The first time we ate this dish was during our stay at the Kumarakom Lake Resort in Kerala back in 2001. (How we ended up there for a month is a funny story that all started with Cindy miscalculating pounds and dollars for a hotel in London. Ask us about it!) Fast forward to 2014 and our first meal at Biju’s Little Curry. Tasting the cabbage side dish — Cabbage Thoran, as it’s known in Kerala — was like a trip down memory lane.
Now that Biju’s Little Curry is no longer, we have set out to make it on our own. Make sure to have all of your ingredients chopped and ready so you can move quickly!
Note: it’s worth heading to your local Indian grocery for fresh curry leaves and coconut (the coconut will be in the freezer section), but don’t stress if you have to use dried.
Cabbage thoran is a staple in Keralan cuisine. It’s super easy to make and will add a lovely South Indian (think coconut) twist to any meal.
2 C green cabbage, shredded ( or 12 oz. bag of coleslaw mix)*
3 small green chilies, slit lengthwise (remove seeds for less heat)
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp black mustard seeds
12 fresh curry leaves (dried OK if only type available)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
2 TBSP coconut or other vegetable oil
3/4 cup freshly grated coconut
Kosher salt to taste (start with 1/2 tsp)
In a large lidded saucepan, heat the 2 TBSP oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
Add 1 tsp black mustard seeds, then reduce heat to medium.
Add 12 curry leaves and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add sliced green chilies and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add sliced shallots and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly softened, about 1 minute.
Add the turmeric and cumin powders and stir vigorously to ensure the spices don't burn, but the oil turns yellow, about 10 seconds.
Add the cabbage and 1/2 tsp salt and stir fry until cabbage just starts to wilt, about 1 minute.
Once cabbage is dry, add the grated coconut and sir until it's mixed into the cabbage and heated through, about 1 minute.
*Don’t worry about the carrots and red cabbage...it’s all good!