Drying is one of the oldest and easiest way to preserve food. In a country with plentiful sun it is only natural that we should have a tradition of using the sun’s energy to process food. You will find wadi varieties from all over the country. Bengalis put their bodi into many dishes including shukto, Southen India gives us vadams and appalams in addition to celebrating dried vegetables in, the most delicious of all ‘curries’, the vatahkuzhanmbu. In Uttarakhand mountain cucumbers are combined with urad-dal to make wadi. Punjab’s famous wadis which come in various flavours (with plums, with tomatoes, and regular – all spiced up with generous amounts of black pepper) can be combined with the blandest of vegetables to lift them out of the ordinary. From the state of UP we have mangodi, small wadis made with mung dal. Kashmirs make sun-dried spice-cakes and call them veri. Pickles that have been cooked in the sun for a while are found all over the country.
To use the season’s bounty and to tide over lean months or just for convenience it was also common to sun-dry vegetables. This has been almost lost in the times of frozen vegetables and out-of-season produce. Almost the only still-popular sun-dried vegetable in the North is kasoori methi. South Indians continue to use vathal, which could be made from many vegetables. The popular vathals that I have used and know of are sundakkai berries and cluster beans. These are used to cook vathakuzhambu an intensely tart ‘curry’ that is ambrosia to those of us who love rice. Read the rest of this entry »