serves 6


The sweetness of corn is enhanced by coconut milk delicately spiked with roasted red chilies in this delectable side dish from the southwestern state of Kerala. I always serve this with a bowl of steamed rice and a basket of flame-roasted papads (lentil wafers).

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seed
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 to 15 fresh karhi leaves
  • 2 dried red Thai, cayenne, or serrano chilies, dry-roasted and coarsely pounded (see note)
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels


1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seed. When it starts to pop, cover the skillet. As soon as the seed finishes popping, stir in the remaining ingredients.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 6 minutes or until the corn is warm and still slightly crunchy.

Note: You can substitute frozen corn for fresh when it is not available or at its seasonal best. Be sure to thaw and drain the corn to avoid watering down the delicate curry.

Dry-roast chilies in a small 6-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Shake the skillet occasionally for 1 to 2 minutes until the chilies slightly blacken. Cool them and pound coarsely with a mortar and pestle until some of the endorphin enhancers are released—also known as its seeds.

Adapted from The Turmeric Trail: Recipes and Memories from an Indian Childhood by Raghavan Iyer (St. Martin's Press, 2002). Copyright 2002 by Raghavan Iyer.