Coconut Chutney is synonymous with the cuisine of southeastern India. Every restaurant that specializes in this region’s cuisine makes thénga chutney and often serves it with stuffed rice-lentil crepes and steamed dumplings.
Split and hulled black lentils, once open and the skin removed, aren’t black at all but are off-white. Southern Indians use this form of lentils exclusively not only for their crepes, pancakes and dumplings but also as an important ingredient in many of their spice blends.
Dried tamarind pulp comes in block form, and the tamarind concentrate paste is packaged in plastic jars. Both are available in Asian and Indian grocery stores.
If dried tamarind pulp or the concentrate paste is not available, the juice of 1 medium lime (2 tablespoons) can be used instead.
You can use 1/2 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut in place of shredding the fresh coconut.
Pay extra attention when popping mustard seed in hot oil because its flavor will be determined by its doneness. When it is popped in hot oil, it turns nutty and sweet, a technique essential to cooking the South Indian way. If the seed continues to cook at high temperatures, it becomes bitter and pungent, a flavor highly prized in East Indian kitchens.