I discovered Thoran’s a while back when I used to go to Rasa, a fabulous South Indian restaurant in Stoke Newington. They were a revelation to me. They are far from what we often think of as a standard Indian style dish, being dry and fresh, and using barely any oil or fats are a healthy option.
The “name Rasa is a Sanskrit word. It represents taste, flavour, affection, pleasure, delight, happiness, charm, sentiment, pathos, beauty and essence.” The definition of Rasa seems to be a perfect description for a Thoran.
Das Sreedharan (Fresh Flavours of India and The New Tastes of India) writes about and them and cooks them superbly. They work best with super fresh crunchy vegetables like beans, carrots and cabbages. I’ve found that the texture of courgettes doesn’t suit them as much, but still work, I think summer squash being a firmer texture would suit the way a Thoran is cooked.
Thoran’s have a few basic flavourings and ingredients, and are cooked very quickly, and I think are nicest served at room temperature – they don’t need to be piping hot. Typically they are served as a side dish, but work well as a lunch dish with some rice and pickles, or as a larger dish for a main meal. They also work alongside other dishes, I sometimes cook myself some fish, simply grilled or baked in the oven, and like a Thoran as my salad or vegetable dish to go with it.
My favourite Thoran has to be with Green Beans, and as I’ve just started to pick the first of this year’s crops of Dwarf French Beans like Safari, Stanley and Nautica, now’s the time to get cooking. I’ve found Thoran’s work well with frozen vegetables as well, so great for dealing with gluts, particularly Runner Beans – stringed and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks.
This dish has lots of chillies, so may appear to be hot, but with the dried chillies they give background heat, and as you only slit the green chillies and not chop them the warmth of the chillies is imparted without it being a dominating flavour.
Green Bean Thoran – Das Sreedharan
- 1 tbls oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 tsp urad dal
- 2 dried red chillies
- 100g of onions or shallots finely chopped
- 2 green chillies, split lengthways
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 200g green beans (Das chops his, I don’t think you need to if using fresh)
- 50g freshly grated coconut or desiccated coconut. (I think fresh is best)
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan
- Add the mustard seeds, and as they begin to pop add the curry leaves, urad dal and dried chillies.
- Cook, stirring, until the dal turns golden
- Add the onions, and fry for approx 5 minutes or until they are soft.
- Add the green chilies and turmeric powder and cook for another 2 minutes
- Stir in the beans and add up to 4 tbls of water (I don’t add it all at once, only if I think it is needed, as this is meant to be a dry dish), and cook until the beans are tender, I like them with some crunch
- Add the coconut and salt to taste, and stir
- Remove from the heat and serve
And now you can play hunt the green chilli in amongst the green beans – kind of like a game of daredevil with an element of Spoof!