The Modern Amchi: Celebrating my roots

Given the fact that I’m a Mangalorean who has lived in Chennai all her life and then moved to Bangalore and now in Mumbai, the food that constitutes ‘home food’ for me, has a multitude of influences. So one day we may be having a typical amchi (that’s what we call ourselves) meal of bendi (a spicy gravy with pulses), kosambari (salad), upkari (a vegetable preparation), rice and dal at home, the next day it could be varan-bhaat (dal-rice, Maharashtrian style) or even puliogare (tamarind rice) with potato roast the following day. While it is great in terms of variety, for me, the advantage is that I’ve got to learn so many styles of cooking closely. Add this to the fact that I’m a worshipper of anything food and you have someone whose idea of relaxing is romancing with the pots and pans!

Let me tell you a little bit about myself, to put things into context. No, not me as a person; but more on the lines of the community I hail from. I’m a Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin and my roots can be traced to Kashmir, yes, right up till there. It is said that the ancestors fled and then settled along the Konkan coast. My family has roots in this little town close to Mangalore called Bankikodla, if you’ve heard of Gokarna, then it’s right next to that.

That’s a village school in Bankikodla

On the blog, I’ve written about different kinds of food but, the other day when I stepped back to review I realised I need to do more about the cuisine that is really me. While I’m a die-hard fan of the CSB style of cooking, I also know that given Google’s wide network it isn’t difficult to find a recipe these days. Of late, I’ve been receiving a lot of queries from my readers, who’ve been asking about using different kinds of ingredients and adapting it to Indian food. That’s when an idea struck, how about combining modern ingredients and using them in the CSB/amchi style of cooking? I tried this out at home first, got some people at work to taste it, had the family give me honest opinions and I was thrilled to observe that people wanted to know more, and were game to experiment.

That’s how this series, The Modern Amchi, was born. As a part of this, I will share one recipe a month which uses modern ingredients adapted to the CSB/Amchi/Mangalorean style of cooking.

Where to begin? Really, where. I’ve always had a starting problem. That’s probably one of the typical Capricorn traits in me! I was in a bit of a fix – I didn’t want to do something way too complicated nor did I want to do something too simple. Finding that balance was the key.

The other day when I chanced upon a pile of fresh broccoli in the market, I skeptically asked the vendor about the price, and when he told me it was just Rs. 30 I was shocked! Just a couple of weeks ago the prices of broccoli were sky-high due to a shortage. That was the only signal I needed and I bought more than what I needed, confident that it wouldn’t go waste.

Green gorgeousness: Broccoli
Image source:

So apart from the usual soup or salad or Au Gratin or Thai curry, I thought I should do something different. I wanted to make something home style, but what?

That’s when I realised I could make a talasani. Now, this an Amchi dish (I’m sure you guessed that), which is similar to a stir-fry. The vegetable is sauteed in oil with some garlic, a bit of chilli powder is added to up the flavours. That’s how simple it is! Talasani is a combination of the words ‘tel‘ meaning oil and ‘lasun‘ meaning garlic, which are essential to the dish. This dish can be made with a variety of vegetables, usually a single vegetable is used in a dish, unlike an upkari (similar to the south Indian poriyal or bhaji up north) which can use a combination of vegetables. You can make a talasani with potato (this is the most famous and most loved version, I’ve yet to meet someone who hates batata talasani), tendli (ivy gourd), French beans, bhindi (lady’s finger) or even cauliflower.

Here’s how it is made

1 medium-sized broccoli floret, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 cloves of garlic, slightly bruised
1/2 tsp of chilli powder
Salt to taste

Take a heavy-bottomed pan/kadai or kayli, as we call it in Konkani. Heat some oil in this and add the garlic to it. Move it around a bit and then add the pieces of broccoli to this. Stir it well, add the chilli powder and sprinkle a few drops of water. Cover and allow it to cook.

Keep checking occasionally to ensure it doesn’t get burnt. If you find it charring a bit, then keep sprinkling water. But broccoli cooks fast, so you shouldn’t have a problem with this vegetable. However if you are using potatoes or even lady’s finger, then you need to keep a close watch on the dish. When the broccoli is done, check the seasoning and turn off the flame.

Serve with dal-rice or even with some rotis and dal. It tastes great on it’s own too. You just need some dahi (curd/ yogurt) to round off the meal.

* You can use even the stem of the broccoli in this recipe, it is a powerhouse of nutrients and doesn’t take too long to cook, though you may want to cut it a little smaller than the other pieces

*I don’t peel the garlic in this recipe, the skin crisps up to a beautiful golden brown and it’s delicious! If you aren’t comfortable with this, then by all means peel the garlic

*You can make talasani with asparagus, pok choi or even baby corn, I’ve tried each of these and they’re all awesome. But my favourite remains the version with broccoli, I’m biased like that!

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