A Kosumalli 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, carrot, and 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 earthiness of the lentils for a deliciously flavoured and textured salad.
It is said that the dish originated in Karnataka where it is called Kosambari in Kannada. However the dish is now common across South India with many community cuisines (eg Upadi and Chettinand) have adopted it and adapted it to local tastes.
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. Although the modern preference is to use raw ingredients, in older recipes you will find that the dal is semi cooked, and the vegetables quickly sauteed.
Although made day to day in many households, Kosumalli is also made for festivals such as Navarathri and Ramanavami, and can feature at weddings.
There are many variations of Kosumalli that that differ with the vegetables being used. It can be as simple as cucumber with spices or with lentils and cucumbers. Cucumber can be replaced 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.
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.