with just enough water to cover them. Also add green chilies, turmeric powder and salt. Cook until the winter melon cubes are soft. I use pressure cooker to cook them, but you can also use regular pot which should takes about 20-30 minutes.
Beat yogurt in a bowl until light and creamy.
In another pot, heat vegetable oil and add mustard seeds.
When the mustard seeds splutter, add curry leaves and fenugreek seeds.
Then add cooked winter melon and all the liquid immediately.
Bring to boil and add yogurt. Stir well and turn off the heat so the curry won’t split.
Check the seasoning. Add a little more salt if needed.
Serve with some rice.