Toran in hindi means a decorative hanging- an intricately embroidered panel or threaded flowers-that is hung above a door frames to channel good energy in to the house and to please the hindu wealth goddess Lakshmi. But I’m only going to speak of mortals like me and we mortals like food. So let me share a thoran recipe to please your stomach and tastebuds. Thoran is the name of a simple dish, made on auspicious occasions. It made me connect the dots to toran right away – both are signs of something special, sacred and beautiful. Thoran is versatile just as it is easy to cook. It can be made with a variety of vegetables and the ever so delicious coconut.
Sweet comforting juiciness in the form of grated coconut
So far, I have tried making thoran with cabbage and green beans but I have learnt that the possibilities are limitless. One can make it with carrots, beetroot, spinach, raw banana or any other vegetable you fancy. Obviously some of them tend to be more popular than others. The humble Thoran comes from Kerala, a state in southern India. It is one of the dishes that constitute a festive feast or Sadya prepared at the time of festivals like Onam and Vishu and also at the time of weddings. Coconut in various forms finds a place in a lot of dishes from the cuisines of southern states of India. It’s only natural that it does, since coconut is supposed to have originated in this region. I remember eating Poriyal from Tamil Nadu and Palya from Karnataka that had coconut.
My knowledge of Kerala cuisine is far from exhaustive. I am slowly learning from my mother in law, and in the process my kitchen is becoming a place where north and south Indian flavours collide, often with great results.
But let’s get started on a basic thoran recipe. Here I’ll tell you about cabbage and (french) beans thoran. The basics of the recipe remain the same and you can try it with different vegetables according to what is available and what you feel like eating. Now isn’t that how life’s supposed to be?
Here’s what you’ll need
2 cups of shredded cabbage/ Alternatively 2 cups of chopped green beans
1 cup of freshly grated coconut
1 large onion chopped
1 green chilli- split length wise (optional)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a sprig of curry leaves
1/2 inch piece of ginger chopped
salt to taste
1/2 tsp of red chilli powder
1/4 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tbsp cooking oil
Place a wok or a big pan on medium heat. Add the oil and follow with mustard seeds. Wait till the mustard seeds pop. As you start hearing the popping and dancing of the mustard, add the chopped ginger, green chilli and curry leaves. Give these things a stir and wait for the ginger to cook which should maybe take half a minute more.
Add the onions and fry till they are translucent.
I’m hoping by now you know whether you are making a thoran with cabbage or beans or maybe both together. Here are your two scenarios-
The curious case of the cabbage:
Add the shredded cabbage to the wok/pan. Stir and toss well so that the oil coats it well and you see the cabbage shreds glistening. Let the cabbage cook till it starts wilting a bit. If you have shredded the cabbage finely enough then you need not cover it to let it cook. No one likes overcooked cabbage and if you do then, well, good for you!
The beautiful bright beans
Add chopped green beans to the wok and stir well to coat them with the oil. Beans would need a bit more cooking time as compared to cabbage. You can cover the wok/pan with a lid for 2 minutes but ensure that it is not on high heat.
Coming back to the basics. Add salt and chilli powder and follow by brightening up the contents with some turmeric powder.
Give it a nice stir and let the vegetables cook till they are tender. The showstopper comes at the end. Add grated coconut and mix well. Cook for another 2 minutes and your thoran is ready.
You can serve this with a side of dal with roti/parotha flat bread or mix it in with some dal and rice.
p.s. If you try this thoran recipe with other vegetables do let us know how it turned out in the comments.