Coconut chutney accompanies many of our favorite meals in the southern part of the Subcontinent, especially dosas, idlis, and the deep-fried South Indian snacks called vadas. It’s an easy way to bring flavor and freshness to the table, with a little chile heat and a good balance of tart and sweet. The chutney can be thick with coconut or very liquid; it’s up to the cook.
Traditionally coconut chutney, like many other South Indian dishes, is flavored with a little dal that is roasted in a skillet. It gives a pleasant toasted flavor, a mellow nuttiness, and also a little crunch. You can grind it in a spice grinder as we do, or leave it whole and crunchy, or omit it, as you please.
Blend the tamarind pulp into the hot water in a small cup and let it stand for several minutes to soften. Place a small sieve over a bowl and press the tamarind mixture through it. Discard the pulp.
Place the tamarind liquid in a blender, add the grated coconut, ginger, green chiles, and salt, and blend well. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Place a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, dal, if using, and curry leaves and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the seeds have popped and the dal is toasted. Immediately pour the oil onto the coconut mixture and stir thoroughly. Serve at once.
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