While sambhar is an important part of a South Indian meal, the thick, tangy vatha kuzhambu is another speciality that is quick to make, especially since it doesn’t include any other form of lentils that need to be boiled to cook it.
Vatha Kuzhambu is a tangy, spicy gravy, which is usually served as a side dish for curd rice or eaten on its own with plain rice. Usually, we relish vatha kuzhambu rice by adding a tea spoon of gingely/sesame oil to hot steaming rice and mixing vatha kuzhambu to the rice. Some roasted papad makes for an excellent combination with vatha kuzhambu rice.
Every part of Tamil Nadu has its own version of vatha kuzhambu. The Srirangam vatha kuzhambu, made in Tiruchirapalli, is also different in that it uses no garlic or regular sambar powder, but has its own spice mix.
SRIRANGAME VATHA KUZHAMBU
4 cups – Tamarind extract from a large lemon-sized tamarind
A few – Baby onions/drum stick pieces (Optional)
1 – Gooseberry-sized piece of jaggery
Salt – To taste
100ml – Sesame/Gingely Oil
1 tsp – Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp – Asafoetida/Hing powder
2 – Red chillies
A few – Curry leaves
1/2 tsp – Turmeric powder
For vatha kuzhambu powder
2 tsp – Fenugreek seeds, dry roasted to a golden brown and powdered
4 tsp – Coriander seeds
6 – Whole red chillies
2 tsp – Pepper corns
1 tsp – Cumin seeds
2 tsp – Toor dal
2 tsp – Channa dal
1 tsp – Raw rice
2 tsp – Urad dal
A handful of curry leaves
* Dry-roast all the ingredients for the vatha kuzhambu powder one by one in a pan to golden brown and powder them together (except the roasted fenugreek) to a fine powder after they cool down.
* Heat a pan with three-fourths of the oil mentioned.
* Add mustard seeds, red chillies, asafoetida. Once they splutter, add the curry leaves.
* Now fry the baby onions/drumstick pieces in it for 2 minutes.
* Add the powdered fenugreek powder to the frying onions and stir.
* Pour the tamarind juice into it.
* Add salt, turmeric powder and jaggery.
* Boil until the onions/drumsticks become soft.
* Add the vatha kuzhambu powder to the pan and mix well.
* Wait till the kuzhambu thickens.
* Finally, add the remaining oil to the pan and switch off the stove.
* Instead of adding onions or drumstick you can also add fried sun dried Turkey berry/sundaikkai vathal finally to the vatha kuzhambu.