Coconut Milk and Mint Charu

A jewel of a dish from Southern India.   Charu is a simple stew consisting mostly of lentils, tamarind, herbs flavored by spicy curry powder.  While the basic version with only lentils and tamarind in itself is a great comfort food, little tweaked up versions are absolutely amazing.  One such is Kobbari pala Charu or Coconut Milk Rasam.  It is however an unusual version of the charu and an exclusive recipe from a small region of Southern India.  I have never heard of this particular version before (Charu/Rasam is a part of everyday diet for us) until an year ago.

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Ingredients

For the Charu

  • 1 cup of uncooked split red lentils or Masoor.
  • Coconut Milk-  Add 3 cups of water to 1 cup of fresh grated coconut and blend.  Strain and collect the liquid (coconut milk).  Repeat with 2 cups of water. Alternatively you can also use canned coconut milk found in most of the International grocery stores (like the Hmart) and every Indian grocery store.
  • Mint leaves- 3-4 sprig
  • Shallots- few
  • 3 green chillies- Split lengthwise
  • Turmeric- a pinch (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Crushed coriander and fenugreek seeds (optional)

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For Tempering

  • 1Tbsp oil
  • 1/4 Tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 2-3 dry red chillies
  • Curry leaves

Recipe

  • Cook split red lentils until they are done.  If you use a pressure cooker, you can add 1/2 cup of dal with 1 cup of water. If you do not have a pressure cooker, add 1/2 cup of dal and 1 1/2  cup and boil in a heavy bottomed vessel on a stove top.  Once the lentils are done, mash the cooked lentil to a soft paste.
  • In a saucepan, add cooked lentils, coconut milk, chillies, mint leaves, shallots, salt and turmeric.
  • Add crushed coriander and fenugreek seeds if you are using
  • Bring to a boil and lower the heat and let it simmer for about 10 min.
  • Turn of the heat
  • For seasoning, heat oil and add mustard seeds.  Once they splutter, add remaining ingredients and add it to the prepared charu.
  • Goes well with plain rice.

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Note:

  • Original recipe uses split red gram or tuvar dal.
  • If you are using canned coconut milk, 1/2 can would be sufficient.  I have always found it to be  heavier and richer than the homemade coconut milk. NEVER use the sweetened coconut milk for this recipe.
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