Kireekadu Thekku Ambilinilayam Mohanan Pillai is a veteran cook who has been in the culinary field for more than two and a half decades. There was a time when Pillai had prepared sadya for 3500 people at a wedding. He has been a permanent invitee to cook at the saptaham festivals at all the major temples in the state. In his long career, Pillai had cooked the iconic Aranmula sadya and the unique Ambalapuzha pal payasam countless times.
However, the pandemic has dimmed the hope for thousands of cooks and culinary experts like Mohanan Pillai. The Malayalam month of Chingam is when the auspicious rituals and ceremonies are conducted. It is also the time when Pillai received hundreds of orders and would be busy for the whole month. Earlier, he had owned a hotel in the temple city of Sabarimala. So, his catering business was called Pampa Catering, paying homage to the city and its great cultural tradition. Even though he now runs a small eatery in Puthiyavila Velanchira, business is dull due to the worsening pandemic situation.
Mohanan Pillai’s specialty is the bitter gourd kichadi which isn’t that ‘bitter’, and refreshes the palette while enjoying the elaborate sadya. The dish could be made using a variety of ingredients and veggies like lady finger and beetroot. Kichadi, interestingly, has the perfect balance of flavors with a bit of sourness and bitterness.
Check out the recipe of bitter gourd kichadi that could balance the flavor profile of your sadya platter (for 10 people).
200 gms bitter gourd
250 gms coconut oil to fry and sauté
500 gms curd
5 big chilies
1 tsp mustard seeds
4 garlic cloves
5 green chilies
½ tsp cumin powder
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp ghee
Salt as required
Cut the bitter gourd into round pieces
Fry these in hot oil
Lightly crumble the fried bitter gourd and keep it aside
Heat coconut oil in a pan and splutter mustard seeds
Sauté chopped shallots, crushed garlic, green chilies and a sprig of curry leaves.Add chili flakes
Lower the flame before adding cumin powder, fenugreek powder and salt as required
Now add the crumbled bitter gourd. Mix well and take it off the flame
Pour the ghee for additional flavor and fragrance
After the dish has cooled down, add curd
Mix well and garnish with curry leaves
Tasty bitter gourd kichadi is ready.