Though cabbage and Broccolini are both part of the brassica family, we were dubious the former had much to teach us about building bolder flavor in the latter. That is, until we were introduced to Indian thoran, a vegetable dish from Kerala that cooks food in a bare amount of liquid and plenty of seasonings.

Though a thoran may involve any number of vegetables, its distinctive flavor profile is consistent—typically a combination of onion or shallots, coconut, curry leaves, chilies, turmeric and mustard seeds. As the food cooks, the liquid reduces, concentrating flavors and leaving the main ingredient coated in the seasonings.

It’s an approach traditionally used with cabbage, though chef and cookbook author Meera Sodha says she uses it with runner beans, Brussels sprouts and numerous other vegetables, too—a thoran can be made with nearly any garden vegetable that happens to be lying around, she notes.

Inspired by Sodha, we decided to try the same approach with Broccolini, a hybrid of broccoli and gai lan (also known as Chinese broccoli). With a robust flavor similar to broccoli, Broccolini can be a challenge to season. But we suspected the assertive flavors of thoran were up to the challenge.

A thoran’s simplicity belies a surprising complexity of flavor—partly thanks to fresh curry leaves. Not to be confused with curry powder, curry leaves are a popular South Asian aromatic ingredient harvested from the curry tree. “I’d describe the flavor profile of a curry leaf as citrus and smoke—they’re really transformative,” Sodha says. “It’s worth hunting down a good supply.” And they’re best either fresh or frozen, since dried curry leaves easily lose their potency.

Following tradition, we opted to use fresh curry leaves to season our Broccolini. They add hints of citrus, spice and browned garlic to the bittersweet vegetable. That said, they can be challenging to source, so we were pleased to find that our thoran tasted wonderful even without them.

To further deepen the flavors of our dish, we bloom our seasonings in coconut oil. The curry leaves and a full tablespoon of black or brown mustard seeds are gently toasted to draw out their flavors. Shallots, garlic and serrano chili go next, followed by ground spices: earthy cumin and turmeric, citrusy coriander and zingy black pepper.

Once those flavors have properly melded, in goes the Broccolini, along with just a bit of water to briefly steam the vegetables until tender-crisp. The dish is finished with a sprinkle of shredded coconut, which adds satisfying texture as well as cooling tropical notes. Broccolini never had it better.