Kosumalli (aka Koshambari) is a simple spiced yet cooling salad. There are many varieties, but the most common is made by mixing soaked mung dal or channa dal with cucumber and/or carrot, with coconut, and tempering the salad with spices. It is a South Indian specialty, eaten as a snack or made to accompany a meal. The crunch of the cucumber, the sweet flavour of coconut, and the tang of lemon balances the sweet earthiness of the lentils for a deliciously flavoured and textured salad.
It is rather rare to have raw ingredients in South Indian cuisine. At the least, most ingredients are sautéed. There are a couple of exceptions including Kosumalli which is closer to a Western version of a salad than Sundals and Pachadi and Raita dishes which are often referred to as salads but differ from their Western counterparts.
While Western salads depend on their dressing – primarily oil, vinegar, mayonnaise and herbs – to make the collection of raw ingredients interesting, Kosumalli salads use texture and simple layering of flavour to achieve the same thing. The salad has a characteristic aroma which makes your mouth water even before it is seen.
The ratio of ingredients varies from household to household, and perhaps even season to season. Hot weather? Increase the amount of cucumber. Cooler weather? Make it heavy with lentils and eat with a cup of hot chai.
A Festival Dish
Although made day to day in many households, Kosumalli is also made for festivals such as Navarathri and Ramanavami, and can feature at weddings.
It is said that the dish originated in Karnataka where it is called Koshambari in Kannada. However the dish is now common across South India with many community cuisines (e.g. Udupi and Chettinand) have adopted it and adapted it to local tastes.
There are many variations of Kosumalli that that differ with the vegetables being used. It can be as simple as cucumber with spices, or lentils and cucumbers. Cucumber can be replaced with another vegetable, commonly carrots or sprouts. Or, as mentioned, it can be made with a combination of vegetables (finely chopped cucumbers, plantain stem, sweetcorn, zucchini, green mango, onions, peppers, carrots, sprouts and/or tomatoes), coconut, spices and lentils.
How to Serve
Kosumalli makes an excellent light lunch with a bowl of yoghurt or steamed rice, or can be stirred into yoghurt to be eaten as a dip or in a similar way to raita. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or with dinner. It’s also a great tiffin dish and kid’s lunch dish. It is a cooling dish in Summer, and goes well as an afternoon snack with a cup of chai.
Browse all of our Kosumalli Recipes here; they include:
(a Maharashtrian version of Koshambari commonly made with yoghurt dressing)