Monday, December 22, 2014

Vathal Kuzhambu

I am a person of simple taste when it comes to food. But when I have an awesome mom and mom-in-law who cooks awesome food, the bar is set really high for certain dishes….the taste of which can never be replicated however hard I try. I am sure it is the same in any other family.

Vathal Kuzhambu is one such dish. It is a South Indian or to be more specific, Tamil Brahmin specialty. Sun dried vegetables (known as ‘Vathal’ in Tamil) are added to the curry. Most common vathal used are ‘Sundakkai’ a.k.a Turkey Berry and ‘Manathakkali’ a.k.a Black Nightshade. And needless to say, it has a whole lot of health benefits.

Although only vathals are used in authentic ‘Vathal Kuzhambu’, vegetables such as drumstick, ladies finger, onion, pearl onion, brinjal/eggplant can also be used. 

It is a spicy, tangy curry and it may be an acquired taste for some. But ask anyone who grew up eating this, it would spell heaven to them.

I would have hopelessly tried making it some zillion times. Although it is a really simple recipe, there will be room for improvement every single time I make. 

The result of my taste test will be something like this - “it can be little less/more tangy”, “the consistency can be thicker”, “it tastes little less/more spicy than it should” and it goes on.

But right when you lose hope and think it can get no better, it can! So the magic happened finally.

Though I can still not call it  ‘THE BEST’ I have ever had, it is definitely  ‘THE BEST’ I have ever made, the best I am happy and proud about and the version I am satisfied with… at least for now!

I will shamelessly keep trying for mom/mil standards and update you if I ever succeed with my attempt. But for now, I am contended with this. I tried couple of times just to make sure it is 'blog ready' and it worked every single time. So, it is finally now ready.


1. Oil - 2 to 3 tbs
2. Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp
3. Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
4. Toor Dhal - 1 tsp
5. Urad Dhal - 3/4 tsp
6. Vathal ( I used Manathakalli) - 1.5 tsp ( about 15)
7. Sambar Powder - 1.5 to 2 tsp
8. Water - 2 to 2.5 cups
9. Tamarind - Gooseberry sized ( 1 tsp if it is paste)
8. Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
9. Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
10.  Salt - as per taste
11. Cilantro - few
12. Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
13. Rice Flour - 1 to 1.5 tsp


1. Prepare tamarind water by dissolving tamarind to water. I usually microwave for 30 seconds before squeezing the tamarind pulp.

2. Add little water to rice flour to make a thick paste without any lumps. The mixture should not be too thin and it should be lump free.


You are just going to add each ingredient one after the other

1. Heat oil in a pan. The key is to add generous amount of oil. It will also make sure that the curry lasts for longer time.
2. Add mustard seeds and allow it to splutter.
3. Add cumin seeds, toor dhal, urad dhal and the vathal that you are using. Fry until the lentils change color.
4. Add sambar powder and give it a good mix. The quantity of oil should be such that the sambar powder gets well combined with the oil.
5. Add the tamarind water. Filter the pulp and add just the water.
6. Add asafoetida, turmeric powder and salt. Give it a good mix.
7. Add cilantro and curry leaves.
8. Allow it to boil for at least 12 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure it does not get burnt.
9. Continue to boil till it reduces in quantity and becomes thick in consistency. It usually takes anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes
10.Add the rice flour paste making sure it forms no lumps. Give it a quick stir and let it boil for couple more minutes.

The end product is a thick paste that you can mix with hot white rice. You can even store this refrigerated for even a week.

Note :

I have tried this with both Dried black shade/Manathakkali and Turkey Berry/Sundakkai. And I am personally not fond of the taste of Turkey berry. But you may try it to see what suits your taste preferences.

If you prefer using vegetables, just cut them to smaller pieces and add them in step 3 instead of the vathal. Pearl onion is said to have great taste in this curry.

At times I microwave the vegetables for about 2-3 minutes to ensure faster cooking but it is totally optional. 

Let me know if you need more details and I will be glad to help you with it.


  1. Awesome recipe Ranjani...I had never used toor dhal as next time I will try ur recipe and let you know how it turned out :)

  2. Thanks Sahana. Do let me know if you liked it :)

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  4. I don't add the toor dhal n urid dhal for vathakuzhambu. I add venthaya podi. Don't u add that. ?? I thought in all vatha kuzhambu or sambar usually venthaya podi is added.. Try that. Tastes really good. Healthy too.

    1. Hi Pavithra. Thanks for stopping by. I am sure any recipe will have gazillion versions in each household.I will definitely give yours a try. Do let us know if you give this a try and like it.

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