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Govinda Dasu: Pachadlu (Chutneys)

Andhra vegetarian cuisine is noted for its spicy chutneys, which are called Pachaddlu in Telugu. Andhra meals remain incomplete without a course of pachadi annam, plain rice mixed with pachadi, usually with some ghee. Pachadi is usually made with raw or partly cooked or smoked vegetable. Sourness from the vegetable or tamarind, if the vegetable itself does not have intrinsically sour taste, is important. Even more important is the usage of a healthy amount of green and/or red chili peppers. Occasionally there are non-sour varieties of chutneys. Fenugreek seeds are an important ingredient, except in pappu pachadlu (dal based chutneys), in which they don’t belong! This chapter will group several types of pachadlu together as they all have similar if not identical recipe. Because of spice, oil and sourness, often pachadi lasts long. Some pachadlu are almost pickles, lasting at room temperature for weeks without spoiling. It is a good thing that they last long, as one can not consume large helpings of pachadi at once. Whenever I was about to eat my third helping of pachadi, my dad would say: pichchi vedhava pachchadi anta tinnadu – meaning the fool ate the entire amount of pachadi. Consumption of excess amount at once is not good for your stomach. However, it is hard to keep away from mouth watering pachadlu of Andhra!

Gongura Pachadi

Gongura pachadi is perhaps the most well known of Andhra recipes. It is also my favorite. My father told me about his uncle from Guntur used to arrive late evenings with a bag full of gongura and red chili peppers that Guntur district is famous for. He worked for the Indian Railways and was a frequent guest. Apparently the best gongura pachadi that my father ate is made by his Janaki attayya, whose husband is this late arriving uncle from Guntur. My grand mother told us stories of how she had to cook late evening to feed him a hot meal. However, you don’t need an uncle from Guntur to arrive late evening to get started. You start by acquiring couple of bunches of Gongura leaves from the New India Bazar on El Camino. These sour leaves are available in most big Indian stores in US metropolis these days. My father says that it is easier to buy Gongura leaves in the USA than in North India. If you do not have whole dry red chili peppers, fenugreek and black mustard seeds, you should pick those up at the store, along with a box of LG asafetida powder. If you can buy Guntur dry hot chili peppers, you are in luck. I am assuming you stock salt and a heavy oil like Peanut or Sesame or Safflower at home. You should, if you want to cook Indian!

Gongura leaves need to be plucked (remove the red petiole entirely), washed and laid out on cloth to soak out the water on them. The task is easiest accomplished by spreading out on the kitchen table and get your family to help with the task. Most of the bunch you picked up from the store is wasted because of branches and all the tough matter – you should avoid paying by-the-pound for gongura bunches. We often do the leaf preparation the night before and collect them in a bowl before breakfast. Heat a cup of oil for preparing three bunches in a large pan. Add one table spoon of fenugreek seeds, and when it darkens a bit, one table spoon of mustard seeds and one dozen dried whole red chili peppers. Add quarter spoon of asafetida powder and the green gongura leaves. Add two spoons of salt, mix and cover the pan. When the gongura leaves reduce to a small lump and are cooked turn the heat off. Grind to a rough paste in a blender, and you are done.

I hope you remembered to have started cooking some plain rice ahead of the gongura pachadi making. Your mouth will be watering and you can dive in promptly. In principle, the pachadi can keep for days at room temperature and weeks in the fridge. In practice, the pachadi will be finished long before that.

Ingredients

Gongura leaves – 3 bunches, yielding leaves that fill 1 gallon container
Oil – 1 cup
Fenugreek seeds – 1 table spoon
Mustard seeds (black) – 1 table spoon
Whole red chili peppers – 1 dozen (20 if you want it hot)
Asafetida powder – quarter tea spoon
Salt – 1 table spoon

 

 

Govinda Dasu Cookbook : Tomato pappu

Ingredients:

  • Arhar ka dal – 1 cup
  • Water – 3 cups
  • Salt 1-2 teaspoons
  • Tomatoes – 2
  • Imli (Tamarind) – a tiny lemon sized ball
  • Green chillies – 2 small
  • Coriander leaves – 2-3 strands
  • Red chilli powder – ½ spoon
  • Turmeric – ¼ spoon
  • Hing – ¼ spoon
  • Jeera – ½ spoon
  • Mustard (avalu) – ½ spoon
  • Red chiilies –  2 or 3

Steps:

