Jul 13, 2011

Ishtu - When You Crave a Good Home-Cooked Stew :D

Ishtu is a very common dish prepared all over Kerala, and while there might be subtle differences in the flavorings, it is at its most basic a dish where vegetables (in the vegetarian version) like potato, onions, carrots, etc., are cooked in coconut milk with perhaps a few spices added in.  I am guessing the name is some kind of a corruption to the word "stew."

kerala food recipes ishtu stew vegetable vegetarian coconut

In my house, we make it in a very simple way with very few ingredients and hardly any spices and the only vegetables added are potatoes and onions.  It is one of my favorite foods, and it definitely helps that it is an easy almost fool-proof recipe.  The original recipe uses fresh coconut milk, prepared by grinding fresh grated coconut with warm water and squeezing out the liquid.  However, I have used tetrapak'd coconut milk that I have seen quite often in a lot of shops.  Of course, the original version with fresh coconut milk has the best flavour, and this really cannot be compared to that, but sometimes the tetrapak is my best option and I really don't have a choice.

kerala food recipes ishtu stew vegetable vegetarian coconut
I prefer this specific brand - Kara - rather than Dabur coconut milk which
I feel has a more artificial taste - and I have seen it in Bangalore (Spar).
Ingredients:

kerala food recipes ishtu stew vegetable vegetarian coconut


To serve about 2-3 people, you would need:

1 large potato - chopped into small cubes
1 onion - sliced into thin strips
2-inch piece of ginger - cut into thin matchsticks (I don't do this - I just chop into small bits so I don't bite into a ginger piece while eating)
3 green chili - slit into long strips
Curry leaves - about 10-12 leaves
Coconut milk - about 3/4 of the pack (size 200 mL).  If you increase the quantity of chili and ginger you can increase the amount of coconut milk, but this is a very thick creamy milk and you won't need to add much to get a creamy consistency.

Method:
  • Take a thick-bottomed vessel and add the sliced onions, potato, ginger, chili.  Add 3 tablespoons of coconut milk to it.  Add about 1-1/2 cups of water and mix.  Cover and let the vegetables cook on medium heat.

kerala food recipes ishtu stew vegetable vegetarian coconut
kerala food recipes ishtu stew vegetable vegetarian coconut

  • It would take about 15-20 minutes for all the vegetables to cook - just open and check once in a while to ensure the water hasn't dried out and to see if the potatoes and onions are cooked.  After it's done, take the vessel off the heat, add about half a cup of coconut milk to it and the curry leaves.   Stir to mix.  Transfer back to the stove and cook on low heat till it just comes to a boil.  Immediately take off the heat, add salt to taste and stir to mix.  That's it - the ishtu is ready to eat :)

kerala food recipes ishtu stew vegetable vegetarian coconut

I served it with idiyappam - a kind of steamed rice noodle.  I cannot make it from scratch now, so I just got the frozen ready-made version.

kerala food recipes idiyappam noolputtu
kerala food recipes idiyappam noolputtu

A few things to remember about this recipe:
  • Add the salt at the very end of the cooking.  If you add it earlier, it will cause the coconut milk to separate and it won't form a smooth creamy sauce.
  • I have tried making this with tinned coconut milk, and it's just not good, and I didn't like it with Dabur coconut milk either.  Probably because Kara is labeled as coconut cream there is some difference, but this is the best option I have found so far.
  • This is my version - and a shortcut version, at that - of the original recipe.  Please don't beat me up saying this tastes nothing like the original.  It tastes similar, but of course, the flavour of fresh ingredients can never be replicated with what comes in a pack :)

7 comments:

  1. yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..................

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  2. Its soooo yummy, mouth watering *slurp*

    I don't know why... But i want to have it so bad right now O.o

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  3. Gargi - it's supereasy...try making it sometime and takes hardly any time :)

    Cali - :D :D

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  4. this looks awesome... :) i've always liked the taste of this but never made it....just a small doubt.... no need to saute the vegetables before cooking them in coccunt milk?

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  5. No, Ramya, in this recipe no need to saute anything. I think you do find the saute step in recipes from other parts of Kerala, though, and I think they also add some powdered spices and maida..but I am not sure and we don't make it that way. Do try this some time - it's really yummy :)

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  6. I am very fond of the stew made in Park Sheraton here.. Yummy... Droollllllllll :D

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  7. wow...this is my favorite:) thnx for sharing:)

    ReplyDelete

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