Until a few years ago the only cabbage preparation that I knew to make was the very typically Mangalorean style vegetable thel-piao
or oil & onion method which is more like a saute. To be honest, it does not involve any process of sauteing. All you need to do is dump the ingredients in a pan, sprinkle some water and wait for the veggies to cook until limp. After some generous sprinkling of coconut it was ready to be served. This is one of the two ways that mum used to prepare it at our place. The other was more like a fugad minus the coconut where some red chillies were tossed in hot oil before the cabbage was added. Either ways, I never complained as I love vegetables. The only vegetable I didn't touch during my childhood was the bitter gourd for obvious reasons. I took to enjoying it only after I began to manage my own kitchen and wanted to experiment with all kinds of vegetables.
When I was expecting my daughter I had a lady come to help me with the baby. She hailed from the western ghats of Karnataka and was a great cook. I learnt many a dish from her and especially this pepper cabbage which she prepared using her own home ground spice blend. It was the stew powder which she made and enjoyed adding to many dishes including the pork bafat
! However, we dissuaded her to do so as the pork bafat used to end up tasting something else without mentioning the additional amount of spice which our palates couldn't take!
The spice blend that she prepared at home had a heady pungent aroma of freshly ground pepper to which some roasted cumin was ground and added. For some reason I totally missed to ask her the proportions of this blend but I am positive that it was our typical stew powder albeit with a higher ratio of peppercorns to other ingredients thus making it very potent.
Since I love spicy food I used to enjoy the fiery pepper cabbage that she used to cook for us. Ever since she left I have been meaning to re create the blend but couldn't get around to doing it. On my recent trip to Mangalore I simply picked up a packet of ready made stew powder which were are thoroughly enjoying in our dishes now. It is simply marvellous, reminds me so much of my mom's cooking as she used to use this blend in most of her dishes giving it a unique twist. In fact, something as simple as a fried egg tasted so yum when stew powder was used instead of regular pepper powder. I have begun to do that now. Pepper, cumin and turmeric are nature's cure for so many common ailments that it never hurts to get a daily dose of some.
For those who have no access to stew powder or until I share the recipe for a homemade spice blend I have given an approximation of how you can make it at home using powders. It makes just a small batch for one time use. Do feel free to alter the proportions to your liking. You may add more pepper powder if you so desire or like the dish to be fiery. Do take care not to go overboard as the dish will burn your throat as pepper can turn out to be more pungent than the spice that regular chillies (red or green) provide.
Cabbage Miryapito ~ Mangalorean Catholic Style Pepper Cabbage (Using Stew Powder)
- 500 grams cabbage
- 1 medium-big onion finely chopped
- 1 large tomato finely chopped
- 1-1/2 inches ginger finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin/jeera
- 1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
- 2 teaspoons Mangalorean stew powder * see notes
- 2 tablespoons oil
- salt to taste
1. Cut the cabbage into cubes or large chunks then disintegrate the layers. Transfer into a pan with plenty of water. Add salt, vinegar and turmeric and keep aside for 15-20 mins (to help get rid of bacteria & other crawlies). Discard the water and wash in two changes of water and place on a colander to completely drain off the excess water
2. Heat oil in a heavy, wide based pan or kadhai. Toss in the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a couple of seconds. Then add the curry leaves if you are using them.
3. Reduce the heat and add the chopped ginger and fry it on a medium heat for half a minute. Next fry the onions for a good 5-7 minutes or until they turn translucent and slightly golden in colour.
4. Now add the tomatoes and a little salt and fry them till they turn mushy and the excess water dries up. You will notice that the tomatoes when fried really well begin to look oily. This is an important step as you need a good masala base as the cabbage itself does not release any stock or a lot of flavour of its own.
5. Add the stew powder and fry for 4-5 seconds - take care not to let it get burnt.
6. Add the washed & drained cabbage and mix everything well. Sprinkle not more than 2-3 tablespoons of water to help create steam in which the cabbage will cook. Adjust salt to taste. Stir every now & then and let it cook on a medium heat till done. * see notes
7. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with rice or chapathis
1. Mangalorean style stew powder is a blend of peppercorns, cumin and turmeric along with spices such as cinnamon & cloves. If you are using store bought blends you may find many other ingredients such as the poppy seed. To make a small batch of stew powder for a single use (for this recipe), take 1-1/4 teaspoons roasted cumin/jeera powder, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground (fine) pepper powder, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (haldi) powder and just about a pinch of garam masala powder - if you have clove and cinnamon powders, you may use them instead of the garam masala powder. This is just an approximation although I always use stew powder that we prepare in bulk. I will post the recipe for it shortly.
2. I prefer cabbage that is not overcooked and limp, so I usually cook it till it is just about crunchy and still has some amount of firmness to it.
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