  1. In a vessel, add 1 cup arhar ka dal (kandi pappu or toor dal) and 2 cups water. Either cook it slowly in medium heat while adding water as needed until dal (pappu) is completely cooked and soft. Or place vessel in a rice cooker with 2-3 steam whistles.
  2. In a pan, add 2 table spoons of oil. Warm the oil in medium high heat. Add a quarter spoon methi (menthulu). Add a ½ spoon jeera and 1 big or 2 small red chilles. Add ½ spoon of mustard. Add a sprinkle of hing powder. Wait till mustard (avalus ) splutter. Add cut tomatoes and green chillies. Add 1 spoon of salt and a sprinkle of turmeric. Let it stir fry /cook.
  3. In a bowl soak a small ball of tamarind (3-4 tamarind leaves) in warm water. After 5 minutes, squeeze tamarind leaves and prepare tamarind essence/juice. Add tamarind juice (¼ cup) to the boiling tomatoes. Let it all cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add the cooked dal to the oooked/sauted tomatoes. Taste and add ½ spoon of salt if needed.
  5. Let the above mixture simmer. Stir occasionally with heat in medium high heat. If it boils over, reduce heat to medium to medium low. Add a sprinkle of red chilli powder if needed after tasting the dal.
  6. Garnish it with finely cut corriander leaves (kothamalli).
  7. Switch off heat and cover the dish with a lid.
  8. Serve with steamed rice or chapati or roti.

Govinda Dasu Cookbook : Lemon Rice

Ingredients

  1. Oil
  2. Senega pappu
  3. Minna pappu
  4. Dry red chillies
  5. Green chillies
  6. Aavalu
  7. Ingua
  8. Karuvepakku
  9. Pasupu
  10. Lemons
  11. Rice
  12. Butter
  13. Cashews or peanuts

Steps

  1. In a small pan, add 2 tablespoons of peanut or vegetable or saffola oil. Switch on medium high heat. Add 2-3 tea spoons of chane ka dal (senega pappu) . After 1 minute, when chane ka dal is partially roasted, add 4-6 tea spoons of urad ka dal (mina pappu). Add 2 red whole dry chillies. Add 2-3 tea spoons of mustard seeds (aavalu). Add a sprinkle of hing (asafoetida) . Let the mustard seeds splutter. Remove the pan from stove and place it on a place mat. Add small cut karipatha leaves (karuvepakkulu)
  2. Add 2 spoons of salt and ½ spoon of haldi (turmeric i.e. pasupu) .
  3. Now squeeze 2 lemons(nimbapandulu) on top of the above tadka (thiragamatha).
  4. In a large bowl, add 1 cup of cooked rice. Add above lemon juice essence. With a spatula, gentle mix the lemon juice with the rice until juice and uniformly mixed.
  5. In a small pan, add 1 spoon of oil/ 1 slice of butter and 6-8 halved cashews.  In medium heat, roast them. Garnish lemon rice with roasted cashews. Instead of roasted cashews, you can garnish with dry roasted peanuts as well.
  6. Serve with potato chips or vadiyalu as you wish.

Govinda Dasu Cookbook : Rava Kesari

Ingredients:

  1. Rava (suji /cream of wheat) – 2 cups
  2. Sugar – 2 cups
  3. Water – 2 cups
  4. Elaichi (cardamom) – 10 pieces
  5. Saffron – a pinch
  6. Butter – 2 sticks
  7. Cashews – 10-15

Steps

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, add 4 slices of butter. Let it melt for a minute in medium heat. Add 2 cups of rava (cream of wheat a.k.a suji ) . Roast it in medium high heat until golden in color.
  2. Add 2 cups of water. Mix the rava and water nicely. Let the rava cook in medium high heat. Carefully mix the rava and water so lumps do not form. (lump formation means some rava is uncooked in the center of lump).
  3. After the rava is cooked nicely, add 2 cups of sugar. And mix the cooked and rava and sugar nicely until sugar is melted and blended in nicely.
  4. While mixing the sugar and cooked rava, add 1 stick of butter.
  5. Mix the ingredients in the container nicely. Lower heat to medium if needed.
  6. If the ingredients look sticky, add another half a stick of butter.
  7. All of above steps should take 10-15 minutes of time. Now add powdered elaichi and a pinch of saffron (kumkum puvulu) . Mix them nicely.
  8. Remove from stove and place the container on the counter.
  9. In another small pan, add a small slice of butter and roast 10-15 cashew halves.
  10. Top the rava kesari with roasted cashews.

Note: Roasted cashews and powdered elaichi (cardamom) can be prepared ahead and placed on the side for use in steps 7 and 10.

 

Govinda Dasu Cookbook : Chapter 1: Aloo Fry

Anyone who knows me should know that Aloo Fry has to have a chapter of its own in my recipe book. Few Friday evenings in Santa Clara went by without Aloo Fry on the menu. Besides, if you have been to my room at home or been to my grade school presentation, you would have seen my famous Aloo Fry poster.

