Body ache? Try green dosa

A creeper found in south India is an answer to several common ailments, says Sumana Narayanan

By Sumana Narayanan
Published: Saturday 15 August 2009

Body ache? Try green dosa

(Credit: VINITA VENUGOPAL)Around September each year, when the northeast monsoon usually started, bags of wet plant material would make their way to our home in Chennai. Every other week my grandmother would collect this plant called mudakkatraan from our untended garden in the village and my father would transport it overnight by train. The bags were much awaited as it meant the green dosa season had begun.

At home, the leaves would be crushed into a gooey paste and mixed with the batter to make green dosas. It was a delicacy, but in most part of Tamil Nadu, the plant is eaten for its medicinal value--it eases joint pains. The entire creeper is pulled out and the leaves plucked for use. The creeper is so common that no one bothers to cultivate it. It grows along roadsides and in untended gardens, like my grandmother's.

Nowadays, the plant is available in powdered form in ayurvedic stores. The powder can also be made at home by sun-drying the leaves and grinding them and can be stored in the refrigerator. Since it does not dissolve in water, the most palatable method of eating it is to swallow a teaspoon of the powder and wash it down with a glass of water. My mother, in fact, is much better now and does not suffer from joint pains like she did earlier.

The creeper, considered a noxious weed in some countries, is found across the tropics. In Sanskrit the plant is called Indiravalli. It belongs to the soap-berry family or Sapindaceae. This family includes plants like lychee and maple. Besides joint pain, mudakkatraan (Cardiospermum halicacabum) also has other medicinal uses the leaf and root are laxatives; they increase the appetite and heal boils and sores. The rasam is used to ease constipation and gas.

Instead of adding the leaves to a recipe a poultice can be made to bring down inflammation and knee joint pain. To make the poultice mudakkatraan leaves sauted in castor oil are bound in a piece of cloth.

The dosas are a good remedy for body ache.

A la carte  

Down to Earth Urad dal (black lentil)
Down to Earth Chana dal (split chickpea)
Down to Earth Mudakkatraan leaves
Down to Earth Tamarind
Down to Earth Methi seeds (fenugreek), cumin, asafoetida, mustard, salt, pepper, red chillies, garlic and oil

Rasam Wash a handful of mudakkatraan leaves. Add the leaves to half-litre tamarind water, with a teaspoon of salt and boil till it loses the smell of raw tamarind. Grind a few red chillies into a paste along with a dash of pepper and jeera (all to taste) and a pinch of asafoetida. Add the paste to the boiling rasam. Add eight cloves of garlic, chopped. When the rasam comes to boil, remove from flame and season with mustard seeds. Drink up to one glassful at a time.

Dosa Make the dosa batter with less urad dal--one third of the usual. The usual ratio of rice to urad dal is 4:1. The amount of urad dal is reduced to make the mudakkatraan paste sticky. Soak a teaspoonful of methi seeds in water and grind it to a paste adding mudakkatraan leaves. This adds to the taste and medicinal property. Mix with the dosa batter. It should be eaten fresh, not allowed to ferment.

Thuvaiyal (a kind of chutney) In half a teaspoon of oil, roast half a teaspoon of mustard seeds, about four red chillies, a tablespoon each of chana dal, urad dal and a pinch of asafoetida. Saute about a cup of leaves in the same pan, without adding more oil. Grind all to a smooth paste with tamarind and salt to taste. Can be eaten with rice or as a side dish for idli, dosa or curd rice.

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