It is koorka season once again. This root vegetable, mostly found in Kerala, is a close cousin of potato, but with much more character and flavor than the mundane potato. Koorka has a very earthy flavor and is very tasty. I prefer cooking koorka using minimal spices so that nothing else overpowers its original flavor and aroma. Hence I do not use any garlic or masalas. Many a times we do not even use shallots/onion but just plain koorka cooked in coconut oil along with mustard seeds and curry leaves. The taste is in retaining the unique koorka flavor.
Since koorka is small in size and is hairy and muddy, cleaning koorka is a time-consuming task. But there are some shortcuts. The easiest method is to pressure cook it along with water (just like potato) to 1-2 whistles, cool it, and then peel it. Cooking it this way makes koorka soft. Another method is to wrap the koorka in a gunny bag or moderately thick cloth and beat it against a rough stone surface and use your hands to scrape over the cloth so that the koorkas brush against each other. Do this for 5-10 minutes and most of the koorka peels come off. But then again, you will have to clean/remove the leftover peels from individual koorkas and this can be time consuming. Wash and rinse the koorka multiple times until all mud/peel goes off the koorka. Cut it to desired pieces and cook with some water. Personally, I prefer the second method because it retains firmness of the koorka.
Koorka – 250 gms
Shallots – 5-6 (optional)
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Chilly powder – 1 tsp
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Water as needed
Salt as needed
Preparation Time: 30-45 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 2 to 3 people
Wash, clean, and cut the koorka into long thin slices. As mentioned above, you may choose to pressure cook it or peel the raw vegetable and cut it into slices. If you are peeling it raw, make sure that you immerse the pieces in water until you are ready to cook it. Just like potato, if exposed to air, koorka gets oxidized. Immersing it in water prevents discoloration/oxidation.
In a pan, add the sliced koorka pieces,turmeric powder, chili powder, and water just enough to immerse the pieces. Cover and cook until water is completely absorbed and the pieces are tender. Be careful not to overcook. Add salt and stir well.
Crush the shallots using a mortar and pestle. It is desirable to use mortar and pestle because a mixer would turn it into a paste. The idea is to just crush it to bring out the flavor.
Heat oil in a pan, add mustard, and let it crackle. Add the crushed shallots and curry leaves. Saute until the shallots turn golden brown. Add cooked koorka and mix well. If you prefer them crispy, add a little more oil and simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the koorka pieces turn slight golden brown. Serve with rice.
Notes: Cleaning koorka using the second method can make the skin in your fingers dark and a little rough. The easiest way to clean your skin is to apply some oil on your hands and then slowly rub a pumice stone against the affected areas in the skin. You can see the normal skin texture and color return in few seconds. After you are done with all affected areas, wash hands with soap and water.