Thursday, January 17, 2008

Roasted Yam Squares (Karunailkizhangu Varuval)

Yam (karunaikizhangu in Tamil, chenai in Malayalam, suran in Marathi or zaminkand in Hindi) is what we call it, but it is actually Elephant foot yam (Amorphophallus campanulatuss) - a member of the aroid family. See pics here

Yam, a starchy tuber, which is a member of the Dioscorea family, is very different from elephant foot yam and is popular in Latin America and Africa. It's name is derived from the African word "njam or djambi" which means "to eat". Pics and more info on this here.

To further complicate matters, not only do we call elephant foot yams as just plain "Yams", but those in the US refer to sweet potatoes as Yams! More on the differences here.

Now that I have cleared up that part (more for me actually, since I had my own confusion going on the difference between chenai and karunaikiliangu!), lets get on to the important stuff - eating!

Elephant yam, I have found, is restricted to specific cuisines in India. Even in Tamil Nadu where it is widely available, many people don’t like it too much and avoid eating it.

Some times when peeling the thick skin of this root vegetable, the back of the hands may itch and this puts off many people. I believe, after cooking yam for so many years, that the itching is not common and is restricted to certain types of yam or their quality. A safe way to avoid this is to apply a bit of coconut oil on the hands before peeling and handling it.
Some people recommend boiling it in tamarind extract so that one doesn't suffer from itchiness of the tongue or throat - which is also supposed to happen with this vegetable, something I haven't experienced.

The best way to buy yam is to ask the vendor to cut about ¼ - ½ a kilo from a full yam – the cut portion should be white and moist. It can be stored outside the fridge but is best consumed within 2 days of being cut, else it will dry out. The cut portion will discolour a bit due to oxidation, but that can be sliced away before cooking. It should be cooked thoroughly before eating since it contains calcium oxalates.

Cooked the right way, the vegetable tastes delicious – I like it best when it is a bit crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
MIL’s recipe is what gets done in our house – I don’t feel the need to change a thing. Yam is cut into thick squares and cooked in a ground masala paste before being slow cooked on a tava till crisp – I finish it off under the grill – consumes less oil and I still get a crispy exterior.

The masala with fennel in it adds the most delicious touch to this dish.

Roasted Yam Squares

Elephant Yam / Karunaikizhangu / Suran – ½ kg

Fennel seeds (Saunf) – 1 tbsp
Red chillies – 4-5
Grated coconut – ¼ cup

Oil – 2 tbsp

Salt to taste

1. Peel thick skin of yam with a sharp knife and wash well to remove any traces of mud.

2. Cut the yam into thick 2 “squares – about ¼ of an inch thick.

3. Boil the yam slices in a large vessel of water with a pinch of turmeric and half tsp salt till half cooked – about 5-6 minutes. If it cooks too long it will break when it is cooked again with the masala.

4. Drain water and keep aside. Grind the ingredients of the masala paste with a little water to make a thick paste.

5. Take a wide non stick pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil in it, add mustard seeds – when they pop add the curry leaves and the masala paste. Fry for about 3-4 minutes.

6. Add the par boiled yam squares to the pan and mix carefully till the paste coats them well.

7. Add salt and cover and cook for about 5-6 minutes till the yam is just cooked. Do not stir too much; the pieces might break.

8. Once the yam pieces are cooked, take a oven proof pan and lightly grease it, arrange the yam pieces on it in one layer and drizzle ½ tbsp oil over them.
Grill in a pre heated oven at 180C for about 7 minutes; then remove, turn over the slices, drizzle ½ tbsp of oil and grill again for another 5-6 minutes till both sides are brown and crisp.

9. Alternatively, arrange the yam pieces on a heavy griddle and cook them over a low flame till they are brown and crispy, drizzling oil 1 tsp at a time as needed.

10. Serve warm as an accompaniment with rice and sambar.


TBC said...

I love yam. "Chena mezukuparati" was something my mom made regularly. :-)

Cynthia said...

Yeah all the names do get confusing as we move from country to continent :) I am definitely going to try this this weekend. I love yams. Yeah we call them yams too :)

DEEPA said...

Wow!!!I really love YAM!!this one is interesting

Happy cook said...

I have never had chenna like this before. We used to have in a different way.
One thing i remember when i was at home that mom used to say if you cut then your hands start scratching, so i thin she used to ass oil her hands before she peeled them

Suganya said...

Miri, Thanks for the links (the first one is not working). I will keep this in mind next time I visit the market.

Mansi Desai said...

we used to eat this a lot on shivratri or other fasting days:) you can even make nice parathas with yam...we call it suran:)

Sagari said...

miri roasted yam looks very yummy this is very new recipe to me thanks for sharing i love your noodles too

Anonymous said...

Suran or elephant yam is chenai kizhangu in tamil not karunai kizhangu. Karunai kizhangu looks little small the taste also differnt compare with suran.