This is also called Elephant Foot Yam or regular Yam. It is called Karunai Kizangu in Tamil. My Thatha’s family had a heavy Tamil influence as they had settled in Tamil Nadu for generations. This dish is from there and my Ammamma learnt it quickly. This dish is very simple to make and highly nutritious. It tastes sweet and sour and goes well with rice or rotis. I personally prefer to make this particular dish on sultry winter nights for dinner and eat it with ‘hot’ yogurt rasam rice. I feel it is very therapeutic.
I can’t help but remember my ammamma’s kind eyes and loving voice. Though she was 5′ 9” and well built, she was a gentle giant. Her rich brown skin, salt and pepper hair, white blouse, cotton sari, her lovely big red Kumkum bindi, her gold chain and few gold bangles, and especially her nose pin, these are my memories of her. Always smiling, always looking forward to people, always in the service of others, this was who she was. A perfect grandmother. I wonder how my grand children will ever remember me.
Ammamma always insisted on keeping only powder kumkum. She detested those sticker bindis. However; she would buy me a few bangles and glittering sticker bindis from the market and enjoy watching me as I dressed up and played princess in front of her. She had only one grand daughter. I was the exact opposite of her, tiny, very thin, a fairer skin tone, but a macho attitude! I was the little monster. But she always remembered me as that silent child whom she had to search for because I was so quiet and extremely well behaved. She never said it out loud, but I think she was very glad that I was the opposite of her (lloks wise).
I still remember my dad and ammamma chatting away whenever a song starring Amala or Rati Agnihotri came up. They would compare me to those heroines and talk like as if there cannot be a greater beauty like myself in the whole family. At that point I did not know, but now as a woman I can understand that she had probably been taunted for her personailty and skin color. Maybe she never felt beautiful, and she was probably relieved that I turned out as I did. If I could only go back in the past and tell her how much I admire her, and how beautiful she always appeared to me! She was instrumental in helping me build my self confidence and self esteem in my teenage years. She was very generous with her praises for me. I know very well all the hardships she had faced in her life. She had given up a budding career as a Badminton Champion (She had made it to State level) as she had to get married. She had four more sisters, all in line to be married off by a middle class teacher who had lost his wife during child birth.
Her strength, her great attitude of never complaining, of enduring great pain, of extreme patience, of encouraging people, I guess she was my strong role model and I know that I emulate her in every way. I am not a giant, but more gentler now when compared to my teenage self. She was thrilled when I got married. She was very excited when I had my first child. Then, as fate would have it, she passed away peacefully in the night. My grandmother and dad have taught me about impermanence. In detachment lies peace of mind. I have gained great strength and wisdom from these two individuals. I feel their presence around me all the time. My only regret is that they could not see me right now, how I turned out, how my children are growing up, and how I have successfully managed to master the art of house keeping, the world’s toughest and most rewarding job of all. But somehow I know that they are aware of it and keep blessing me constantly.
I will be making this dish tonight to nurture my family. Eating this soul filling food, slipping into the warm bed, and drifting off into a peaceful and deep slumber with pleasant dreams, and waking up energized in the morning is something I look forward to. Try this lovely dish from my grandmother. Enjoy!!
1 ¼ Cup Yam (white), finely chopped
Lime sized Tamarind, soaked and pulp extracted
1 Tbsp Jaggery
2 Red Chilies
1 tsp Urad dal and Channa Dal
1 tsp Black Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Hing
1 Tbsp Oil
Curry leaves, 1 Sprig
Wash the yam well, peel skin and discard.
Cut yam into fine pieces.
Boil Yam with green chilies in little salted water.
In a thick bottomed pan, heat Oil.
Add Tempering ingredients and after the spluttering stops, add mashed yam to it.
Add tamarind pulp and red chili powder and fry well.
Add a little water if needed to help fry, or alternately, you can a little extra oil.
Add Jaggery, mix well, and garnish with curry leaves and cilantro.
Delicious Masiyal is now ready.
Eat it with a tsp ghee and hot white rice or with rasam rice.
Three cheers to soul food.