Monday, October 19, 2009




Thengai or Thenkai chutney refers to Coconut chutney that is a must with Idli, Dosai and Vada preparation in south India. But very few of us know that Chutney is a Hindi word adopted in wrong meaning by Englishmen via Anglo Indians and exported back to Europe and North America in wrong form, where pickles and mainly sweet preserves are referred to as Chutney. All over India, word Chutney refers to fresh and spicy paste/liquid made using mortar and pastel.
Chutneys are prepared with various ingredients and spices. In sanskrit,Chutney is a food form that means "To Lick" . Chaatan is the Sanskrit word for that. A typical chutny is always slightly higher in saltiness, spiciness and heat. They are meant to enhance food taste and sometimes flavour. Chutnyes are usually accompaniment for bland main item of food like Idli, Dosa or Rice.
Even south Indians especially Tamils stopped referring to THOGAYAL (word for chutney) and started referring to all thogayals aschutneys..

I bring to you the traditional Thengaya Thoghayal aka Coconut Chutney recipe.



process of preparing coconut chutney must start with selection of a good coconut.
A good Coconut should not have black patches on its shell. It should not have soft dark black eyes at the bottom (which are three in number). Gently press the eyes and if need be scrap them a bit using your finger nails. If very soft and easy to scrap black mass, do not buy the coconut.
Next test is to smell the shell. Rancid coconuts smell . Do not buy cream colored shelled fresh coconuts. They may not have rigid flesh inside. The shell color must be biscuit brown. Next test is shaking, it should sound having some water when you shake a coconut. Try hitting the shell using your knuckles. A healthy coconut would sound with healthy clang.

Next stage is breaking it open in two exact halves. This is an art that comes with experience. A heavy iron short bar is used to crack it open. Iron rod is expertly struck only on equator region (if I may use this expression).After hitting once, it should be turned and hit again on other side or slightly away from first strike region. It generally cracks open on equatorial region. Tap it all around twice or thrice and it should crack open in exact two halves as shown in the picture.

Coconut pieces maker

Using an instrument called Thengai Thuruvi, I usually remove pieces as many as I require and freeze extra coconut after washing thoroughly with the shell intact. My coconuts thus last me in frozen condition for months .

If you are using ready made coconut in shredded form which we get in grocer stores all over USA, then you do not need to worry . You can directly use the scrapped coconut for chutney.


Coconut Slices/scrapped... 1 cup
Green Chilies .... 2 to 3
Ginger.............1/2 inch thumb thickness piece
Roasted Gram 2 Tbsp
Salt 1/2 tsp or to taste
Cilantro a few leaves for garnishing
Lime juice/Tamarind juice a little (optional)


Mustard seeds
Black gram dal 1/ tsp
Curry Leaves 1/2 sprig
Asafoetida.... 2 pinches
Red chilly pepper 1 No.
Oil.....1.5 tbsp

Method of Preparation:

If you are using coconut pieces, first thing to be done is to thinly slice coconut pieces. Add green chili peppers and roasted gram (Dalia in Gujarati) . A cup of water and a stone mortar and pastel is what you require in traditional method. My own experience says that chutney made this way tastes best than going modern food processor way.

Lady grinding chutney

Traditional method needs training by mom or elders and modern does not. Make a fine but not too fine paste and add salt to taste.
Transfer the chutney to a vessel and next thing to do is to give it "Sneha Samskara" meaning tempering with oil and spices.

Heat up a little oil in a tempering ladle and add mustard seeds, red chili pepper and black gram dal. When mustard seeds start to crackle, add curry leaves and pout the whole thing on Chutney. Garnish with coriander/cilantro leaves and serve fresh with Idly dosai etc.

Generally a little lemon juice or Tamarind paste is added last to give it a tangy taste. Some people use fresh curds too. But I prefer my chutney on rocks.
Coconut Chutney


Lady grinding chutney foto taken with thanks from "Mysore Blog Park"

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