My father tells me that his maternal grandmother owned a heavy brass fry pan, which played the most crucial role in the preparation of her famous Aloo Fry. A heavy 12-inch non-stick pan is definitely an acceptable substitute, as her brass pan has long bitten dust.

Although not part of Aloo Fry recipe, you may want to start to cook some plain rice in the back burner before you start preparing the fry.  You will want to immediately start eating when the fry is ready!

You should always plan on at least two medium potatoes per person, or you will not have any aloo fry left for yourselves when it comes to the concluding yogurt-rice course. The number of potatoes should be between four and ten for a 12-inch skillet, otherwise you will end up with either burnt or lumped up fry. California white rose potatoes work the best, but those rose-peeled versions are acceptable. If you are using Idaho potatoes, do get rid of those pesky black spots. I would avoid the yellow-gold potatoes from Yukon. It is of utmost importance to cut the potatoes properly. If you manage to get the potatoes peeled and cut in cubes with sides measuring 0.6 ± 0.2 cm you are doing well. I would definitely recommend practicing the peeling of the entire potato without ever breaking the peel. Such obsession will ensure that potato cubes are properly cut. My mother certainly disagrees with this recommendation, although my father approves, having passed this important tidbit to me.

Put two to four table spoons of peanut/sunflower/safflower/sesame oil (do avoid using lighter canola oil) in the pan and heat at medium-high level. Before the oil fumes, add the potatoes and mix them carefully so that the oil coats all the potato pieces. Do not ever put pressure on the potatoes. Rather, you should tilt the pan slightly and mix the potatoes with the plastic spatula using gravity assistance for tossing! Do not overdo the mixing, but do not leave the kitchen to watch the TV show either. Periodic mixing till the potatoes are golden-brown does need some level of obsession. You can go to the fridge and get green curry leaves, wash, dry and keep ready for future use, to keep you occupied. You can also ensure that the water from the rice dish on the backburner is not spilling over. Do keep powdered salt, inguva(asafetida), turmeric and red-chilies handy.

As the potatoes turn light brown, add powdered salt (0.5 teaspoons per person), inguva (a pinch) and turmeric (a pinch). Turn the potatoes with light touch and gravity assistance. If you have already got some potato stuck to the pan, do not fret. Try to scrape the potato mash out with plastic spatula without putting undue pressure on the remaining potato cubes. The scrapes will fry to darker brown adding texture and taste. After that minute of struggle and cussing, lower the heat and add green curry leaves and red-chili powder (0.25 teaspoons per person). Your mouth should be already watering watching the golden-brown potatoes with hues of red. You will thank yourselves for having the foresight of preparing the plain rice ahead of this aloo fry.

If you are tempted to eat the aloo fry with all courses of meal including the yogurt-rice course, it is normal. If you finish the aloo fry without sharing with anyone, you should feel free to forgive yourselves, as it is not your fault.

Potatoes and chili peppers trace their origins to South America, but make no mistake that this recipe is definitely from Krishna Region. After all, red chili peppers have made Guntur their home.

Govinda Dasu – Vegetarian Cookbook

Foreword

Home is best defined by the smells, tastes and the looks of the foods, which the family partakes in, together. We go off on those long culinary expeditions, only to return home to those family meals. Our family tastes, originating in the brahmin homes of Andhra Pradesh in India, are passed on to me by my parents and grandparents, as they were raising me in the Silicon Valley. While we cannot trace back the ingredients beyond the Safeway at Rivermark, or the New India Bazar on El Camino, the recipes, minimally refined my parents, go back to my ancestors, geographically separated from us by thousands of miles and several generations. Heavily spiced they may be, but subtleties are unmistakably familial. Static, the recipes are not. There is always innovation, adaptation and amalgamation, sometimes scorned by the purists in the family, but eventually accepted with pride as our own. I am sharing these recipes with you with the hope that you will import some of them, to satiate your own palates for generations to come. I will tell some stories along the way to keep you amused.

