A thattukada is like a"dhaba" or a street food joint, or a NY food truck, but housed in a small restaurant. The restaurant may not be something to write home about (in fact, if you are in college, better not to let your folks know where u are eating.), but most likely the food there was special. My classmates(guys) used always rave about a thattukada behind our college which served fresh meals while we cribbed about our hostel food. It was a boys only place most of the time, so they refused to take us there. In our final year of college, we finally got them to agree to take us there to have a "rice meal". Needless to say, we were the only girls there but the food was good.
Now, far away from the crowd, this food is also a food group we miss, as much for the taste as for the fond memories of the time and place. Kappa Erachi, now known as a glorified "Kappa Biryani, used to be known simply as "erachiyum poollayum" in our houses, is a mashed concoction of spiced beef and tapioca, held together by a ground coconut paste. There are versions of this everywhere now, with more spices, more garam masala, with roasted coconut, but back home, its made very simply with some beef varatiyathu mixed into the kappa. My mom was amused to see our humble food being marketed as a ethnic gourmet delight in the TV and the resorts of Kerala. Well, I guess, as long as there are expatriate Keralites around, these resorts will do well and I definitely won't mind going and eating there.:)
Ingredients for 4-6 servings
Tapioca/ Yuca – 2 lbs
Beef – 1 lbs
For Cooking Beef
Shallots – 10
Fresh Ginger - Garlic Paste– 2 tbsp
Hot Green Chillies – 7
South Indian Garam Masala Powder – 1 tsp
Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp
Roasted Coriander Powder – 2 tbsp
Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp
Pepper Powder – 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek Seeds- 1.2 tsp
Curry Leaves – A handful
Salt – to taste
For Coconut paste
Grated Coconut – 1 cup
Fennel seeds – 1 tbsp
Curry leaves-1 sprigs
1.Clean and cut the beef into small cubic pieces. Peel the tapioca and cut into medium sized chunks. Do not use any portion that is discolored, has blue lines or looks too soft.
2.Mix the spice powders and salt and keep aside. Chop the green chillies finely and add to the beef, along with the ginger garlic paste and spice powders under the beef heading. Keep aside for about half hour.
3. Add the marinated beef, 4 sliced shallots, ginger-green chili paste and the rest of the ingredients including the leaves. Add half cup water and slow cook the meat on low heat and covered for 1hr, and stirred once in a while to prevent it from sticking to the pan. The cooking time will vary with the quality of the beef. Usually beef back in Kerala used to take forever to cook and here it gets over cooked too easily. So keep an eye on it. Alternately, pressure cook the meat without adding any water, for 2-5 minutes after the first whistle and then open the cooker and let the extra liquid dry up on medium low heat in the cooker itself.
4. Meanwhile, boil the tapioca pieces along with salt and 1/2 tsp turmeric until tender. You would need to add water for boiling....about double the quantity of tapioca. I usually pressure cook that too in just enough water to cover it, for just one whistle. If there is too much water after the tapioca is cooked, drain the water (reserve it)and keep the tapioca pieces aside. The tapioca should be soft.
5. Grind the coconut with the fennel, shallots and curry leaves. Optionally, dry roasting the coconut for about 5minutes gives it nice flavor.
6. Mix the tapioca pieces with the beef, its gravy and the coconut. Adjust salt as needed. Cover and let it simmer on very low heat for about 5 minutes till the flavors blend in. Leave it covered for some more time. The texture should not be watery, it should be semi- thick and chunky with pieces of beef and tapioca.
Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil and fry the remaining 6 shallots (sliced finely) till brown and then add the curry leaves. Pour this mix over the kappa erachi and serve.