Vatha Kulambu or Kuzhambu is simple tangy and delicious gravy made with small onions cooked in tamarind water which is spiced with other ingredients like sambar powder, turmeric powder, asafetida etc. It’s also a very resourceful preparation as it derives it tastes from the vegetable/vathal which its cooked in. Vatha kulambu can be prepared in many ways using variety of vegetables like brinjal, onions (shallots), ladies finger and even drumsticks.
Vatha Kulambu is Tamil Nadu is especially made with most commonly used varieties of vathas known as Sundakkai, Manathangalikkai, Thamra kazhangu, Arisi koozhu vathal and Thayir molagai. Few also make Vatha kulambu with fried appalams which taste truly yummy and delicious.
Vatha kulambu is an authentic south Indian dish where vathals (sun dried vegetables) are cooked in tangy, spicy lentil gravy. Vatha kulambu has a unique taste and looks similar to pulusu. The kulambu made with tamarind water and spices can be fiery taste but taste equally good and yummy.
This is a simple dish tastes divine and bursts with flavors that tastes good with hot steamed rice and it also taste good with plain curd rice. Usually people who are sick like to have vatha kulambu with curd rice as it tingles the taste buds and gives that little sweet and fiery taste to the palate. Sundakkai, botanically known as Solanum torvum and Turkey berry in English is commonly known as Bhankatiya, katai in Hindi, Usthikaya in Telugu. Sundakkai are generally soaked in buttermilk, salt and dried in sunlight.
When dried it tastes bitter, salty. Using garlic and sambar powder enhances the taste of the dish and mustard and fenugreek seeds powder gives a terrific aroma and thickness to the gravy. The unique combination of ground mixture and Jaggery brings extra flavor and taste to the Vatha Kulambu giving out a pleasant sweet and sour taste. Tamarind is the primary ingredient for preparing any Kuzhambu. There are a variety of Kuzhambus or kulambus that one can prepare which includes Ennai Kathrikkai Kulambu, Fish Kulambu, Jeera Kuzhambu, Kara Kuzhambu etc.
For preparing any type of kulambu or pulusu tamarind gravy with spices in the main ingredients and to this you can add any sun dried or fresh vegetables. For preparing this mouth watering and tangy Vatha Kulambu, heat the kadai and add oil to it.
Once the oil gets hot add mustard, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and allow cooking. Once they crackle add hing (asafetida) and fresh curry leaves. Add sliced onion, garlic, drumstick to it and cook well. You can also add ‘vathals’ or non-roasted papads as per taste.
Do not brown the onions. Once the onions become soft and translucent, add the sambar masala powder and roast it for a minute. Then add the extracted tamarind pulp and some water. Add salt to it and bring it to a thick consistency. At this stage add little mustard and fenugreek seeds powder. This is a typical authentic Brahmin dish used by all in southern India. This dish is best served with hot cooked rice and papad with aloo curry. Do try this simple yet delicious recipe.
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Shallots (small red onions) are extensively used in making Kulambu. Shallots probably originated in Central or South-East Asia, traveling from there to India and the eastern Mediterranean. The name shallot comes from Ashkelon, an ancient Philistine city, where people in classical Greek times believed shallots originated. Like garlic, shallots are formed in clusters of offsets with a head composed of multiple cloves. Their skin color can vary from golden brown to gray to rose red, and their off-white flesh is usually tinged with green or magenta.
Shallots are much favored by chefs because of their firm texture and sweet, aromatic, yet pungent, flavor. As a variety of onion, shallots taste somewhat like a common onion, but have a sweeter, milder, and yet richer and more complex flavor. The shallot is widely used in the southern part of India. In the Kannada language, it is known as chikk-eerulli and used extensively in snacks, salads, curries and rice varieties. It is called chuvannulli in Malayalam and is used in sambar (a tamarind-flavored lentil soup) and different types of kuzhambu (curry).
In Nepal it is called chyapi and is used in as one of the ingredients for making MoMo. Apart from the shallots, Sundakkai or Turkey berries taste exceptionally good when cooked in tamarind gravy. They are beneficial to health also and are very good for mouth and stomach ulcers. They are rich in fiber content and is considered as a good antidote for worms in stomach and helps in controlling blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disorders.