Chettinad spinach mandi (Keerai mandi)

Updated: Apr 26

A mandi is the water used to wash rice, not the superb Yemeni (now more Arab) rice dish, in this case. As you allow polished rice to sit in water, it extrudes starch that dissolves in water. This gentle and small amount of starch is used in dishes from the Chettinad region as a thickening agent in curries. The effect is not as dramatic as adding a teaspoon, or two, of rice flour, but a subtle change in texture, more like making the curry slightly creamy. This curry is super simple to make, A subtle curry that highlights the flavors of spinach in a creamy mandi. The chilies add a pop of spice and there is very little else to distract from the sweetness of spinach and the delicate texture of the sauce. I love how this dish turned out. This was a dish I really enjoyed. This has been a book I have been cooking from more recently, as much to learn new cooking techniques and learn about the culture, as to enjoy the fabulous recipes.

For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.



Ingredients:

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon husked and split black gram (urad) dal

1 green chili, sliced finely, or to taste

10 shallots, diced fine;y

3-4 garlic, minced

2 large bunched spinach, well washed, and roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups mandi, see below

1/2 teaspoon rice flour, optional

2 tablespoons coconut milk’

Salt to taste


2 cups rice

Water, as needed


To make the mandi, rinse out 2 cups rice in water quickly. Add 2 cups water and gently rub the rice between your fingers for a few minutes. Let the water sit for 15 minutes. The cloudy water, with the rice starch is the mandi. A quick way of making mandi is to dissolve the rice flour in the water, add a few tablespoons of water to the flour and stir well to get a smooth paste. Gently add more water till completely dissolved and there are no lumps. But we are sticking with the original recipe, as this dish is served with rice.

Heat the oil to a wok ot deep sauce pan and add the mustard seeds. They will pop in about 10 seconds, add the lentils and chilies and sauté on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and continue cooking till the shallots are cooked through and translucent, but not browned, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the spinach and sauté till the spinach has just wilted, about 1 minute. Add the mandi liquid and salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. At this point the liquids should start to thicken a bit and have a nice texture. You will not see a thick sauce, just a very subtle change in the texture of the liquid. Add the coconut milk and continue simmering for about 4-5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt as needed.

Serve in deep bowls with rice on the side.

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