What can I say about the Vathal Kuzhambu? Simply put its everybody`s favorite…I can`t even trace back the times when I fell hook line and sinker for this amazingly delicious simple dish. Every home has its own way of doing it and its definitely comfort food for them. Vathal Kuzhambu simply put is the delicious gravy got by simmering “Vathals” in tamarind water which is spiced with other ingredients like sambar powder, turmeric, hing etc. It`s also a very resourceful preparation as it derives it tastes from the vegetable/vathal which its cooked in. There are a gazillion varieties of vathals but the ones that are most commonly used are “Sundakkai”, ” Manathangalikkai”, “thamara kazhangu”, arisi koozhu vathal” and some times even “thayir molagai”.
I remember going to my favorite Annalakshmi restaurant in Chennai on mount road for their “Preethi Bhojan”. I am told that the people who cook the various dishes in Annalakshmi are people who are from normal walks of life, like professionals, doctors, teachers etc, who willingly offer their services to the Ashram. At one occasion, where I had been to Annalakshmi for lunch, the day`s specialty was “Arisi Appalam Vathal Kuzhambu”. It was so delicious, as the kuzhambu had derived its taste from the fried appalam. Many people also prepare it with vegetables like Brinjal, Onions, Ladies finger and even drumsticks.
The Grand Sweets and Snacks has this amazing “Vathakozhambu Thokku” which is a boon to people who are hard pressed for time. All one needs to do is, scoop a spoonful, add some water, heat for a couple minutes on the microwave, and there you have steaming hot “Vatha Kuzhambu” for two!!!
Tamarind – Lemon sized to extract 1 1/2 cups of juice.
Vathal – Any variety a small handful.
Turmeric – A pinch.
Coconut Milk – 2 spoons (Optional)
Sambar Powder- 1 spoon heaped.
Salt – 3/4 spoon
Mustard, Bengal Gram,Raw Peanuts, Curry Leaves, gingely oil.
- Keep the vathals,tamarind water and the seasoning ingredients ready.
- Use a heavy bottomed vessel and pour in it 4 spoons of gingely oil.
- When hot, add 2 spoons of bengal gram, and raw peanuts and saute it for 3-4 seconds.
- Add the vathal and allow to slowly roast in the oil. Immediately add the mustard, curry leaves and hing in split seconds.
- Care should be taken so the mustard or any of the seasoning ingredients dont brown in the oil as this may alter the taste.
- Pour in the tamarind water on to the vessel.
- Add more torn curry leaves, sambar powder, turmeric, salt and give it a good stir.
- Allow the gravy to simmer and reduce till it becomes a little thicker on medium flame.
- If you have guests visiting, you could add 2 spoons of coconut milk at this point for a richer taste . This is purely optional.
- If you want it to thicken a little more add 4 spoons of water to one spoon of rice flour and briskly mix it to dissolve any clumps.
- Add this rice flour mix to the vatha kuzhambu and stir in to see instant thickening of the gravy.
- Serve Hot with Alu Fry or Beans Paruppu Usili.