On a recent trip to the Bay Area, my husband took me to a South Indian restaurant to impress me. He often works in California and had been to the restaurant a few times with his Indian colleagues. Knowing how picky I am with Indian restaurants, he was eager to get my verdict. Since we were really hungry, the waiter naturally took extra long to take our order, gave our order to some other table, tried to give us a different dish, and then finally showed up with the right food. Ah crappy service, a hallmark of an authentic Indian restaurant! We were both so hungry by the time the first plate arrived, we tore into the Uthappams (South Indian crepe with vegetables included in the batter) with gusto. The plate was empty in two minutes. Even the chutneys (dips) were all gone. With fingers tapping and eyes wandering over to our neighbors’ plates we proceeded to wait for the next dish.
The food was good, almost as good as in South India. My husband’s eyes popped out as I’ve never said that about any other Indian restaurant we’ve been to. This is not a compliment that I dole out easily.
While many Indian restaurants do a decent job on the entrees, they don’t pay as much attention to the simple but important sides, the chutneys. The green coconut chutney in the Bay Area restaurant was great! And they had not one but three kinds of chutneys with each dish.
It’s such an easy thing to make that it is astounding to me that someone can make coconut chutney that doesn’t taste good. After reading this recipe, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Shredded coconut (fresh or frozen) – about 1/2 cup
Cilantro leaves – 1/2 cup chopped
Green chile (thai or jalapeno) – 1-2, stems removed and roughly chopped
Lime – to taste (typically juice of 1/2 – 1 lime. Can also use lemon juice)
Salt – to taste
Blend the coconut, cilantro and green chiles with 1/4 cup of water. If you need more water, add a bit more. If you want to make the chutney to use as a dip, try to use as little water as possible. Add salt and squeeze lime juice to taste.
Taste the chutney and add more cilantro or chiles if you like. The amounts are an estimation and I always go by the taste. I love my chutney spicy and with extra lime.
I’ve even substituted coconut milk for shredded coconut and it makes for a creamier chutney. Use thick coconut milk (vs. lite coconut milk) and don’t add any water.
It is typical to season oil with mustard seeds, curry leaves etc and pour this onto the chutney for added taste. In my opinion the chutney tastes great without this final step which requires more work and ingredients.
Traditionally, this green coconut chutney is eaten with dosas (south indian crepes made of lentil and rice flour) and idlis (steamed rice cakes). But I think it can also be used as a dip. Try it with toasted pita bread or corn chips.