I have grown up with its taste and I am sure it is one you can acquire quite easily over time. The distinct, aromatic fragrance of Teppal (also known as Tirphal) is not widely known throughout the country, but used in the coastal cuisine of Goa and Karnataka. Teppal goes well with coconut, which is the mainstay of the coastal cuisine.
It was originally an ingredient in vegetarian cooking, and over a period of time, also began to be used in fish preparations. Not a week goes by in our household without cooking Teppala Ambat (fish curry made with teppal).
Teppal has a strong woody scent. It’s odd how this spice works. You cannot bite into the spice without gasping. Once it’s put into your mouth, you know that it’s not meant to be eaten. Do not eat the teppal as you would eat a curry leaf for example. It should not be ground directly with coconut when you are making the ground coconut masala. While making gravy, teppal should be slightly crushed in one tablespoon of water, and then added to the dish, after the coconut masala.
Teppal has carminative properties, which means it prevents the formation of intestinal gas. If you look up teppal, you will find that Sichuan pepper is considered as its English equivalent. But it is nothing like a Chinese Sichuan pepper — it is unique and stands on it own. Teppal produces the tastiest curries.
Try this Lima Bean curry (recipe below), rest assured you’ll relish it.
-Boil potato, but do not overcook.
-Boil the tur daal in pressure cooker until it is mashed. Keep aside.
-Pressure cook lima beans for one whistle only.
-Make the coconut masala, by grinding all the masala ingredients with a bit of water. The masala should be made into a very fine paste. Add more water if required.
-Meanwhile, heat a thick bottomed pan. Add the coconut paste, boiled potato along with water, salt, jaggery and cook until the raw smell of coconut is gone. Add dal and lima beans. Check for taste and season it, if required.
-Meanwhile, crush the teppal in little water using a mortar and pestle and add to the curry along with the water. Let it boil for 5 minutes and then close the lid.
-Serve hot with rice or rotis.
(Nutritionist and author of What’s for Lunch, Rita Date, shares some interesting recipes and important food facts in her fortnightly column Kitchen Corner in She.)