Oct 13, 2008

Seasoned Beets / Beetroot Upkari

I grew up in a city called Coimbatore in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. My parents are from the South and North part of Karnataka and our ancestors are from Goa. The food I grew up with was a natural mix of all of the above, mostly Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Konkani cuisine. One can’t really pinpoint what this is, but we have our staples and our variations on someone else’s staples ;)
Rice is an important part of our meal. Our meal consists of, usually, white rice, some sort of a lentil soup/curry to go with the rice or/and yoghurt, and some seasoned and cooked vegetables or greens. To drink, besides water (how boring!), we drink buttermilk/lassi. Indian pickles and fried papads/poppadams/appalam (that is how they are referred to in Tamil Nadu) also may be present. A meal fit for a king, or at least for me.

Today I present to you seasoned beets. In Konkani we call it beetroot upkari (basically, upkari and porriyal = stir-fried vegetable, indian style) and in the regional language here it is called beetroot porriyal. One could eat this as is, or maybe with some white rice and yoghurt.

Beetroot Upkari – Serves 2

Beetroot – 1 (chopped up) **
Black mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Vegetable oil – 1/2tsp
Serrano Pepper (Green Chilli) – 1
Salt – to taste
Water – enough to cover the beets in your pan
OPTIONAL Asafoetida (hing) – pinch of a pinch of a pinch!


1. In a shallow non-stick pan, add the oil and let it heat up on medium heat. Then add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop and crackle all over the place. This means that the seeds are breaking open to release their flavor into the hot oil.

2. As this is occurring add the Serrano pepper and hing (Halved for us spicy monkeys, but keep whole or remove the seeds if not a big fan of heat. Although in this particular upkari, the sweetness of the beets should offset the excess heat from the chilli pepper).

3. Add the chopped up beats and salt and stir. Then add water such that you cover the beets. Place a lid over your pan and cook until beets are semi-tender, then remove lid and let water evaporate. One can, if they have enough time, just cook them covered on really low heat and the water will evaporate eventually. The amount of water to be added depends on the beets. In India it takes longer for things to cook, we’re not sure why. In America, the beets cook up faster so some experimentation may be required to perfect the amount.

4. Serve hot!

**In California, when we cook this we add in the tender and young leaves of the beets. they have their own unique flavor and contain a lot of fibers. Here in India, they are sold without their leaves.

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