My mother never was, or is, a gourmet cook.Her philosophy of cooking is to keep it simple always.Her methods have had a lot of influence over how I cook our daily meals.But among everything else she cooked,the one thing that stands out in my memory is her Ariti Davva Koora(except for her sambar and chaaru of course).Ariti Davva is literally,the tender stem of Banana trees.It is ivory coloured,but like banana,blackens in no time when exposed to air.We had a very nice lady as our domestic help when we were younger.Janakamma or Janko as we fondly called her,would very patiently chop the banana stem,removing fibres and chopping it into very small pieces and putting them in diluted buttermilk to stop it from turning black.My mother would then cook curries using them.
The particular texture of ariti davva is what attracts me.It is very porous and absorbs flavours really nicely.The stem itself,as you will have guessed now,is full of fibre.That is why,even after it is cooked,it retains its crunchiness which is just wonderful.
Cutting the stem is a time taking task.First,the outer blackened layer is removed.Since it has lots of fibre,it is then usually cut into thin slices and the fine fibres which stand out,are taken off.Then the slices are chopped into really small pieces and put into diluted buttermilk to prevent it from becoming dark on exposure to air.But once this has been done,it cooks very quickly.I chopped it in the morning and kept it ready for the night to make the curry.
Aava is telugu for Mustard.Mustard and rice are soaked in water for some time so as to soften the mustard grains and then ground into a fine paste.This paste is usually added to curries at the end.It gives a really nice flavour.
On a recent trip to the Indian grocery store,I was lucky enough to find a piece of banana stem.I immediately grabbed it,having longed to eat it for as long as 6 years.So without much ado,here is the Ariti Davva curry that I learnt from my mother:
Ingredients:2 cups finely chopped Banana stem
1 tsp split urad dal
1 tsp mustard
2 dry red chillies,broken into 2-3 bits
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
6-8 curry leaves
For the Mustard paste:2 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tbsp raw rice
3-4 dry red chillies
1 lime sized ball of tamarind,soaked and juice extracted
1 tbsp tamarind paste
Method:Soak the mustard and rice along with dry red chillies in some water for atleast 2 hours.This will soften the mustard seeds.
Now add the drained banana stem pieces.Mix well and let cook for 2 minutes.Now add turmeric and salt, and add 1/2 cup water to it.Close the pan and let it cook on low till the banana stem feels softer.You can test by putting a small piece in your mouth-it should feel crunchy but cooked.
Drain the water from the mustard and grind it along with rice and chillies to a fine paste.
Add the tamarind juice or paste(if using paste,dilute with a little water) to the cooked banana stem.Make sure that there is some water left in the pan.If not,add some more water before adding the tamarind paste.This is a gravy curry,so you do need some water.
Now once the curry is heated through,and comes to a boil,add the finely ground mustard-chilli paste.Mix well and take off the heat.
Once mustard is added,donot let the curry cook on heat as the mustard will turn the curry bitter.
Serve with hot steaming rice and a dollop of ghee.
My Notes:This curry goes very well with rice, and chapathis as well.We had it with chapathis yeaterday and it was a great combination.
Thanks to Lakshmi K of Veggie cuisine who started the RCI,I have had this wonderful chance to delve into the beautiful memories of my past and recreate one of my timeless favourites.
I would like to submit this for this month's RCI Andhra Cuisine hosted by Latha of Masala Magic.