Thani Kootu is a popular Thanjavur recipe traditionally prepared for Sumangali Prarthanai, Sankaranthi and other festivals. In this dish, 5 different vegetables are prepared in separate jaggery kootus – a delicious and tangy South Indian base for the vegetables which is made with tamarind, freshly ground spices and jaggery. Jaggery brings out the tanginess of the tamarind in a surprising way.
Thani means stand alone in Tamil, and this indicates how the vegetables are made into separate dishes rather than mixed together. The different Thani Kootu dishes are generally serve with plain steamed rice. The base can also be served on its own without any vegetable added. It is pretty delicious!
To make it easy to prepare these dishes we make a large pot of the base Kootu, then divide it into five. The vegetables are cooked separately, and then added to the bases. It is common today to combine the vegetables in one dish, but traditionally, five different ones were made.
By the way, Sumangali Prarthanai is a thanksgiving religious function to honour our female ancestors.
The recipe is one of Meenakshi Ammal’s from her cook books Cook and See. One of our very special projects in the kitchen is to cook through these books, as they are very traditional Tamil recipes.You can find all of Ammal’s dishes that we have made here. Most of them are from Vol 1 so far.
Five different vegetables such as pumpkin, chow chow, snake gourd, cluster beans, eggplant, plantains, green beans, sabre beans, long beans.
for 2 cups kootu:
10 – 16 Indian dried red chillies
1.5 Tblspn coriander seeds
3 Tblspns channa dal
3 tspn urad dal
0.25 tspn black pepper corns
4 tspn ghee or Indian sesame oil
lump of tamarind (about the size of a small orange)
same amount of jaggery
2 Tblspns rice flour mixed with water to a smooth paste
30 – 35 curry leaves, pinched
10 Tblspn oil
3 tspns brown mustard seeds
4 tspns urad dal
100 g grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
Cook the 5 chosen vegetables separately and set aside.
Make the spice paste. Fry the spices in the ghee until toasted and aromatic, and grind to a very fine paste.
Soak the tamarind in hot water for 15 mins, then strain and push the pulp through the strainer. Discard the seeds and fibres. Place the tamarind water and pulp in a kadhai or pan with a little salt and the spice paste. Add about 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer and add the jaggery. Mix it well and bring back to a simmer.
Add the rice flour paste, and stir. Boil well while stirring.
For the tadka, heat the ghee in a separate pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow to pop. Add the urad dal then the coconut. Add this to the kootu and mix well.
Add the asafoetida and curry leaves to the kootu and bring back to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often, until the kootu is a thick consistency. Remove from the heat and divide into 5. Add the portions to the each vegetable and mix well.
recipe notes and alternatives
Chickpeas and bean seeds can also be added.
For Sankaranthi, 2 Tblspn raw (unroasted) sambar powder can be used instead of the spice paste. For Sumangali Prarthanai sambar powder should not be used.