Lunchbreak: Vegetable Ishtu and Appam, an Indian street food recipe

Midday News
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Margaret Pak, Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Thattu, located in Politan Row Chicago

Thattu at Politan Row Chicago

111 N. Aberdeen St., Chicago

  • Politan Row Chicago is open daily
    • Sunday to Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
    • Friday and Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m


Vegetable Ishtu (Makes 4 servings)

This simple and light soup features a Portuguese influence on the Keralan cuisine: potatoes and vegetables stewed in a trifecta of coconut milk, aromatic spices and curry leaves. Also feel free to switch up with seasonal vegetables.

2 Tbsp Coconut Oil

3 pods Cardamom

3 Cloves

10 Whole Black Peppercorns

1 inch piece Cinnamon

1 stalk Curry Leaves

2 cups Red Onion, cubed

4 cloves Garlic, minced

1 tsp ginger Ginger, minced

3 cups water

1.5 cup Coconut Milk (Chaokoh brand)

2.5 cup Potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 cup Carrots, peeled and cubed

2 cups Green Beans, cut into 1 inch long pieces

Lime Juice


Heat oil on medium heat and place cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon. Once sputtering add curry leaves, onion, garlic, ginger and then fry for about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add salt and all the vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and green beans last). Once veggies are tender, add half of the coconut milk. Cook for a few minutes. Just as it begins to bubble, remove from heat. Add the rest of the coconut milk and add lime and salt to taste.

Ghee Rice (Makes 4 servings)

Long-grained basmati rice is used to make this comforting aromatic rice.

3 cups basmati rice

¼ cup ghee

3 pods cardamom crushed

1 stick cinnamon

3 cloves

1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced

½ in ginger, crushed

2 cloves garlic, crushed


For garnish:

Cashew nuts



Wash and drain the rice. In a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid, heat ghee. Crackle the spices; add onion, crushed ginger and garlic. Next put in the rice. Saute for 5 minutes. Add sufficient hot water to cook the rice and add salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Stir, cover and reduce the heat. Cook until the rice is done (about 25 minutes). Remove from the heat. Allow the rice to sit for another 15 minutes. Garnish it with raisins and cashew nuts sauteed in ghee. Serve warm.


Appam (Makes 15 appam)

 These lacy rice crepes pair well with any curry or stew. It is also eaten with sweetened coconut milk for breakfast.

4 cups idli rice (short grain white rice)

1.5 cup coconut milk (Chaokoh brand)

Pinch of active dry yeast

1 cup cooked rice


1 tsp sugar

½ tsp baking soda

8 inch non-stick pan

Soak rice in water for 4-5 hours. Wash and drain. Grind the rice with coconut milk, yeast and cooked rice to form a fine batter. Add salt, sugar and baking soda. Leave the batter to ferment for about 8-10 hours overnight. (Or in an instant pot for 6-8 hours on the “low” Yogurt setting).

To cook, place a flat 8 inch non-stick pan on the stove. Grease it lightly with oil. Pour half a cup of the batter while you tilt and rotate the pan to spread the batter evenly. The edges of the appam are lacy and the batter will settle in the middle so add a little extra batter to the center. Place the pan back on the stove. Cover it with the lid. The appam is cooked when the bottom is slightly crisp.


 For plating, the ishtu and rice are separate, along with the appam.


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