Indians love their food piping hot and take pride in boasting about how they need their rotis to come straight from the tava. In summer, however, most crave something cooler—both for the stomach and the palate. What comes to mind generally is ice cream, cold drinks and chilled desserts, or savoury dishes such as dahi-wada, pani-puri, dahi-bhat and pakhala bhat or overnight soaked and fermented rice. But our diverse regional cuisines have some unique cooling curries too.
These are served chilled or, at best, at room temperature. Some curries are eaten raw, others are fermented, and a few are cooked partially, and are paired with rice or rotis.
There are no defined rules to what can be considered a curry. Some consume regional drinks as a light curry, like sattu (made from roasted Bengal gram flour) from Bihar and Rajasthan’s raab, which is made by boiling millet flour slurry in water mixed with sugar/ jaggery and/or spices. It is made usually from bajra or jowar but can also be made from corn or finger millet. “Cold raab is our go-to food item in summer,” says Karoona Kataria, a homemaker from Mumbai. Raab is more popular as hot drink for the winter in Rajasthan, when it is made from bajra or pearl millet. “But we also make it with jowar or sorghum flour and buttermilk in summer,” she says, adding that crushed cumin seeds make it flavourful and aid digestion. Kataria enjoys cold raab with pieces of jowar roti soaked in it.
Also read: Soak in the comfort of cooling rasams this summer
Solkadhi from the Konkan coast is one of the most famous cold curries. Coconut milk and the souring agent kokum are the two main ingredients that are mixed raw. Thanks to the numerous Malvani and Konkani eateries in Maharashtra and Goa, this light pink cold curry is popular among tourists.
Although solkadhi is consumed as an appetiser in restaurants, traditionally it is mixed with rice and eaten. Solkadhi-rice is the last course in many Konkani households, similar to the way curd rice is consumed in many south Indian households.
“In Goa, we also make futi kadi that doesn’t have coconut,” explains Sushma Kambli, owner of the Ramesh Restaurant, a small eatery that serves homemade vegetarian and non-vegetarian rice plates, on Anjuna beach, “Add finely chopped coriander leaves to kokum water and mix in crushed garlic and sliced green chillies. The delicious kadi is ready. It is much lighter than the one with coconut milk.”
A similar preparation, known as tambali, is popular in coastal Karnataka. Tambali-rice is comfort food for many in summer, made of fresh coconut and buttermilk. “Consider it our solkadhi,” explains Chitra Amembal, a retired banker from Mangaluru living in Mumbai, “Kokum is not grown in south Canara. But milk and milk products are in abundance, so we replaced kokum with buttermilk for the tangy taste.”
There are many variations to this traditional cuisine. There are plain tambalis as well as flavoured ones like sasambar panna tambali (carrom leaves), ankre tambali (tender leaves of ivy gourd) and lashne tambali (garlic tambali) that use one main ingredient in addition to coconut and buttermilk. In addition to condiments such as ginger, onions and red chillies, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, carrom leaves and Brahmi leaves are used. Brahmi leaves are known to have anti-anxiety properties. So, this raw curry, eaten with rice, cools you down in every sense.
Pachi pulusu is a summer favourite in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It is a spicy, uncooked, tamarind-based rasam. It is made by adding water to tamarind pulp and chopped raw onions, coriander greens and roasted green chillies. Some people add tempering—cumin seeds, mustard seeds, asafoetida, red chillies and curry leaves. “I make it every day to go with my rice,” says Chandhu R., an IT professional from Hyderabad, and adds, “Making sambhar or rasam takes a lot of time. Pachi pulusu, spiced with chopped raw onions, coriander greens and curry leaves, is cooling, quick, and yummy.”
Saniya Shekh, a receptionist at a private nursing home, from Patna, makes a cold curry with sattu. The roasted Bengal gram flour is mixed with water, cumin powder, raw onions, coriander leaves and green chillies. “I don’t like the hot and oily curries in summers,” says Shekh, “So I eat my rotis with this savoury sattu curry every day.”
CARROM LEAVES TAMBALI
FROM SOUTH CANARA
Recipe by Chitra Amembal
15-20 carrom leaves, washed and pat-dried
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pinch asafoetida
2 green chillies
Half teaspoon ghee
Half fresh coconut
Half cup of water
3 cups buttermilk
Salt to taste
Sauté the leaves, cumin seeds, asafoetida and chillies in ghee for 2-3 minutes. Grind in a mixer along with salt and grated coconut and 1 tablespoon water. This can serve as a chutney. For tambali, add water and buttermilk. Mix well and serve with rice.
A special feature of all tambali recipes is that they are two-in-one recipes. Adding water and buttermilk to the coconut (along with the main ingredient) chutney makes it a cold curry.
Bhushan Korgaonkar is a Mumbai-based writer.