Of particular note is the influence of mothers and grandmothers on our family palate. River Krishna and its canals meander through the rich agrarian communities near the new capital at the old city of Amaravati of Andhra Pradesh State. My grandmother’s family hails from Nuzividu, which is famous for its mangoes. However, it is her grandmother from Vuyyuru, who influenced my meals in the Silicon Valley. Much like the genes in my blood, some of my great-grandmother’s mukkala pulusu seems to flow in me! Recipes coming from this branch of my family will be labeled as from Krishna Region. My mother’s ancestors hail from a lost village south of Krishna, on the banks of the temperamental Penna River. They migrated further south to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, and then to Delhi and Simla, way up North. Yet, my mother’s cooking unmistakably traces back to the southern cooking style of Andhra, with some traces of Tamil styles. My mother’s recipes will be labeled as from Penna Region. North of Krishna flows the mightier Godavari with its expansive delta – if there is any influence of their Kona Seema style in our recipes, it is only accidental. Hailing from Krishna and Penna Deltas, I am raised to scorn at those foreign tastes – who in the right mind would put jaggery (raw sugar) in avakaya (raw mango pickled in mustard). Although my family heritage patriarchally dates to 1400s and is documented to hail from the State of Maharashtra to the west of India, there is little from Marathi style in our palate. After all, any excessive use of besan (chick pea flour) is also to be scorned at. If there is any influence of Marathi style, it is because my grandmother spent her summer breaks in Lonavala and Parbhani, in the far reaches of Marathwada, where my grandmother’s father worked for the Deccan railways, although he hailed from Nuzividu. Apparently, she picked up the techniques of making chapathis and aloo curry with besan during those trips. Although my grandmother spent much of her life in the city of Hyderabad, there is no trace of the famous Hyderabadi cuisine in our family recipes. After some research I concluded that this aversion to Hyderabadi cuisine is only because of one particular popular ingredient that is abhorred by our family, allam-ellipai (ginger & garlic) paste. While I may positively enjoy the garlic rolls at Tomatina’s in Mercado, I would never tolerate garlic in my beans koora.

My parents entertained friends and insisted on cooking gigantic meals. They worked together and competed all day to cook up a storm. Those meals were special, but with quite a bit of corruption, for example by including recipes adopted and adapted from Punjab and beyond. I will indicate those as foreign foods. Bon Apetit!

Lord Venu Gopala of Thotlavalluru, Andhra Pradesh

Govinda Dasu

Nestled amongst the green fields north of Vijayawada, along the banks of a canal carrying the water from the Krishna river, in the village of Thotla Valluru, is a beautiful small temple of Lord Venu Gopala Swamy. Apparently the temple was established by the followers of the great Vishnavite Saint Ramanjuacharya, who helped revive Hinduism in India, several hundred years ago. The remarkably well maintained gopuram leads one to the lovely temple. Inside, the dark Venu Gopala idol is decorated with an exquisitely engraved brass arch depicting two of his consorts, Rukmani and Satyabhama. On the right of the Lord is the sanctum of His heavenly consort Sri Devi, and on His left resides His earthly consort Goda Devi. Inscribed in the wall of Sri Devi’s sanctum, Anjaneya respectfully and adoringly watches over his Lord’s consort.

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Outside in the courtyard is a room with Venu Gopala’s vahanas. The beautifully carved brass  Anjaneya and Garuda vahanas, artfully painted enhancing features such as eyes and beak, rival those at Tirumala. The unique ashta-nari vahanam at Thotla Valluru depicts brightly colored women figurines vying to support their favorite Lord Venu Gopala.

This Venu Gopala temple culture is an apt example of the madhura bhakti marga evolving from the dwaita philosophy of Ramanuja. Indeed the mythical characters depicted in the temple remain representative of the lives of hindus making pilgrimages to Thotla Valluru over the years. Apparently the vishnavite jeers hailing from Ramanuja sect still visit annually for grand temple festivities. Howe
ver,  gone are much of the rich land holdings of the temple, usurped by local landlords. Apparently, those landlords are so abhorred that their families are no longer welcome in the temple. Unfortunately, gone or the throngs who visited this temple in the past as well. And, most noticeably totally gone are the devadasi’s who adoringly sang and danced for the Lord.

A little over a century ago my grand-father’s great-grand-father Mahakavi Dasu Sriramulu must have been enthralled by the temple and its culture, and beholden by the Lord Venu Gopala himself to pen his beautiful padams in his honor. Apparently he was sitting in this temple courtyard while writing the lyrics like valachiti rA ninnu, which we heard set to durbAru rAgam on the way to the temple. Perhaps, iddari pondElara in jhinjhUti rAgam is referring to Rukmani and Satyabhama. Although the culture of devadasi’s remains alien, this visit to Thotla Valluru temple provided us some context, if not clarity, for the adoring devotion of those women folk to the dark Lord Venu Gopala.

The temple is currently maintained immaculately by Mr. Panchangam Appanna Kumar, using the income from the remaining land holdings and occasional visitors like us. I strongly recommend a visit to Thotla Valluru to all my extended family on their next trip to Vijayawada area. Perhaps, someone amongst you will take good pictures and videos making a virtual visit possible. Mr. Kumar said that he will be bringing out a book on the heritage of this small old temple. Let’s contribute what we can to sustain this illustrious heritage.