One of the reasons I find South Kanara food so intriguing is that the exact same dish made by two different cooks ends up tasting completely different. My secret (though not quite original*) hypothesis is that the flavors of the food meld with the personalities of the chef. And the end result can be rather startling. Robust, bold curries emerge from the kitchens of bashful, self-effacing aunts; simple, satisfying pallyas made by taciturn, fastidious uncles.
Speaking of which, pallyas (not fastidious uncles) are one of the cornerstones of our evening meal at home. All kinds of vegetables were introduced to us, camouflaged in a benign pallya. Beans, cabbage, peans, suvarna gedde (literal: "golden tuber") have all featured in starring roles, at one time or the other.
The delightful thing about South Kanara cooking in general and pallya in particuar, is that it lends itself to infinite variation. On a school night, the pallya in question was a humble, no-frills affair. Chopped vegetables, with barely a hint of curry leaves. Perhaps some green chili echoing in the background... If guests dropped by or if we wanted to take it up a notch, a little jaggery and tamarind slipped in. Sometimes a quick squirt of lemon juice. And then of course, there is the dressed-to-impress pallya. This is the no-holds-barred pallya, decked in coriander, coconut and red chili. The vegetables boldly hold their own amidst the fanfare of all these exotic spices.
Ya gotta love 'em all!
I remember digging into my no-frills beans pallya and tomato saaru on a weeknight, pensively contemplating homework or some other injustice meted out at school! Such comfort food. Many years later, I marvelled at the uncomplicated genius of kene gedde (a.k.a. suran, elephant yam) pallya. The pallya brought back the simple pleasures of eating together, of a home-cooked meal... And then of course, there is the all-dressed-up pallya thats served at wedding feasts and such. Quite unforgettable! Even among, culinary celebrities like chitranna and all kinds of sambhar and huli, the pallya would shine.
So this weeks feature is beans pallya, a common feature from my menu(picture above). I confess that I've served it as a pallya, just as often as a side dish. I know, blasphemous! What to do - everybody likes it!
*The original idea for 'culinary witchcraft' came from Aunty Alia in Midnight's Children. What can I say, I'm a sucker for all things Bombay :-)
This post is for Asha of Foodie's Hope - hostess extraordinaire and wonderful, wonderful person. She is hosting RCI (Regional Cuisines of India) featuring Karnataka Cuisine this month. I can't wait for the round-up!