when have you stayed in a place for just 2 nights and actually hoped that they served you the same food for dinner on both nights? i did!
what got me weak in the mouth? good ol’ pumpkin soup… yes, thats all! let me explain.
in south indian homes, we have our rasams. they are gloriously warm in colour, spicy and sour at one go, and just flow down the throat. we drink it, eat it with rice and profess our undying love to it. we do not have a history of ‘soup’, we get our dose of liquid for the soul in rasam! i have tasted pumpkin in kootus (a curry or vegetable with a gravy + most often coconut) or sambars (a gravy mixed into rice and devoured), but pumpkin in a soup? never. seen foodgawker.com pictures about pumpkin soup, but just didn’t think my tongue could savour or my brain digest such a thought.
once you call it parangikkai soup, life’s good again… suddenly it seems doable… not because my tamil is that good, i didn’t even know parangikkai is pumpkin till told, but it sounds warm and comforting. somehow pumpkin doesn’t do that for me!
i first tasted this soup at chettinad, the heart of a group of villages in tamilnadu, india, when we stayed at visalam.
mr. ramanathan, the manager said, “dinner will be at the terrace restaurant… at the end of the hall.”
once evening was upon us, tired with the days rummaging for memories through the streets, we made our way up the narrow steps, to a dimly lit terrace. don’t picture a view like at that 34th floor bar in mumbai, but even better. a large terrace looking over a dark cover of leaves, interspersed with a few white & grey rooftop terraces peeping out.
we chose a table tucked in the corner. there were yellow lamps along the parapet, lanterns on every table and cane chairs with small cushions. the large fan, with rounded blades and a slow whir, moved air around in a languid fashion that hardly helped keep the sweat off our foreheads. there is something about that right amount of heat and sweat that makes food taste even better. as we sat down, there was a distant hoot of the train followed by the closer ‘chug chugg chug chugh’ as it went by.
the waiter came by and served us the soup of the day. in a plain bowl, there lay a swirl of yellowish orange with a tiny piece of crisp wheat bread (or rusk) by the side. the soup was delicious, luscious and lent itself to loud slurps (though i dislike slurping and all eating noises)… the sweetness of the pumpkin made even sweeter and smooth with coconut milk, flavoured with tej patta, onion, garlic and pepper…
i came back the next day, hoping it would be there again… sadly, it wasn’t. so i did the next best thing, i asked for the recipe!
presenting my current dinner favourite – parangikkai soup
pumpkin 250 gms
onion 50 gms
garlic 10 cloves medium sized
bay leaf (bay leaf) 2 nos
oil 2 teaspoons
peppercorns / from the pepper mill 5 gms (around 10, if you like the soup to be peppery. i use it from the mill so that its super finely ground even without the mixer having a go)
water 750 ml to 1 litre (i like my soup thicker so i put only 750 ml)
coconut milk 100 ml. (their recipe says 200ml, i add half the quantity)
salt to taste
– peal the skin of the pumpkin and cut into pieces
– heat oil in a pan
– temper with bay leaf, add chopped garlic and onion. sauté well.
– add pumpkin, sauté for 10 to 15 seconds. add the water and allow to boil till the pumpkin is soft
– cool down and blend. i like it to be a smooth puree
– bring to boil, add salt and finish with the coconut milk. turn off the heat.
serve it in pretty soup bowls with some bread on the side, or make it a meal of soup & salad (that’s what happens at my home)
the best for a rainy day or when things aren’t going your way…
its easy to make and goes from firm pumpkin to slushy soup in 20 mins max!
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