This simple but fingerlicking-good Cabbage Thoran is a popular vegetable side from the south Indian state of Kerala, known for its fantastic cuisine. It is exquisitely flavored with coconut oil, curry leaves and peppercorns and it takes under 30 minutes from scratch.
Take a peek into my refrigerator on any day, and you'll probably find some things you expected (like tofu, chipotle chilies, and an embarrassing quantity of Indian pickles), some you didn't (like Opie's not-vegan homecooked meal), and some you'll wish you'd never seen (like the month-old lasagna that everyone but the mold forgot). And amidst the assortment of vegetables in the crisper (right now it's ridge gourd and bitter gourd from the Indian store, two kinds of mushrooms, beet greens, baby carrots for Jay's lunchbox and kale for Desi's smoothies) you will nearly always find a big, shiny-green, perfectly round head of cabbage.
Cabbage makes my heart sing. Seriously. Consider this: this versatile veggie does double duty as a leafy and a cancer-fighting member of the cruciferous family. It is super-easy to cook: a cabbage needs no gilding, really, because it's just so delicious on its own. You can add it to this Cabbage Rice or this Cabbage Kootu. And you can eat it raw in a coleslaw or salad, or cooked down to buttery softness in this Cabbage Thoran I have for you today.
A thoran is a dry curry from the gorgeous Indian coastal state of Kerala. Although famous for its seafood, Kerala has a vast repertoire of vegetarian foods that is absolutely, dazzlingly, fingerlicking good. A big part of the allure is the cooking medium which infuses vast quantities of flavor into nearly every dish ever cooked here -- coconut oil, a staple of the Kerala diet because coconut trees grow abundantly along the waters -- and the spices for which Kerala is so famous.
Although all that might make a thoran sound rather exotic, there's nothing really difficult or even exotic about making it. If I had to grade it on a scale of difficulty for Indian foods, I'd give it no more than a 3. You do need some spices and some curry leaves to make this dish, but if you're already familiar with Indian cooking, you no doubt already have these or know where to get some. You also need some shredded coconut-- go with the frozen kind if you can't find fresh, like I did. And, of course, you need that big, shiny-green, perfectly round head of cabbage. Once you have all of the ingredients, there is no chance you can screw this up.
Serve the Cabbage Thoran warm or hot, with chapatis or some rice and dal. You'll be begging for more.
More tasty cabbage recipes
- 1 large head cabbage (shredded with a knife, not in a food processor)
- 1 packed cup grated unsweetened coconut
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns (use less for less heat)
- 2 green chilies (minced)
- 1 tablespoon ginger (grated)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoon cilantro
- Salt to taste
- Pound the black peppercorns and cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cabbage, coconut, ginger, turmeric, green chilies, and some salt. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the cumin and pepper. Stir for a few seconds. Add the curry leaves and stir-fry for 30 seconds more.
- Add the cabbage-coconut mixture. Stir well to combine.
- Turn the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and cook the cabbage for 15-20 minutes, or until it's quite soft. Stir frequently to ensure it doesn't stick at the bottom. If needed, add a couple of tablespoons of water.
- When the cabbage is quite tender, add to it the lemon juice and coriander leaves. Add salt f needed.
- Serve hot or warm.