Chettinad is a region in South India where many of my ancestors come from. It is a dry, arid land inhabited by a devout and enterprising people. And the food is simply sensational. There is no greater pleasure than eating at a chettinad wedding! Chettinad cuisine uses an abundance of spices like cumin, fennel, fenugreek, star anise, poppy seeds, chillies, tamarind, shallots, coconut and curry leaf. This chettinad meal maker curry is inspired by my heritage.
Nemam Koil, our clan temple in Chettinad
Chettinad is famous for its palatial ancestral homes. This house in Kothamangalam is now Saratha Vilas hotel.
Chettinad homes are generally famed for their non vegetarian food. But you can easily enjoy the flavors of this region with this vegetarian, vegan recipe. Meal maker or Nutrella are Indian brands of soy protein that are quite meaty in texture. I used Indian meal maker in this recipe. Feel free to use any kind of dried soy chunk or granule product. TVP, TSP, soy chunks, soy granules, or even seitan will work.
This chettinad meal maker curry recipe is easily adaptable to different tastes, use only vegetables (cauliflower is nice) or adjust coconut milk however you like. You can use more or less chillies according to your preference.
Chettinad Meal Maker Curry Recipe
(A Spicy Curry using TVP, TSP, Meal Maker, Nutrella or Soy Chunks)
Serves about 4
1 cup dry soy chunks/Meal Maker/Nutrella/TVP/TSP*
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
6 curry leaves
1-3 green chillies, slit. optional
½ medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 recipe masala powder, see recipe below
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup coconut milk
*Soy chunks like Meal Maker and Nutrella are easily available at Indian stores. TVP/TSP granules are available at the regular grocery store.
Rehydrate the soy chunks (meal maker) or granules according to package instructions. This usually involves boiling a small pot of water with a little salt, boiling the soy chunks in it, then letting them soak in the boiling water (10 minutes for soy chunks, less for granules – read the box instructions). Drain the soy chunks or TVP granules, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Set the re-hydrated soy chunks or TVP granules aside, and proceed with the recipe.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add black mustard seeds and let them sizzle. Then add cumin and stir for 30 seconds. Add curry leaves and chillies, stir again. Then add onions, and sauté on medium-low heat for 3 minutes, or till the onions have softened. Now add the garlic and tomatoes. Continue to cook on medium-low heat till the tomatoes are very soft, about 6 minutes.
Add the ground masala powder (recipe below), turmeric, and salt, stir for a minute.
Add re-hydrated, squeezed soy chunks/meal maker/nutrella/TVP/TSP and pour in 2 cups water. Bring to boil. Continue boiling for about 5 minutes.
Pour in coconut milk and cook stirring for about 2 minutes. Taste the curry, if it is too spicy for you, add more coconut milk.
Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with rotis, chappatis, tortillas, or steamed rice.
For the masala powder
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 small dried red chili, optional
In a small, heavy skillet on low heat, toast each of the ingredients one at a time. Roast each spice for about a minute, or till it lightly turns color and gets fragrant. Let the toasted spices cool a little. Then place in a coffee grinder and grind into a fine powder. Make sure there are no unground pieces.