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Tomato Thokku June 13, 2007

Posted by live2cook in Pickles and Condiments.

Have you ever thought why a recipe is named so?

Our ancestors grouped and named the recipes by the preparation method,by the nature and consistency or the way it is served viz., Appetizers, Main dish, Sides and Desserts. In Tamil, recipes are generally named and grouped by the method of preparation. Apart from the above, there is one other group of recipes that complements the main dish. This group consists of Pickle, Dips, Condiments etc. Lets take a bird’s eye view of this group.

In Tamil, We call “Pickle” as “oorukaai”, “oorudhal” is the word that denotes “Soaking or Curing”. “Kaai” denotes vegetables. Ooru+kaai=oorukaai. Curing+Vegetable=>Pickle. All things that is Cured by salt and Spices and requires no cooking in the preperation is a Pickle or OOrkaai.

Dips do not involve any cooking and have very little shelf life. Usually herbs and a base ingredient like yogurt are used to prepare dips. we can consider our Raita, Pachchadi(Tamil) to belong to the dips category.

Then comes the condiment. Condiment has longer shelf life but less than that of a pickle. It is not served as a pickle, but, as a spread. We have quite a few items that fall under this group. Chutney, “Thuvaiyal” and “Thokku”. “Chutney”, is a East Indian term to mean “Crush”. It doesn’t have a longer shelf, nor does it have a base like dips. But, since it complements the main dish like dosa, it is a condiment. For a chutney, no cooking is needed.

“Thuvaiyal” is a condiment. Similar to Chutney. But differs from Chutney in the amount of water we use in grinding and the texture of the paste. Usually Thuvaiyal is ground using the moistness of the main ingredient like fresh coconut. “Thuvaiththal” in Tamil means “Crush or Pound”. We can say “Thuvaippadhal thuvaiyal”, which means “Since we pound the ingredients, we call it thuvaiyal”.

What can we call a recipe that has long shelf life, but less than that of pickle, involves longer cooking time and does not fall into any of the category mentioned above. Our ancestors called this “Thokku”. But why?

“Thokki Nittral” is the phrase that means “that stands Seperate” or “which doesn’t belong anywhere” or “Uncomparable”. When a thing doesn’t belong to any group, it is said to be “Unique” by its characteristics. “Thokki Nindradhaal Thokku” which means “Since it didn’t belong to any of the categories above and stood Unique, it is called as Thokku”.

So shall we make Tomato Thokku – The unique tomato recipe?

The first thing that we have to know about “Tomato Thokku” is, while cooking the Liquid will splash all over the stove, even in low heat. Covering the pan with a lid will form vapour which will turn into water again and delay the cooking.

Slow Cooker comes to the rescue. My version of Tomato Thokku is a slow cooker version. I use Tomato Paste in the place of Tomatoes, as it reduces, the cooking time and gives more shelf life.

The Recipe is :

2 counts of 6-Ounce tins Tomato Paste(Without Salt is good. If you can’t find one, Reduce the salt in the recipe accordingly)
1 Walnut Sized ball of Tamarind (If you use Tamarind Paste, Dilute 2 teaspoons of Paste in 2 Tablespoons of Water)
2 teaspoons Red Chilli Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Roasted and coarsely pounded Fenugreek seeds
1/4 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Asafetida
1 Teaspoon Jaggery
3 Teaspoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Oil

The Method:

Soak the Tamarind in 1/2 Cup of warm water till Soft. Crush well and extract the water in a bowl and discard the pulp. Take the Tomato Paste in a bowl, mix the Tamarind extract and salt.

Heat the Oil in a small Pan and add Mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafetida. Stir for a few seconds and add to the tomato mixture and mix well.

Take this Tomato mixture in a 3 quart Slow cooker. Cover with the lid and cook in high for 1/2 hour or till the mixture starts boiling. Now, turn the setting to low. Open the lid, Mix Chilli, fenugreek powders,Jaggery and mix well. Cover the top of the Slow cooker pot with a folded kitchen towel. Place the lid on top of the towel. Cook for 1 hour. Open the lid and stir once. If the desired consistency is achieved, we can stop here. If not, cook for another hour, the same way.

Tomato Thokku



1. Asha - June 13, 2007

Great color ,almost like Jam:))

2. Suganya - June 13, 2007

Beautiful explanation. We get used to these words so much that we dont care what they mean. But as always, our smart ancestors have thought about everything. Thanks for bringing this out!

3. Chocoholic - June 13, 2007

Can’t wait to try the recipe. Thanks.

4. live2cook - June 21, 2007

Asha, Chocoholic : Thank you!

Suganya – Thanks, my grand ma used to talk to me all the time about many interesting things. This was one of them 🙂

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