This thiyal is an adaptation of a Keralan shrimp recipe. The curry is made with a dark, sour sauce of toasted grated coconut, tamarind and browned onion. Like many Keralan dishes, it is anointed at the end with an oily stir fry of dried red chiles, curry leaves and mustard seeds. It’s deeply complex & satisfying.
The original recipe is for seafood which makes me wonder whether it didn’t call for kodampoli (also known as “fish tamarind”) rather than regular tamarind. The recipe comes from Maya Kaimal’s Curried Favors, which doesn’t ever call for kodampoli though it is a common ingredient in this part of India.
I served it with spinach pachadi from the same book. This is a failsafe recipe – easy and delicious. The coolness of the yogurt plays off the spiciness of the chiles. The earthiness of the spinach and curry leaves permeates the entire mixture.