While growing up I did not mind helping my amma in the kitchen when she was cooking although I did not like to do any other household chores per se (especially washing dishes or clothes! ). One thing that I also did not like doing was to clean the greens and chop them for making the thoran. Now let me breakdown the tasks involved here so you can appreciate why I was not thrilled to do this. OK so cleaning the greens was quite a task since they used to come with the dirt included which meant rinsing them in 3 to 4 pots of water, letting the sand settle on the bottom and again rinsing it and so on and so forth until the rinse water ran clear. And then came the chopping part – actually the word ‘chopping’ does not accurately define what was needed. Amma and all the elders in the family always said that the finer the greens were chopped, the tastier the thoran! Hence a lot of patience was needed to finely shred the greens into really thin thread like shreds! At that time of course I did not agree with the elders! But ever since I began cooking them myself I have certainly noticed the difference in taste and now I am a believer. However having said that I still do not have the patience to finely shred and most of the times it’s a shred between a rough chop and a fine shred. Hey at least I am trying! 🙂
Thoran as I have mentioned before in some of my earlier posts is any vegetable side dish in Kerala cuisine that is a simple sauté of the vegetable with very basic ingredients like mustard seeds, cumin seeds, garlic and coconut. And of course the key ingredient in this simple sauté is coconut oil. Sometimes lentils like chana dal (split chick peas) or urad daal (split black gram lentils) are added too to provide an element of crunch. In some parts of Kerala like kochi it is common to also add a couple of shrimp (prawns) to the greens to give it added flavor. Either fresh or dried shrimp can be added.
This time I made this sauté with Kale. You can also use spinach or any other greens. I usually do spinach but I have to admit I loved the Kale thoran more than the spinach one – it was just incredibly flavorful. I could just eat this mixed with a bowl of rice and fresh yoghurt. Yum! Here’s the recipe. I have made some minor changes to my mom’s original recipe for convenience. For instance the actual recipe requires you to coarsely grind the coconut and cumin seeds while I just crush the cumin seeds and just use grated coconut.