Friday, June 13, 2008

Sundakkai Vatral Kozhambu - Sundried berries in a tamarind gravy

Vatral (which is colloquially pronounced as "vathal") is the Tamil word for anything sundried and preserved - ranging from vegetables -like onions, brinjal, cluster beans or even bitter melon - to berries like sundakkai (turkey berry) and manathakkali (sunberry).

I acquired my taste for vatral kozhambu from my mother who used to love making different types of kozhambu; when I was old enough to appreciate the sourness of these tamarind based gravies and stand the heat with a bit of sesame oil poured over it she introduced me to puli kozhambu, poondu (garlic) kozhambu, vendhiya (fenugreek) kozhambu, vendakkai kozhambu and vatha kozhambu.

It was a pleasure to have one of these on Saturday afternoons with rice, a porial and lots of appalams to go with it. Sometimes my brother, Mom and me used to sit in a circle on the kitchen floor and she used to mix the rice with the kozhambu and feed us - we used to end up eating double the quantity of food we would normally eat!
When I started making this after getting married, hubby suggested making plain tur dal with a minimal tadka to balance the sourness and heat of the kozhambu, so a new tradition joins the old.

The trick to getting vatha kozhambu right is to make sure that the gravy doesn't become too thin especially if you are making the version which has only tamarind water and red chilli powder. But usually, people add rice flour or roast and grind dals or even add sambar powder to thicken it. I have tried all these but decided that rice flour and dals can kill the heat quite easily and sambar powder changes the taste.

So, what I have arrived at finally is to:
Grind my own masala - which includes red chillies, dals, black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds and a bit of coconut.

Soak a big ball of tamarind in lots of water to get almost 2 cups of thick tamarind extract.

Boil the gravy for almost half an hour and reduce it down ta nice thick consistency; preferably
make it 4-5 hours in advance of the meal so that the flavours are just right.

This time I also added shallots and garlic to the gravy, but it isn't part of the original recipe and can be omitted. I had this for lunch with rice, some keerai masiyal (spinach with lentils) and kovakkai kari(ivy gourd vegetable). Comfort food on a lovely rainy day in Delhi when a creamy pasta or a bhunaoed sabji just won't cut it!

This dish goes to JFI - Tamarind being hosted by dear Sig of Live to Eat . There was nothing else which came to mind when I thought of tamarind - for me, it had to be one of these fiery tamarind based kozhambus. Jihva for Ingredients is the brainchild of Indira of Mahanandi

Sundakkai Vatral Kozhambu


Tamarind - a big lime sized ball
Shallots (Madras onions) - 8-10 peeled
Garlic - 3-4
Oil - 2 tsp
Sesame oil - 2 tsp
Mustard - 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds (methi/vendhiyam) - 5-6
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Tur dal - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 6-7
Asafoetida (hing) - pinch
Ground masala Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Tur dal - 1 tsp
Red chillies - 4-5
Black peppercorns - 7-8
Fenugreek seeds - 2-3
Grated coconut - 1 tbsp

1. Soak tamarind in 2 cups of warm water for about 15 minutes and the extract pulp. Mix with another 2 cups of water and keep aside.
2. Soak the sundakai vatral in a little warm water to get rid of any dust or dirt. Drain.
3. Roast all ingredients of the masala in a tsp of oil till they change colour, adding the coconut right at the end for about a minute. Grind to a powder.
4. Heat the oil for tempering in a large kadai and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the dals and curry leaves. When they change colour, add the fenugreek seeds and asafoetida.
5. Put in the vatral and fry for about 2 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and continue frying for another 4 minutes
6. Add the ground masala and saute one minute, then pour in the diluted tamarind extract and bring to boil. Add salt and simmer covered for about 20-30 minutes depending on the consistency you want.
7. If it gets too thick and is still a bit too sour for your taste, add a little more water and simmer.
8. Serve with steamed rice.

Related Posts
Vendakkai kozhambu
Puli kozhambu


Happy cook said...

Once I bought this from India and didn't know what to do with it,so after 2 years it had to go to the dusbin.
I have bookmarked this recipie, so when i goto india i can buy these and make them.

Asha said...

I have a packet of those berries, didn't know what to do with it. Now I do, thanks. Looks good!:))

indosungod said...

Miri, Sundakkai Kozhambu reminds of days when I just gave it a pass, now I eagerly look forward to eating it but not many cooking it :(

Looks fantastic, I might even have a few vathal lying around have to give it a try.

Miri said...

Well, well, what a coincidence that you both have bought it without knowing what it was! Hope you try making this now...! And you can even make it without vatral but with lots of garlic and small onions or ladyfingers...anything goes with the this lovely dish!

Sig said...

You know Vathral Kozhambu is my favorite gravy... though I am not a fan of the Vathrals, at least the packet I found in the stores here was very bitter :( That plate is comfort in a platter alright! Thank you for this delicious entry Miri!

Cham said...

After seeing Sig event i had this sundakai vathal kuzhambu in mind... I am drooling over ur plate now...

Vaishali said...

Thanks for posting this recipe, Miri. I've had some sundakkai vatral lying in my pantry for months now, and this sounds like the perfect recipe to try!

Kalai said...

Sundakkai is definitely my favorite vatral, Miri! This kuzhambu is definitely a favorite of mine. Nice one for JFI! :)

Anonymous said...

I can vouch for the brilliant simplicity of this dish! A couple of weeks ago a friend sent me a parcel of the choicest Tamil ingredients, and sugested I try making this kozhambu. I did! Yes, with sundakkai vathal! And absolutely loved it! The intense sourness and the heat - right up my alley!
I even have dried cluster-beans!

Miri said...

Seems to be a favourite of a lot of people....Vaishali, do try it if you have the vathal, am sure you will like it...

Anupama said...

Hubby gave me these berries and asked me to include them in family meals. They are supposed to be very good for the stomach. Thanks a lot for this recipe.

Miri said...

Anupama - glad you liked it and could use the vatral - they are supposed to have medicinal properties.