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.
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.
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.
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