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Field beans and chillies in a spicy sauce (Millagai mochai mandi)

Sometimes I crave spicy food, really spicy food, not the weak-assed tabasco sauce with mild heat. The spice should make you sweat, numb your palate and send your body into flight mode releasing very happy endorphins. These endorphins released by the brain cause you to both want to flee, but once your brain can override the panic reaction, the endorphins make you crave more and lead to an addiction to the spice. This is the type of heat I love.

This curry is just that, banging hot, sweat-inducing and lip-burning. The curry is bright, tart from the tamarind, earthy from the beans and then the chilli takes over. This curry is best served with rice.

Note: The best remedy for a palate that is overcome with chilli is NOT water or soda. They just calm the palate temporarily, and then the spice bounds back. The best remedy is yoghurt, bread and olive oil, or milk. The reason for this is that capsaicin, the spicy molecule, is oil soluble, and the fats will dissolve it from the receptors on the tongue and give you almost immediate relief.

This South Indian cookbook brings to my shelf the unique cuisine of the Chettinad Tamils in South India. This, now popular cuisine, is known to be extremely spicy, complex and distinct. This book is a wonderful collection of recipes that makes this cuisine accessible to us at home.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


1 + 2 tablespoons oil

3=18 green chillies, halved longitudinally, or to taste

1 tablespoon split urad dal

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

A generous sprinkling of asafoetida

12-15 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup sliced shallots

1 1/2 cups fresh field beans, val dal See note.

1 cup soaking water from rice

1 tablespoon tamarind paste

Salt, to taste

Cilantro, minced to garnish

Soak 1 cup of rice in 1 1/2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Sieve out the rice and keep the water. Set aside. This is the arisi mandi.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to a small pot and fry the chillies till they are a darker shade and soft. Remove from the oil and set aside.

In the same pan add the remaining oil and sautè the urad dal and fenugreek seeds for 20 seconds. Add the asafoetida and give a quick stir. Add the shallots and garlic and sautè on low heat till the onions are a light golden colour, about 4-5 minutes.

Add arisi mandi, tamarind, beans and salt and simmer gently for 12-15 minutes till the beans are cooked through. Do not overcook the beans, they need to have a soft bite to them. Turn off the heat,

Serve hot with the curry in a bowl topped with fried chillies and a sprinkling of cilantro.

Note: For this recipe, you can also use dried val beans. To use them, soak them overnight in water, pre-cook them in salted water for about 30 minutes till just cooked and add to the curry at the end. Do not overcook the beans, they will begin to fall apart.

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