This is S. Meenakshi Ammal’s Cook and See book’s Vatral (Vathal) Kuzhambu. Vathal or vatral are vegetables that have been salted, spiced, and dried in India during the hottest parts of the year. They are not only delicious, but also an excellent way of preserving vegetables for the colder and wetter seasons. They come in all guises, and are often made at home.
You can make your own, but they are also available at Indian stores and groceries. They go wonderfully well in a tamarind-rich spicy gravy.
You might like to explore other recipes for kuzhambus, sambar and rasam. Are you wondering what is the difference between a kuzhambu and a sambar? You might like to read this post that answers that question. Or browse all of our Indian recipes. Explore our Indian Essentials here.
Source : interpreted from Vatral Kuzhambu in Cook and See Part 1, by S. Meenakshi Ammal
Cuisine: South Indian, Tamil
Prep time: 5 mins or less
Cooking time: 30 mins
Serves: 2 – 3 people depending how you are using it. It makes 2 cups.
Tamarind – enough to make 2.5 cups juice. Use concentrate or traditional tamarind
1 – 2 Tblspn ghee
1/2 tspn black mustard seeds
1/2 tspn fenugreek seeds
2 pinched dried red chillies
1/2 tspn toor dal (red gram dal; pigeon peas)
10 – 15 curry leaves
100g any vatral
2.5 tspns sambar powder
1 tspn of rice flour
green coriander to garnish
First, prepare some tamarind to make 2.5 cups juice or use a small spoon tamarind concentrate dissolved in 2.5 cups water. Leave aside.
If the vatral are large, you might like to break them in half to make sure that they cook (ie soften) right through.
Heat some oil in a stoneware or heavy saucepan. Pop black mustard seeds then add fenugreek seeds, the dried red chillies, toor dal and asafoetida. After a few moments, add the curry leaves, carefully avoiding the spitting that occurs 🙂 and the onion vadagam vatral. Fry these around for a while, then add the sambar powder. Scald till it is a reddish colour.
Now add the prepared tamarind juice and simmer until the liquid is reduced to about 2 cups. Test one vatral to see whether it is cooked right through to the centre. Taste for saltiness and add salt if required.
Mix the rice flour with enough water to make a freely flowing consistency. Stir into the Kuzhambu, allow it to come back to the boil and simmer for a few minutes to cook out the rice flour. Remove from the flame.
Garnish with a tiny amount of chopped green coriander (cilantro).
recipe notes and alternatives
Some cluster or runner beans can be added after the tamarind.
If dried eggplant/brinjal vathal is used, cook it first, strain out the water and add to the kuzhambu.
If desired, break pappads or appalams into bits, fry and add.
Kuzhambu Curryvadam wafers can be fried and added to enrich the flavour.
Or Gram Flour Vadai can be made and used instead of the vathral.