Recipe for thouthe koddel / Mangalore cucumber curry
Thouthe koddel is what I grew up eating. Grandma and mother would make it at least once a week. It’s spicy, sour and is balanced perfectly well with a little jaggery. Like most Mangalorean curries, this one too has a coconut based ground spice mix. Koddel can be made with many vegetables – ash gourd, okra/lady’s finger, Malabar spinach and others. But my koddel was made with Mangalore cucumber, also called Madras cucumber, Thouthe in Tulu and southe kai in Kannada. It is a part of the cucumber family and the texture is close to that of bottle gourd, but tastier. Ideally it shouldn’t be turned into mush. Thouthe pieces should hold their shape and form and have a bit of give when you bite into them.
Touthe isn’t available in Gurgaon. Trust me, I’ve checked everywhere. Thankfully a friend was returning from Bangalore and brought me one upon my request. Perfectly sized, this thouthe was everything I needed. I quickly roasted the needed spices and some coconut to grind them all together to make the spice mix. I took my time with the grinding, making sure I get a relatively smoother paste than I would make otherwise. All that was left to do is mix it with the cooked thouthe and water. A tadka later, my thouthe koddel was ready to be served with hot rice and a dollop of ghee.
I’ve read other recipes online that call for peppercorns, coriander, ginger and garlic in the ground masala. Adding these spices will turn the curry into a gassi. And I’ve also read how they add cooked dal in the koddel. Ideally, dal is added when you make a Mangalore/Udupi style sambar along with a ground coconut masala.
Thouthe/Mangalore cucumber or ash gourd – 2 cups cut into big chunks/cubes (1 inch pieces approx)
Tamarind water – 1 cup (add a little more if it isn’t sour enough)
Jaggery or palm sugar – 2 tbsp
For the masala:
Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
Dried red chillies – 3-4 medium ones (deseed them if you want to avoid the heat)
Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Channa dal/split chickpeas – 2 tsp
Udad dal/split black gram – 3 tsp
Ghee or coconut oil – 2 tbsp + 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Garlic – 3 cloves with skin and crushed lightly
Dried red chillies – 2
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Cut the thouthe and put the pieces in a pressure cooker. Fill it with water enough to cover the pieces and add a little salt.
Cook on high flame till one whistle is released. Take it off the heat and release the pressure. I don’t let the pressure drop on its own because the vegetable might overcook. Don’t discard the water.
While the thouthe cooks, get on with the masala.
Heat 1 tsp coconut oil, vegetable oil or ghee a nonstick pan and roast all the ingredients for the masala. You could do it all together or one by one. Make sure you roast the grated coconut in the end.
Roast the coconut till it’s lightly brown.
Bring them all to room temperature before grinding them into a smooth paste. Don’t forget to add water while grinding. Just enough to make a paste.
Bring the thouthe in its cooking water back up to heat, add the masala, jaggery and tamarind water. Check for salt and adjust accordingly.
Let it simmer on low heat for about 5-6 mins. Take it off the heat while you prepare the tadka.
Heat your tadka pan with 2 tsp coconut oil or ghee.
Once hot, add the mustard seeds, dried red chillies and garlic.
Once the mustard seeds splutter, add the curry leaves and turn off the heat.
Now top the koddel with this tadka and you’re done!