In my younger days, shopping in Kottayam was restricted to a couple of places right in the heart of the overcrowded town. Post shopping, which invariably ended well past lunch time, we would go to Anand, a "pure" vegetarian restaurant which like all Anands, Anand Bhavans and Anand Vihars around the world served fluffy idlis, crispy dosas and vadas, piping hot rice and oodles of ghee along with a selection of South Indian curries (all of which looked and tasted somewhat similar) irrespective of the hour.
Today, the town has many more places to shop at, though this is not necessarily a good thing. When I was there a couple of months back, I had a tough time deciding where to shop because my dad simply refused to take me everywhere (- he looked horrified when I suggested this, as though I had pointed a fully loaded gun at him); second, I had to choose between blues and pinks, reds and yellows, whites and blacks and that took me considerable time, though my mom happily helped me through this joyful process. My only consolation (and probably my dad's too) was that I wasn't about to waste any time fretting over the menu at Anand as Masala Dosa remained my undisputed favourite. But surprisingly, it became obvious that the restaurant had some interesting new entries on it's menu. As we stood waiting for seats, I saw many customers eating a red and spicy looking dish I had never seen before. (I am not proud that I sometimes peek into others plates, but in my defense, I do it very surreptitiously). As soon as we were seated (having outrun and bumped all other competition out of the way in our attempt to get to the vacated seats), a waiter materialized before us, a very grumpy expression on his overworked face. "Eh, what is that red thing everyo -". "Chili Paratta", answered the waiter even before I could complete my question. (He had obviously been asked the question several times before and it did nothing to improve his mood.) Anyway, Chili Paratta it was going to be and quite a good choice it was.
I tried to re create the dish at home, and it turned out to be surprisingly similar to the restaurant version. Here is the recipe:
You will need:
5 Malabar Paratta/Kerala Paratta, cut into bite sized pieces. ( Kerala Paratta is a layered flat bread usually made with plain flour and lots and lots of oil)
2 onions, roughly chopped + 1 onion, cubed
6 cloves garlic + 1 inch piece ginger + 5 green chilies, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 chicken/vegetable tastemaker cube
2 tablespoons each of tomato sauce + soya sauce + green chili sauce
1 tablespoon red chili powder
3/4 teaspoon garam masala powder
1 capsicum, cubed
1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
4 tablespoons refined cooking oil
To taste, salt
As required, water
Heat two tablespoons of oil in a non stick pan. Add roughly chopped onions and sauté till they start to brown. Add ginger, garlic and green chilies, and continue sautéing till aromatic.
Toss in the tomatoes, add all the sauces and red chili powder and mix well. Crush in the taste maker cube and let it cook for about 10 minutes till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. (Add oil as required if you find the tomato mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan.)
Once done, remove the pan from heat and let it cool for some time. Then blend the mixture to a smooth paste in a food processor and keep aside.
Return the pan to heat, add two more tablespoons of oil and add the cubed onion. Sauté till the onion turns translucent.
Add the tomato and onion paste to the pan and fry for some time. If it is too thick, then add in a few drops of water. Add the capsicum, followed by the paratta pieces and mix well so that the paratta pieces are well coated with the tomato and onion paste. Adjust seasoning, if required.
Finally add the lemon juice and coriander leaves. Sprinkle the garam masala and stir once more.
Serve hot with lemon wedges or raita.