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.
- Whole Young Duck- 4 - 5 lbs 2 Kg
- Fresh Ground Pepper - 1 Tsp
- Turmeric powder- 1 Tsp
- Vinegar - 1 Tbsp
- Cinnamon stick- 1 inch long piece
- Cloves- 6
- Green Cardamom- 3
- Peppercorns- 1 Tsp
- Fennel- 1 Tsp
- Star anise- 1
- 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
- Pepper Powder - 1 Tsp
- Garam Masala - 1 Tsp
- 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.
- 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.
Like to more recipes from this region ? Click here ..
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear about it ! Leave a COMMENT, RATING , share a photo and TAG me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK OR GOOGLE+