Tharavu Mappas – Duck Curry From Kuttanad

Tharavu Mappas - Duck Curry From Kuttanad

Tharavu Mappas is a  a traditional  duck curry  from the Kuttanad. Kuttanad is  the   waterlogged  region in the south Indian state of Kerala  where boats  and  canoes  were the  main mode of  transportation  until a  few  decades  back .  This  abundance of  water makes  it  an  ideal place for water intensive  farming. So there is an abundance of   rice,  water  fowls  like  duck and  geese   and  of course fish.   Not surprisingly many of  the  traditional recipes  in this  region  features  these  ingredients .

This  abundance  does  not  mean  that  every one  ate  fish or  duck with  every meal,  though  some  form of  rice  was a norm with every meal .  My  MIL  who hails  from from this  region  is a lifelong vegetarian, but  even she  did cook  fish on occasion.

My first  road trip to Kuttnad  was with  DH. The  drive  was  beautiful –  the highlight  being   the long  narrow  strip of  road   with  paddy fields  on  either side.  During  the  rainy season the  fields and  parts  of  the  road  will be  flooded  with water.  Monsoon or  not   there  will be  shops selling  duck eggs, duck and   fish every  few hundred meters along this  stretch of  road.

Fishing from the porch in Kuttanad

Here is  my lil  guy  fishing  from the  varandah . This  was in the  thick of  monsoon  and  we  were  just a  few  inches  above  water.  Most of  the water will be   replaced by paddy fields (rice) during  summer.  One  can  rent  houseboats  and  spend days on the  water  here.  You  may not  want  to  it  in the rainy season though.   Catch  your  own  fresh  fish and   cook it  right on the  boat, pull over to the  side  and   refill provisions.  One is never too far  from civilization,  but   still  far away  from it  –  there is  something  to be  said  for   that!

Come to think of  it  may be  one  could  even   buy a  duck  from  a  farmer  in  one  of  the  tiny islands in the water.  Charm one  and  they might  even  cook a  meal for  you!  Something to   try  during the next  visit.

Coming  back to the  duck – I am  not a  fan of   the skin in the  curry.  Usually the  cooks  leave  it in  and  it makes the curry much richer.  It is  entirely up to you.    What  I would  recommend  though is  to   get a young  duck.

Making Tharavu Mappas

I like  to  crush  the  spices in my mortar and  pestle, as  the  quantity is  little and  frankly I like  the  aromas  as  they  are  released.   This  can be  done  in a  blender  jar  or coffee  grinder as well. You could  make a  larger  batch and  save the  rest –  it  tastes  good in  kabobs  and  other  curries  as well.  The  same  goes  for  coconut  milk used –  one  could  use  canned  version or  fresh coconut milk.  If  making  the  coconut milk  from scratch use  the  thin milk to  cook  the meat and  the  thick milk  to flavor and  thicken  the  curry towards  the  end.

I make  tharavu Mappas  in a  pressure  cooker , but  traditionally these  were  slow  cooked over  wood  fires.  The  wood    burning stoves  add their  own  nuanced  flavors  to  this  dish.   The  pressure cooker  version is much less  time  consuming.  Discarding  the  skin  and  excess  fat  makes  this  dish leaner   as  well.  It  may be  low  on fat, but definitely now  low on flavors.

Tharavu Mappas

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Tharavu Mappas

A traditional Duck Curry made with coconut milk and spices from Kerala.

Ingredients

Ingredients:
Whole Young Duck- 4 - 5 lbs (2 Kg)
For Marinade
Fresh Ground Pepper - 1 Tsp
Turmeric powder- 1 Tsp
Vinegar - 1 Tbsp
Powder Together
Cinnamon stick- 1 inch long piece
Cloves- 6
Green Cardamom- 3
Peppercorns- 1 Tsp
Fennel- 1 Tsp
Star anise- 1
For Gravy
Onions - 2 Cups Thinly Sliced
Ginger- 1 Inch Long
Green chilies- 3 to 4 (Serrano or similar)
Garlic Cloves- 1/4 cup
Curry leaves- A Few
Salt- 1 1/2 Tsp (To Taste)
Chili powder- 1 Tsp
Coriander powder- 1 tbsp
Coconut Oil- 2 Tbsp
Coconut Milk - 1 Can (See Notes)
Hot water- 1 cup
Final Touches
Pepper Powder - 1 Tsp
Garam Masala - 1 Tsp

Instructions

Clean and skin the duck. Cut into 3 to 4 inch long pieces. Pat dry with kitchen towels to remove excess moisture. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together. Rub the marinade all over the duck and set aside for 20 minutes.

Dry roast (optional) and powder fennel, star anise, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves.

Thinly slice the onions, ginger and garlic. Slit the green chilies.

Heat coconut oil in a pressure cooker and add the curry leaves and green chilies. Keep the heat on medium and fry for a minute and add the sliced onions. Cook for a few minutes, stirring as needed. When the onions turn brown, add sliced ginger and garlic. Saute for a minute or two and add the powdered spices, chili powder, coriander powder and 1 tsp of salt.

Stir and cook for a minute until the spicy aromas fill the air. Add the duck pieces and cook for 5 minutes over medium high heat stirring often. Add the hot water (or thin coconut milk ). Place the lid on and pressure-cook the duck. It on a traditional stove top pressure cooker it takes up to 3 whistles or about 10 to 12 minutes in an electric one.

Let the pressure release naturally. Open the cooker and check if the duck meat has cooked. If needed replace the lid and cook some more.

Taste and adjust salt. Bring the curry to a boil and add coconut cream ( Or the first extraction of fresh coconut milk) from the can. Turn off the heat and replace the lid.

Let the curry rest for 30 minutes before serving. It tastes best if allowed to rest overnight.

Before serving warm the curry and sprinkle a little garam masala and pepper powder on top.

Notes

  • Skinning the duck is entirely at your discretion.
  • Fresh young duck cook in about 10 minutes in the pressure cooker. But with store bough frozen version I have had mixed luck with some needing as much as 3 times the cooking time.
  • If fresh coconut milk is available i recommend using it.

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Serve t his  curry  with Appam  or  pathiri or  Ghee Rice ..

Tharavu Mappas

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Tharavu Mappas - Duck Curry From Kuttanad

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