This is an acquired taste. Kochu (arbi) or Taro root is something I learned to eat after marriage, I mean in this style. Kochu was never really cooked very much in our house, reason being my father is diabetic so, there was and well still is a restriction on the amount of root vegetables being cooked in the house. We would have kochu once in a while and our cook housekeeper knew only one single way to make it, arbi fry, he would boil them, slice them and then fry them in a mix of very heavy spice. Though, I like the change of taste every once in a while, I was never particularly fond of it. Mum did not cook much of kochu either so my palette had a very limited experience of kochu.
Well all that changed after marriage. My mother-in-law ( ma ) is very good with cooking root vegetables and this is something I had tasted for the first time, kochu in a completely new avatar and I fell in love with it. The combination of spices, the mildness of the curry , the succulent arbi, without tasting hard or bland just had the right balance of flavour. On a hot day, light Kochur jhol ( translated as taro root in a runny gravy ) with rice and you do not need anything else. Ma cooks oal ( elephant foot yam) in the same way and it is lip-smacking, I would trade fish curry for kochur dalna any day.
Now there are really 2 ways to make them. You can go strictly vegetarian as in the satvik curry by using cumin seeds, ginger paste, asafoetida, dried red chili pepper or the vegetarian with onion . I went with the later. When I told mum about the recipe, she was pleasantly surprised. From where she comes, five spices (panch phoran) and onions are never really cooked together that too in a vegetarian dish. But cooking is all about experimenting and learning . So I took the chance and well, I don’t know if it tastes exactly, the same as ma, but P seems to have liked it and I was satisfied so, I am not complaining.
- Taro root- about – 6 -quartered ( ma slices them into disks but I like it quartered)
- Panch Phoron ( Bengali five spices, available at any South Asian grocery store )- 1 teaspoon
- Onion – 1 finely chopped
- Crushed Ginger/ginger paste- 1.5 teaspoons
- turmeric- 1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon
- red chili powder- 1 + 1 teaspoon
- coriander powder- 1 teaspoon
- cumin powder- 1 teaspoon
- red chili pepper flakes
- dried red chili- 2-3
- green chilies – 2
- mustard oil 0 4 tbs + 2 tbs
- salt- as per taste
- lime juice
- coriander leaves
- First set a pan full of water on boil. Meanwhile, peel the taro roots ( arbi/kochu) and wash them carefully. Taro roots have a lot of dirt on them. So here is what I do, I wash them then peel them, then wash them again in boiling hot water and then finally set them aside to drain.
- Next dry the taro roots and wipe them clean with a kitchen towel. On a clean chopping board chop the taro roots in quarters. Next rub the taro roots with salt, chili powder and turmeric powder.
- Heat a wok with 2 table spoon of mustard oil and gently fry the taro roots. You should not overcook them, just enough to have brown spots on them. This should take about 4-5 mins on medium heat. Drain the excess oil by placing them on a plate lined with kitchen roll.
- In the same wok/kadhai heat about 3 more table spoons of mustard oil, once smoking hot add the panch phoron , followed by dried red chilies and the green chilies. Temper them gently, we don’t want them to burn. Once the panch phoron starts releases its flavour, add the onions and saute them, till they turn pinkish. Next add the ginger paste and continue to saute for a couple of minutes.
- Now add the powder spices, turmeric and chili powder. For the coriander and cumin powder, I make them into a paste by adding water because that adds more flavour but you can add them in the powder form as well. Continue to saute till they start to release oil. Now add the taro roots and gently toss them, till they are coated with the spices.
- Next add 2 cups of warm water and salt and then cover the kadhai with a tight lid and let the gravy simmer on medium heat for about 15 mins. that is enough for the taro roots to cook. Remove the lid and turn up the heat, simmering it for a couple minutes. Finally, add the lime juice and the red chili flakes. If you feel the gravy is too thin, you can simmer it on high heat for a few more mins.
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
- You can use cumin seeds/Nigella seeds instead of Panch Phoran
- Works best with rice