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Yams with ground coconut (Chena Erissari) - Indian curry series 2

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

This recipe is from the small Suriani community in Kerala, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world (a very nice detailed history of the community here). This community developed a unique cuisine that today is quite well known.

An erissari (or erissary) is a traditional curry from Kerala where a vegetable, lentil or meat is cooked with spices and ground fresh coconut and then finished with roasted coconut. This curry is quintessentially Keralite, and the variations numerous. These curries are usually quite thick, coating the vegetable or meat heavily, and well flavored. The use of coconut in two different forms, fresh wet, and roasted dry coconut highlights the importance of the coconut tree to this culture.

In tis recipe, I used purple yams (aka kandh or ratalu) a delicious slightly sweet tuber. You can substitute any root vegetable, plantains, any pumpkins ro squashes in this recipe. The recipe will take on the flavors of the vegetable you use, and will always be delicious.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


1 lb yams, plantains, root vegetables, or pumpkins of your choice

1 cup water

Salt to taste

For the spice paste:

1/2 cup grated fresh coconut, frozen okay

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1-2 green chiles

1 teaspoon ground cumin

For tempering:

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

6 small shallots, finely diced

1 tablespoon grated fresh coconut

6-8 curry leaves

2 dried red chiles

2-3 teaspoons oil

Add the yams, water, oil, and salt to a pot and cook till the vegetable is soft and tender. Mash some of the vegetable gently with the back of the spatula.

Meanwhile, make the spice paste by adding all ingredients to a small blender and blitzing to a smooth puree. Add this puree to the cooked yams and cook for another 5 minutes on a gentle simmer. At this stage you should have a relatively thick curry, one that clings to the vegetables heavily.

In a very small pot, heat the oil and add all the ingredients. Cook on a medium flame till the onions turn golden and are beginning to caramelize, about 3-5 minutes. Pour this over the cooked yams and mix in well. Taste for salt and spice. Serve immediately.

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