Kothmir Thokku | Cilantro Thokku
Sometimes I think the genius of so much Indian food lies in the parts of it that are made when company isn’t around: the pickles labored over at the peak of the growing season, the gojjus and chutneys and spice blends prepared in between household chores and then stored away to be used to liven up daily menus for months to come.
There are so many little ways in which Indian cooks add distinction to even everyday meals that would otherwise seem rather run-of-the-mill.
I got the recipe for this particular kothmir thokku (which is exactly the sort of secret-weapon condiment you always want to have on hand) from my brother-in-law’s mother. Their family have their roots in Andhra Pradesh but the family has long lived in Bangalore. So their cuisine is a marvelous blend of the two cultures: unmistakably South Bangalore in some ways and indubitably Andhra in others.
Kothmir—the Andhra (and Kannada) word for cilantro—makes up the bulk of this glossy, thick, tangy thokku. Combined with jaggery and seasoned with mustard, curry leaves, and lots of tamarind, it gets cooked down to a hefty lushness and will keep for months in the refrigerator.
Take it out whenever you feel the need for something exciting and delicious on your plate. It’s delicious with hot rice, with akki rotti, and even with wheat chapattis. Though this is certainly not traditional, one of my favourite things to do with it is use it as a sandwich spread along with a little mayonnaise, or add it to some chicken to make a tangy, green-flecked chicken salad.
However you use it, you can count on it to add a little zest to whatever you’re eating.
Makes enough for one medium-sized jar
Time: 1 hour
1 large bunch of cleaned cilantro, stems and all
¼ cup jaggery, broken into small chunks or powdered
5–6 green chillies (or to taste)
1 large golf ball–sized portion of dried seedless tamarind
1 tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp asafetida
1 branch of curry leaves, stripped from the stem
Soak the tamarind, jaggery, and salt in 1 cup of hot water for 5–10 minutes.
Roughly chop the cilantro and set aside.
Place the cilantro along with the cooled tamarind mixture and green chillies into the jar of a blender and process till you have a smooth paste.
In a medium-sized saucepan or kadhai, heat 3 tablespoons of oil until it begins to shimmer.
Add the mustard seeds and, when they turn grey and begin to pop, quickly add the curry leaves, stir well to coat them in oil (careful: they will sputter when they hit the oil) and then add the asafetida.
Turn the heat down to low and add the cilantro-tamarind mixture along with a teaspoon of salt.
Wash out the blender jar with a scant amount of water and add this water to the saucepan as well.
Stir the contents of the saucepan so that they’re well incorporated. Cook over low heat for 20–30 minutes, or until the mixture is shiny and leaves a trail when you stir it. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. You can add more salt, tamarind, or jaggery depending on how you like your thokku.
Allow to cool before putting it into a clean jar and storing in the fridge, where it will keep for several months.