Meenakshi Ammal, my favourite Indian cookbook author, in her chapter on Vatral Kuzhambu, includes wonderful gram flour “dumplings”, like this recipe for Kuzhambu: Masala Kuzhambu with Gram Flour Vadai.
By contrast this recipe, Paruppu Urundai Kuzhambu, uses dal dumplings, or pulse balls made with toor dal. These give the kuzhambu a sambar like feel. The balls are made from soaked and ground toor dal which is then sauteed to par-cook and remove additional moisture before being poached in the Kuzhambu spicy broth.
The Kuzhambu is a popular dish from Tamil Nadu in South India, a favourite of everyone. It is made in different places with some variation in the recipe. It can be made in the traditional Brahmin way without onions, or onions can be added to the pulse balls. The kuzhambu is very tasty and full of protein. You can even eat the pulse balls cooked in the gravy for a snack, and they taste great with curd rice.
The balls are prone to fall apart – about 1/4 of mine did – and this thickens and flavours the broth. The rest remain whole and add delicious texture to the dish.
Paruppu Urundai Kuzhambu | Lentil Dumplings in Spicy Gravy
Source: Adapted from Cook and See Part 1 by Meenakshi Ammal
Cuisine: South Indian
Prep time: 4 hours soaking time plus 45 mins
Cooking time: 30 or so minutes for the soupy base, plus 15 – 20 mins
Serves: 4-6 depending how you use it
1 cup toor dal
4 – 8 dried red chillies
1.25 tspn salt
1 or more branches curry leaves (optional)
1/2 bunch or more coriander leaves (optional)
4 tblspn ghee
1 tspn black mustard seed
2 green chillies
1 medium onion, chopped finely (optional – do not include onions if using the balls in Moar Kuzhambu or Rasam)
2 – 4 Tblspn grated coconut (I use frozen)
1 tspn rice flour
Soak the toor dal in water for at least 4 hours. Drain off the water using a colander.
Using a grinder or processor, grind the soaked dal, asafoetida, red dried chillies and salt into a rough and firm paste.
If using coriander and/or curry leaves, chop them finely together and set aside.
Heat the ghee in a frying pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow to pop. Add the green chillies, then the onions (if using) and allow the onions to fry off until softening. Add the dal paste and stir and turn well until it changes colour and has a nice aroma.
Add the grated coconut, if using, and the chopped coriander and curry leaves, if using, and mix well.
Remove the paste from the heat. Add 1 tspn of rice flour and knead well. Roll the paste into small balls. You will make about 8 or 9 with this amount of dal.
if using vatral kuzhambu or rasam for the base
Have the kuzhambu or rasam boiling. Remember that if you have the balls too close together or you add too many, they will break up. When the soup is boiling well, add 4 of the balls. Bring back to the boil, add the remaining balls and repeat. Simmer gently until the balls are soaked and heated through. Poach them until they are sufficiently cooked. This should not take long.
if using moar kuzhambu for the base
Steam the balls in a steamer for 15 – 20 minutes before dropping them into the kuzhambu.