Coconut Cabbage Thoran : A Southern Indian Dish

Thoran is a coconut cabbage veggie dish from Kerala – Southern India. Our friend and chef Shravan was kind enough to teach me how to make a few of his Mama’s recipes while we were cruising along the jungly backwaters in Alappuzha. His cooking was some of the best home homestyle food we had in India! Before Dan and I left the country he helped make a list of all the spices I would need to recreate these dishes back at home.

Coconut Cabbage Thoran

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
5 curry leaves
1 clove garlic (diced)
1 small green chili (chopped)
1 1/2 onion diced)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups finely chopped green cabbage
kosher salt to taste
1 cup freshly grated coconut

In a large pan, heat oil until simmering. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves and garlic, stir until fragrant. Add chopped chilies, onions, turmeric and cumin powder. Stir to ensure the spices don’t burn.  Add cabbage. Stir until the cabbage is coated with oil and spices. Cover with lid and let cabbage cook, stirring occasionally ~ 5 min. Add freshly grated coconut and stir until  mixed. Season to taste with salt and serve hot with rice, daal, or puris (crispy puff bread).
^^^Meet the chef! Shravan is on the left. His mom taught him how to cook – great job Mama! During the dry season he works as a chef on the rice boats. Shravan and Raj (on the right) were two of the three guys that accompanied us on our float through the backwaters! It was such a blast – crammed into that tiny galley with the engine humming, pans sizzling, amazing smells and misty water rainbows out the kitchen window. It was a very cool experience. A tad shhhhweaty but so awesome. Thanks for the cooking lessons friend!
I saved my spice shopping for the end of the trip in Kolkata. I ran around New Market, following scouters through a maze of shops with my giant list of spices… “Does any one have Valampuli??? What the heck is Valampuli!?” I have know idea, but it’s on my list. Facepalm. Hey Google? 😉 Looking back on it, we had a lot of fun. I found many of my spices in the attic of a saree shop (because everyone sells a little bit of everything around here). A boy helped me scoop spoonfuls of turmeric, tea masala and Kashmiri chili powder onto an old-fashioned scale. We sat there on the floor filling little bags with spices and sealing them with a candle flame he had melted to the floorboard. I love moments that. Our pantry at home officially smells like India.
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