Friday, April 27, 2012

Vendheya Kuzhambu

When it comes to South Indian cuisine, the rest of the country tends to just think of idlis and dosas. Sure they are a very popular part of the food in the south, but there are so many other dishes, that just the variety of sambars that can be made would take up quite a few posts in this blog. There are a few kinds that I make, but there are so many others that I have never tried, and I sure do hope to eventually :)

Today's post, vendhaya kuzhambu (fenugreek seeds soup) was made by me for the first time! My mom used to make this dish and I loved it. But somehow, in the seven odd years that I have been cooking my own meals, I never got around to trying it. Then, the other day, my mom mentioned that she had made this kuzhambu for dinner, and that jogged my memory and taste buds enough for me to want to make the same :)

I have pretty much stuck to her way of preparing this dish with a couple of exceptions. My mom would use regular onions to make this kuzhambu, I chose to use pearl onions.  Also, she uses jaggery while I opted for molasses, considering its easier to just add a couple of drops rather than break the jaggery into a teensy weensy bit!

The bulk of preparation time for me was peeling the pearl onions, which I find very painful as my eyes tend to burn and water a lot while peeling.

Preparation & Cooking - 25 minutes (excluding onion soaking time)          Serves: 2

Pearl Onions - 1 cup (approx 20-25)
Tamarind - lemon sized bit
Molasses - 2 drops
Sambar Powder - 2 teaspoons
Turmeric Powder/Haldi - ½ teaspoon
Salt - to taste
For Tempering:
Sesame Oil - 1 tablespoon
Mustard Seeds - 1 teaspoon
Methi/Fenugreek Seeds - ¼ teaspoon 
Urad Dal/Split Black Gram Dal - 1 teaspoon
Channa Dal/Bengal Gram Dal - 1 teaspoon
Toor Dal/Yellow Gram Dal - 1 tablespoon
Red Chillies - 2, broken
Curry Leaves - a few
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch

  • Soak the tamarind in 2 cups of warm water for about 10 minutes. Squeeze the tamarind pulp to extract the juices, strain this liquid and set it aside.
  • Soak the pearl onions in a bowl of water and refrigerate them for about an hour. This will make the eyes sting less while peeling. If you don't have any problems peeling them just as they are, you may omit this step.
  • Peel and rinse the onions and set them aside along with the curry leaves and the broken red chillies.
  • Heat oil in a utensil and add the tempering ingredients. 
  • Once the mustard seeds have crackled and all the pulses start turning a golden brown, add the onions, curry leaves, broken red chillies, salt, sambar powder and turmeric. Make sure the fenugreek seeds don't burn as they turn extremely bitter.
  • Once the onions begin to brown slightly, add the strained tamarind juice and molasses and let the kuzhambu boil till it reduces and thickens to desired consistency. 

Tangy Vendhaya Kuzhambu is ready to be had with steaming hot rice and ghee and a vegetable dish of your choice!

 Handy Tips: 

If molasses is not available, you could just use a small piece of jaggery, but make sure it melts and blends completely. We need a very small quantity, to just get a subtle hint of sweetness to balance out the sourness of the tamarind and the heat from the spices.
If the kuzhambu feels too watery, you could make a paste with ½ teaspoon rice powder and water and add it to the kuzhambu. Bring it to a boil and then take it off the flame. This will thicken it. 
If you don't want to make the juice from the tamarind pulp, you could use ready-made tamarind paste diluted with 2 cups of water.

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