Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vallarai Keerai Thogayal

My son wanted me to read "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" to him, yesterday evening. I was reading and he slowly started to go through the Magic Pot magazine. I politely told him to listen to the story and he said "I'm listening to the story". He was also eyeing on what's happening in the Potato Panic game which my daughter was playing. Slowly he asked for his favorite Chotta Bheem in POGO when my husband took the remote to watch TV. To me, this is all big NO. I told him, "if you want me to read the story why don't you listen to it, rather than doing many things, please stay focused". I felt he is getting distracted. I was losing interest to read. He still said that he was listening to the story. This did not make me feel good, but I let it go................. Again at bedtime, he wanted me to tell the same story. I started to tell....."There were three billy goats who lived on a rocky mountainside. There was a river nearby and  on the  other side of the river, there was fresh juicy green grass which the goats were longing to eat"...he stopped me and said.."Mommy, you know the words come like this in the book.." right next to the mountain ran a powerful rushing river..." I was taken aback, puzzled, surprised, amazed....whatever you can say. I started to think, he was doing many things (sometimes he does this when I read the story to him, and he has listened to this story many times too). Now, I can't say that I can remember many things like this when compared to a little kid. Or I don't know how well we utilize our brainpower. But to say it exactly...wow I was appreciating how efficient, powerful and amazing the brain and memory cells are. We usually say brain as tiny or phrases such as use your head, think using your brain......but in reality see the tiny little brain of a 5 yr old way better and efficient than a completely grown adult brain. I smiled and at him, commented good for his listening and remembering (I am the one who always read to him. Yet, I did not even think of using those words, not even once,  to narrate to him later). 

Immediately, the thought of a pack of vallarai keerai in the fridge made me decide to make something out of it tomorrow so that all of us can get something good out of this and enhance our memory (especially for me). The brain of little kids grows very fast. If you are able to use such natural memory promoters in your diet, probably, it will help all the kids have a great future. Well, that's my perspective, would be the same for all the moms. To make them eat it, well.....it's another chapter of a book and that's where all the moms try out different ways to present it to kids in an appealing way. 

Ok...prologue is enough and coming back to vallarai (in Tamil) or brahmi (in Sanskrit), all of us know it as a memory enhancer. It is a creeper belonging to Umbelliferae family, growing along riverbanks or in wetlands. The leaves of this plant are used for medicinal purposes. When browsing more about it, read that it can grow even from nodes and can be grown hydroponically too, just now gave me the idea to get a plant or a part of it with the nodes from a vendor, and grow in my home. I Will update here, once I get and grow one.

I made a very simple thogayal (kind of a pesto) with the leaves. It can be made within 10 minutes and it tastes great. 


Vallarai leaves - 1 cup (medium packed), washed
Urad dhal - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tbsp
Dried red chillies - 4
Hing - 1/8 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Tamarind - 1 inch piece
Oil - 1 tsp
Jaggery - 1/8 tsp (optional)


Heat oil in a pan. Add red chillies, mustard and urad dhal. When the mustard splutters, add hing and the leaves. Saute for a min, till the leaves get wilted. Cool this mixture and grind with salt, tamarind, and jaggery. Adjust salt if needed. That's it, delicious thogayal is ready to eat mixed with rice and a dollop of sesame oil which brings out lots of flavor. Any thogayal rice is best accompanied by fried papad or vadam. Wow! a tasty and fast meal is ready by the time rice gets cooked. 

Vallarai Thogayal with rice and papad.

The last time I made it say a while ago, my husband said, it was slightly bitter. So added a little jaggery to make the kids try it. It was easy to convince my daughter, just told her the medicinal use of the leaves and she was happy to try it. She loved it and ate only this thogayal or chutney mixed with rice and papad. Well....my son... I didn't tell him, what it was... He saw me mixing something and so immediately he expressed his choice was to eat curd rice ONLY and nothing else. Though he showed all kinds of faces...sneaked a few bites in between his favorite curd rice. He didn't complain but ate the thogayal rice, a green signal for some sort of okay. This gave me some motivation to try other recipes out of the brilliant plant in the future and pondering over its medicinal uses, I am going to make this often.

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