Tharavu Mappas – Duck Curry From Kuttanad

Tharavu Mappas - Duck Curry From Kuttanad
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Tharavu Mappas is a  a traditional  duck curry  from the Kuttanad.  Duck is  cooked   in  a  creamy fragrant  sauce  made  with  coconut  milk and  spices.   For many  this is a  must  have dish  on  Christmas  dinner  menu.

Tharavu Mappas - Duck Curry From Kuttanad

Kuttanad is  the   waterlogged  region in the south Indian state of Kerala  where boats  and  canoes  were the  main mode of  transportation up 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   was  known  to cook  fish on occasion.

My first  road trip to Kuttnad  was with  DH.  It  was a  beautiful  drive –  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.

Catch  your  own  fresh  fish and   cook it  right on the  boat,  refill provisions  from the  store  on the banks…  it  indeed  sounds  like  someone’s  dream  life 🙂 .  One is never too far  from civilization,  but still  able  to shut  it  out  at  will   –  there is  something  to be  said  for   that!  Fair  warning “Never  in rainy season”.

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  when  we  hang  up our  aprons  and   go  globetrotting.

Duck

Usually  the  duck skin is  left  on.   It  makes  the  curry  much  thicker  and  richer.   I am  not a  fan of   the skin  so I leave  it  out.  It is  entirely up to you.

What  I would  recommend  though,  is  to   get a young  duck.

Making Tharavu Mappas

Spices

I like  to  crush  the  spices in my mortar and  pestle, as  the  quantity  small.   As you  crush it  the  aromas  are   release and  it is a  good  indicator  of  the  finish   dish.   If  making  larger  quantities   use a  blender  jar  or coffee  grinder.

Refrigerate   extra   spice  powder (if  making  larger  quantities) and  use  within a  few  days.    The leftover  spice  powder  can be  sprinkled  on on  kabobs  and  or  used  in other  hearty meat curries  as well.

Coconut Milk

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.

Pressure Cooker  To The  Rescue

I make  tharavu Mappas  in the  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,  and  the  hands  on  cooking  time  is   also  reduced.  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 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 
A traditional Duck Curry made with coconut milk and spices from Kerala.
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 1 Whole Young Duck ( 4 - 5 lbs or 2 kg )
For Marinating Duck
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbsp Vinegar
Whole Spices To Powder Together
  • 1 Inch Cinnamon stick
  • 6 Cloves
  • 3 Green Cardamom
  • 1 Tsp Whole Peppercorns
  • 1 Tsp Fennel
  • 1 Star Anise
For Gravy
  • 2 C Onions, Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Inch Fresh Root Ginger
  • 3 - 4 Green chilies Serrano or similar
  • 1/4 C Garlic Cloves
  • Few Curry leaves
  • 1 1/2 Salt To Taste
  • 1 Tsp Chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp Coriander powder
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 Can Coconut Milk See Notes
  • 1 C Hot water
Final Touches
  • 1 Tsp Pepper Powder
  • 1 Tsp Garam Masala Notes
Instructions
Marinate the duck
  1. 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.
Make the dry spice powder
  1. Dry roast (optional) and powder fennel, star anise, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves.
Make curry
  1. Thinly slice the onions, ginger and garlic. Slit the green chilies.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. If on a traditional stove top pressure cooker it takes up to 3 whistles or about 10 to 12 minutes of  high  pressure in an electric one.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Let the curry rest for 30 minutes before serving. It tastes best if allowed to rest overnight.
  7. Before serving warm the curry and sprinkle a little garam masala and pepper powder on top.
Recipe 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.
  • You can  use  store bough  or  home  made   garam  masala.  Here is  my  all purpose  garam  masala 

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

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Tharavu Mappas - Duck Curry From Kuttanad

 

Like to more recipes from this region ? Click here ..

Kerala Recipes

 


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