My first encounter with this Parippu curry, a Kerala Style Dal dish was visiting the South of India a few years ago. As a non-vegetarian I was immediately struck by just how diverse the cuisine was in the South. A mind boggling array of vegetables, pulses and rice dishes, I forgot all about meat in no time at all.
From a crappy experience to a wonderful dal curry
I ate so many vegetable and dal dishes in the South, but one stand out was in Kerala in the town of Kollam. Now, to be frank I had a horrible time in Kollam on the most part - the room we were staying in was sopping damp and full of flies. This and another 'incident' on our first night, got our stay in Kollam off to a crappy start.
After a forgettable meal and a beer in a horrid bar we took a 'short-cut' down a back alley to escape the open patio where I'd been eaten alive by every last local mosquito. Unbeknown to us our escape route, the unlit cobblestoned alley, was also the local toilet. Not a great idea in flip-flops! Good start.
Parippu curry - a rich creamy dal recipe from Kerala
The next morning, we decided to move hotel and into a nice room in an 'executive hotel'. Downstairs in the restaurant we finally began to see Kollam in a new light, eating all manner of amazing food. It was our introduction to Parippu, a wonderful yellow dal curry - creamy, rich and magnificently flavourful. Parippu is the Keralan variation on the tadka dal and features coconut and moong dal to help give its rich texture and flavour.
What is moong dal?
Parippu utilises Moong Dal to create the unique, creamy texture. Moong dal is the hulled version of the dried Moong Bean (Mung Bean) and looks a little like a split yellow lentil. Moong Dal breaks up relatively quickly during cooking to create a very smooth and creamy texture. It has a wonderful mild nutty flavour.
FUN FACT: I'll sometimes use moong dal instead of masoor dal (the tiny pink split dal) for my favourite British treat, Ham & Pease Pudding - a rich, thick lentil condiment used for sandwiches. It makes a great pease pudding!
This Parippu recipe is very easy. The lentils are cooked simply in coconut milk, turmeric and water until rich and creamy. Once cooked the magic happens, and they are flavoured with a spiced tadka.
What is a tadka?
Tadka is a method of seasoning - a tempering which is added after the initial cooking of a dish to enhance the flavour. This technique is used throughout India and Asia. The aim is to add further layers of flavour and texture with extra spices and ingredients. A tadka is usually flash fried in a generous amount of oil or ghee to bring out their natural flavour. The entire tadka, oil and all, is then scattered over and stirred into a dish - this fresh introduction of ingredients can transform a good dish into an amazing dish.
Tadkas are essential in Indian cuisine, and once mastered, can help the home cook rival any restaurant offering. My recipe shows you just how easy tadka cooking can be, and I'm sure you'll agree - the flavours are amazing.
How do I serve Parippu?
Personally, I like to serve Parippu as part of a larger offering. Sometimes with meat, sometimes not. If I'm serving meat it may be Southern Goan Chicken Vindaloo or a Karnatakan Black Pepper Chicken Curry. It also works splendidly to counteract the richness of a Bhuna Gosht or Mughlai Chicken.
If my spread is vegetarian or vegan (you can use peanut or mustard oil in the tadka for a vegan variation of this dish) It may be alongside a bowl of Kidney Bean Rajma, an Aloo Baingan, Potato & Eggplant Curry or a portion of Cauliflower with Mustard Seeds & Black Pepper.
On occasion I'll also take inspiration from one of my favourite Malaysian offerings Roti Canai and serve Parippu on its own with flaky, buttery paratha breads.
However YOU decide to serve Parippu, I'm sure you'll agree that this is a simple and amazing curry to have in your repertoire. It freezes excellently and pairs with pretty much any other Indian dish.