Kerala Vegetable Ishtu

~ A contemporary take on a classic stew

This recipe is my take on the classic Kerala Ishtu, a coconut milk based mild curry that is is stew like and goes well with a whole array of mains like idiyappam, aapam, dosai, etc.,. All these mains are very typical to the Tamil/Kerala cuisine that are made using rice and is eaten at breakfast or lunch or dinner. A very versatile curry, we love to eat with some plain white rice or quinoa for a quick and scrumptious meal.

This is a very simple and easy recipe, when we use canned coconut milk. Traditionally this recipe calls for fresh coconut milk since the South Indian state of Kerala is synonymous with coconut groves……groves and groves of those tall coconut trees make a sight for sore eyes and a treat for coconut lovers. Coconut based recipes are an integral part of all of South Indian cuisines and we absolutely love it..added bonus, it is effortlessly vegan and completely plant based and brings so much flavor to a dish!!

There is no hard and fast rule on what to pair this stew with….we had a fusion meal…Ishtu, steamed white rice and curry spiced – pan fried tofu….and they went so well together, we loved it.

Prep Time : 10 minutesCook time : 15 minutes
Spice Level : 🌶🌶Ease Level : 😃
Serves – 4 to 6Curry/Entree

Recipe : Kerala Vegetable Ishtu

Ingredients :

  1. Mixed vegetables – chopped – 3 cups – I added carrot, green beans, potatoes and broccoli
  2. Shallots – 2 medium sized – thinly sliced
  3. Full fat coconut cream – 1 can – 13.5 fl oz
  4. Ginger paste – 1 teaspoon
  5. Garlic paste – 1 teaspoon
  6. Thai Green chili – 2 – slit lengthwise
  7. Curry leaves – 8 to 10 ( optional)
  8. Coconut oil
  9. Salt to taste
  10. Sugar – 1/2 teaspoon – optional
  11. Water as needed.

For Tempering :

  1. Green Cardamom – 4
  2. Cinnamon stick – 2 inches long
  3. Cloves – 2
  4. Bay leaf – 1

Coconut milk tips :

  • I used a can of full fat coconut cream so I added 2.5 cups of water for the entire stew since the milk is quite thick.
  • If using reduced fat coconut milk, reduce water to 1.5 to 2 cups.
  • This version is not very thick in consistency, we like a thin stew…something like the Tom Kha Gai Thai soup, we add rice in a bowl, pour the stew over it and eat it using a spoon…like we do soups and stews.
  • A highly customizable recipe, so feel free to make changes to suit your taste buds.

How to :

  1. In a saucepan, preferably wide based, add about 2 tablespoon of coconut oil and let it heat up on medium high heat.
  2. Once hot, add the slit green chilis, curry leaves and the tempering ingredients – green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. Let them toast in the oil for about 30 seconds.
  3. Next, add the sliced onion, some salt and let it sweat for about a minute.
  4. Stir in the ginger and garlic paste and saute for a minute, wait until the onions turn translucent, say 2 minutes.
  5. Next add the chopped veggies, stir and mix well. Add salt to taste.
  6. Add about 2 cups of water, if using full fat coconut milk, cover and let it cook for 3 minutes on medium high, stirring in between once. Do not overcook the veggies, they taste best when al dente aka with a bite.
  7. Remove lid, add the coconut milk and another half cup of water if you prefer, check salt level, and let simmer for no longer than a minute, uncovered.
  8. Add the 1/2 teaspoon sugar if using.
  9. Remove from heat, drizzle another teaspoon of coconut oil on top, add the broccoli and let the broccoli cook in the retained heat.
  10. Serve warm with rice, doasi, idly, idiyappam,parotta or aapam. Amp up the heat level if you like, more green chilis to make you sweat !

If you prefer brown rice or quinoa or millets, this stew goes well with it all too. White rice is essentially a bribe for the kids to eat the ishtu! As always, make it your own, enjoy it and thank you for stopping by !

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