Chocolate and Gold Coins

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


This weekend I made Idlis (spongy rice cakes). The traditional condiment for Idlis is coconut chutney. I have made this many times, but I still mess it up.

I added the coconut, the dahlia (dry roasted channa daal), the green chilies, and some water and tried to grind it up. I tasted the mixture and realize that I added way too much dahlia (it doesn’t take much, maybe one tablespoon for a cup of chutney).

So I took some of the chutney mix and put it back in the mixer (Sumeet makes an awesome mixer). I looked for some more coconut, but we were all out. So, in desperation, I just took a half cup of almonds, thinking: “nuts are nuts.” I ground it smooth. Then I added too much salt so I added a little sugar to hide the salty taste. I was thinking this chutney would be a big disaster.

So how was this salty sugary almond chutney? Not bad at all actually. Of course I have no real sense of what traditional chutney is, so I’m more open to trying variations. If you give someone from India a pizza made with cheddar cheese, he might like it, but an American might think it was really odd tasting.

So the real test was my wife. She’s from Tamil Nadu. Surely she would know that I substituted almonds for coconut, wouldn’t she? Well, I was just curious if she would notice without my telling her. She ate it. I asked her how it was. She said that it seemed a little sweet, “did you add sugar?” I admitted that. “You forgot chilies.” I had not forgotten, but I should have added another one since the original chilies got diluted. But she never mentioned the almonds.

Actually, I think the chutney came out creamier than usual. Maybe substituting almond for coconut is a real option. Almonds are much better to eat that coconut.


  • Hi Vikram
    Our Sumeet is 12 years old and still running fine. It could probably grind rocks.

    Btw, coconuts are high in some bad oils. Almonds have the (relatively) good oil.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 10:01 PM  

  • :) that was smart... people sometimes substitute coconut with grated carrots - if there is no coconut available or for people with health problems... it tastes the same except I guess for color which is a dead give-away
    (btw, I have finally got around to updating the blogroll on my bog!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:15 PM  

  • Hi Charu
    Carrots for coconut? Uhh...even if you found white carrots I think I could tell the difference really easily: one has oodles of fat and the other doesn't. But I'm sure it would be healthy.

    Thanks for putting me on your blogroll. That will give you the triple.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 10:33 PM  

  • A pizza with Cheddar cheese is actually not that bad. Actually, I cant't even tell the difference, as you said.

    Btw, what is the difference between "linked C&GC" and "bookmarked C&GC"?

    By Blogger Kunal, at 3:53 AM  

  • I always wondered the reason for the strong Indian connection in your blog. In my ignorance linked it too your communications with Amit. Never guessed it might be due to a Tamilian wife.

    Coconut Chutney is one of my favourite things, of course poured over crispy vadas swimming in hot sambar.

    Living in Australia such things are now a very rare treasured treat. Must add with a wee bit of jealousy you have now left feeling me very deprived and nostalgic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:39 AM  

  • Hi Kunal
    The closest I could get to eating a cheddar cheese pizza is a cheese quesadilla (which is usually made with jack cheese).

    Bookmarked C&GC is a special category of people who have the good taste to blogroll this blog. A very small group which includes some of the finer blogs and a few not so good ones as well.

    It is both actually. Amit sends a lot of Indians and "desis" to my blog so I have kind of pushed it to that orientation. It is a classic case of satisfying the customer. But I do know a lot about Indian culture via my wife and my curiousity about India.

    I like vadas but they're a bit to greasy for me (I cannot take too but deep fried stuff) I will peal the skin off of them and eat the tender insides.

    Btw, are the "Australian" from who frequently visits? Or maybe there are several such people. They rarely comment.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:44 AM  

  • Michael, what triple?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:36 AM  

  • Hi Charu
    That was Kunal's question. (more or less).
    It is my strange method of blogrolling people. I put them into 3 categories: blogs I like to read every day, ones that have linked to me, and ones that have blogrolled me. So you wind up in my blogroll 3 times.

    Of course I could easily put everyone in my blogroll 1000 times, what difference does it make? I don't know. But that's how I do it.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 10:23 AM  

  • Hi Michael.

    You know, we make a variation of chutney that is more dal and less coconut, and with red chillies. looks orange-ish and is nice and spicy. We have that with thick dosas called 'pithas'.
    I'm not sure if that's just how we do it in Orissa, or elsewhere too. Try it sometime, you might like it :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:40 AM  

  • In India most people wouldn't dream of substituting almonds with coconuts.......especially since chutney is eaten (by a lot of families) almost daily.

    Mostly because a coconut costs some Rs. 10, while a kilogram of almonds costs some Rs. 400 :-))

    But, innovation is the mother of invention (or some such bilge) and there's nothing more fun than playing in the kitchen!

    By Blogger Sunil, at 11:36 AM  

  • Hi Ash and sunil
    Ash: You know, I have never tried Orissi food. I have never seen it. I think there is a niche in the restaurant world for all those cuisines that get overlooked.

    Sunil: Coconuts are extremely expensive! Once I got some coconut shell in are garbage disposal and it wrecked it. We ended up spending $400 for a new one. For $400, I could buy almonds every month for about 20 years.

    Almonds are expensive, sort of, but really the relevant cost of food in the U.S. is the opportunity cost of preparing it, the health consequences of eating it, and the caloric intake. Of course, a middle class home in India might spend 20 to 30 percent of the family income on groceries. For my family, we spend about 5 percent. Food is relatively inexpensive here.

    But there are lots of things that are not cheap here.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 6:34 PM  

  • Hi Sunil
    I just thought of something: could almonds really be 400 Rs per kilogram in India? That is a whole lot more than the U.S. price.

    Considering the difficulty of having to crack open and cut up the coconut, I don't think theres any diffenence in the price of coconut and almonds in the U.S. and almonds are better for you.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 6:41 PM  

  • Guilty as Charged Michael, I do visit chocolateandgoldcoins as soon as a new post is up, but very very rarely comment. But I do so when something really touches me like the coconut chutney, for e.g. or when I think I can add something of value to the discussion.

    OMG you skin the vadas, that's like peeling a banana and eating the skin instead. But each to his own I guess.

    The tamilian aspect also touched something, because though I'm a pucca north Indian my granny was an Iyengar.

    I like your economic posts a lot (wannabe economist at one time, changed field to finance after a torturous period of economic honours - I sucked at econometrics)and the general observations about life alongwith the concise expression, so you live up to your blogname indeed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:24 AM  

  • Hi Sean
    I'm glad you find the site interesting. I will get back to the economics soon, I'm interested in many things.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 8:42 AM  

  • I never thought a coconut chutney could be made from almonds.. hmmm.. interesting thought..but, I probably would never try it.. I like my coconuts too much to substitute it with almonds.. :)

    Almonds are costly and a good coconut could be got for as low as Rs 5/- to Rs.10/- in south india.

    Nice visiting your blog. hope to come regularly

    By Blogger sathish, at 11:41 PM  

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