I very recently cracked open my copy of The Indian Vegan Kichen again, with the intention of making a somewhat well-rounded meal that included veggies, protein, and grain. (That last item can have the particular tendency to hold sway over my dietary intake--an unfortunate fact I am trying to change.) And yet again, the book did not disappoint. In fact, it not only fulfilled my meal goals, but also serendipitously helped me to put some idle ingredients to unique use, with flavorful results.
The ingredients in question were Filipino cooking bananas, called saba, and freshly grated coconut. During the last two weeks, I have been exploring traditional Filipino cuisine with hopes of connecting to my ancestry through its food as well as for kitchen project inspiration. But that's for later down the line.
In the meantime, I developed a specific craving for dal, which led me back to The Indian Vegan Kitchen. I quickly located the dish I wanted to make, Pigeon Peas (Toor Dal), and flipped to the Vegetable chapter for something to accompany my protein dish. Among the many dishes described, I found a particular recipe that I had never seen on a restaurant menu--granted, I am by no means a seasoned foodie and I currently live in a bit of a sleepy town--that could also take care of that surplus saba and coconut: Plantain Stew (Kele Ka Kootu). How convenient! Completely intrigued, I set about preparing my Indian meal.
The plantain stew was first. I used saba instead of regular plantains, black mustard seeds instead of brown, less oil than called for, no asafetida, and dried curry leaves instead of fresh. Although I was fairly certain that I was indeed using cooking bananas, their softness relative to that of regular plantains had me a bit worried that the pieces would fall apart with too much cooking. Much to my relief, the saba was an adequate substitute for plantains, holding up just as well as the green beans and carrots. The sweet flavors of the saba, coconut, carrot, and touch of sugar were interesting matches for the slightly sour tamarind and various savory spices. Eating this dish was a novel experience that I enjoyed for the most part. The only issue I had was with the grated coconut; I am not a huge fan of its texture, and this dish calls for a full cup of the stuff. I would either reduce the amount of grated coconut in the future, or perhaps try the recipe using light coconut milk instead.
The pigeon peas were considerably more familiar--pleasantly savory and also flavorful. Using less oil than called for and omitting the asafetida were the only changes I made to the recipe. I have cooked other versions of this dish multiple times prior to trying this particular recipe, and like the others, this one did not disappoint. The well-spiced concoction was simple to put together and oh-so-delicious.
Plain brown rice rounded out my meal and created a suitable vehicle for soaking up the liquid from both the stew and dal, although chapati would have also done the trick. (Then again, when has bread ever failed me?) It was a good, hearty meal--sweet and savory, a little spicy, and incredibly flavorful. And I still have plenty of leftovers, which will continue to make my taste buds and stomach happy for a few more meals.