The cuisine and diet of the people in Kodagu revolve cleverly around the season and the location. Amidst June, with its bone-chilling rains, it’s the time for delicacies that keep the body warm. These include mushrooms, bamboo shoots, colocasia, jackfruit, etc., which on consumption leads to ushna , which trust me, is a blessing during this time.
And one such delicacy to satiate your cold-footed belly is a mushroom curry. There are a number of wild edible mushrooms that I’d already written on. This recipe especially calls for Heglu alumbu/ Termite mound mushroom/ Termitomyces heimii. If you’ve happened to have stumbled across this particular mushroom with a bulged brown top and a curvy white body with sexy long legs, then take my advice and mark that location in your head permanently. Because this mushroom will grow in the same location, at the same date ( 2-3 days may differ) next year.
Let’s get onto the recipe, shall we?
Termite mound mushrooms, vegetable oil, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, curry leaves, dried red chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, onion, salt, turmeric powder, Coorg dark vinegar / Huli niru or lemon juice, an iron object.
- Start by scraping the legs and the upper body of the mushroom with a knife to carefully remove the dirt.
- Tear or cut them into equal pieces for even cooking.
- Rinse the mushroom with tap water to get rid of the mud. Take care to wash it only for a couple of times, lest the flavor is lost.
- Start by heating your vegetable oil in a kadai ( remember that the amount of mushroom is inversely proportional to the size of your kadai, because the mushrooms shrink when cooked) and add in your mustard seeds when the oil is hot.
- When the mustard seeds start to pop, add in crushed garlic ( with peels, the peels always make it taste better), followed by curry leaves and then sliced onions.
- Sauté them and you can add a pinch of salt to sweat the onions.
- When your onions are cooked and transparent, add in your mushrooms. There is no need to add water since the mushrooms will wilt and release all their tasty juices.
- Add in salt to taste and also a pinch of turmeric powder and a little chili powder ( We are going to add a lot later). Stir it all in, cover it with a lid and let it shrivel and cook.
- Meanwhile, toast your dried red chillis, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Grind them into a powder and add in one onion and 4-5 garlic cloves ( peeled). Add water to get a paste-like consistency of your masala.
- When your mushroom is boiling and half cooked, add in the masala and stir it in. Add the water by rinsing the masala from the grinder.
- Let it cook for 5 more minutes and then add in a few drops of Coorg dark vinegar / Huli niru. It’s a special black vinegar that is used to marinate meat and also as a condiment in Kodagu. If unavailable it can be substituted with a few drops of lemon juice. But the former really brings out the flavour.
- When the curry is cooked but still on the flame, a very traditional practice is followed, where any iron object or a sickle is heated in the flame till red hot. This hot iron is dipped into the curry. This gives a sizzling effect and it is believed that the iron sucks out any poison or any harmful substance ( Mushrooms troops are often home for serpents and insects) from the mushrooms, if any. Stir the curry and remove it from the flame.
- Your mushroom curry is ready to be served with hot rice or akki rotti. Enjoy!