This one is a toughie to translate into plain English. Once again, an authentic Tamil dish, Kuzhambu, which means a kind of stew or soup, and Vatral which refers to sun-dried vegetables, is a comfort food in my home.
But before I write about this recipe, let me back up. I almost forgot , but today marks the 1 year anniversary of Roz ka Khana! I am actually a little embarrassed to say that I almost forgot that it was our birthday. I mean, yes it was February last when I penned the Paruppu Rasam recipe, but I had to go back into the archives to look up the actual date. And maybe I am a little overwhelmed too thanks to my dear friends and readers who reminded me to go look up that date! Sheela, thank you for being such a sweetie and shaking me out of my doldrums with your cheery note. Thanks for being such an ardent follower among everything else.
And I should also thank Anu of AnEmily’s Vegan Adventures for requesting this recipe. Anu, this was the perfect recipe for RKK’s one year anniversary. I don’t think I’m really a Tamil purist when it comes to recipes, but Tomato Paruppu Rasam (lentil and tomato soup) and Vatral Kuzhambu are the staple, comfort foods in my home, so what better way to pay my tribute to RKK than to post another favorite comfort food? While the Rasam is my staple recipe, this one is Girish’s. As I wrote earlier in the 2 month anniversary of this blog with Girish’s Curry leaves Soup (Karuvepillai Kuzhambu) recipe , he is the inspiration behind this blog. So here’s to Girish again for your love and support, and to all of you family and friends who have been contributing and following this food chatter so far….thank you.
Vatral Kuzhambu recipe (Tamarind Soup)
This is also called Pulusu in Andhra/Telugu lingo. As I mentioned in the Curry Leaves soup recipe, this tastes best in a kachitti or a stone vessel, especially when it’s a day old. If you don’t have this vessel, it can also be made in a regular pot or pan, but make sure to save some for the next day so it has had all the time to let the flavors of the sesame oil, the fenugreek and the vegetables sink in. Also, this recipe is not really true to its name as we did not add the sun-dried vegetables or vatral. The sun-dried vegetables are available as is in Indian stores. We did not add it here since the onions have such a strong flavor that you can make this soup without the vatral. The real reason also was that we didn’t have enough vatral handy:). You can also call this recipe Vengaya Vatral Kuzhambu (Tamarind Soup with baby Onions)
(I don’t have too many pictures to post for this one. I inadvertently erased some of the colorful ingredient pictures that I took as I was transferring the pictures to my computer. As soon as I’m done poring through the 2500 photos on my hard drive in a desperate attempt to find them, I will try to update this post with better pictures.)
A large lemon sized ball of tamarind (enough to make about 2 cups of tamarind juice)
1/2 cup pink baby onions or shallots
2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp vatral kuzhambu podi (I get this from India, but you can also use Sambar powder that is available in Indian grocery stores – MTR Madras Sambar powder). Alternatively you can find the recipe here.
2 sprigs of curry leaves
6-7 green chilies (the Thai variety)
a pinch asafetida ( we use a brand called SSP that we have only found in India but you can use any brand. SSP is in the granule form instead of powder and we use about 3-4 granules for a good strong aroma )
1. Heat the sesame oil in the kachitti or the stone vessel.
2. When it starts to smoke a little, add the fenugreek seeds, lower the flame and let the seeds get dark brown and oil starts to smoke again.
3. Add the asafetida. Add the kozhambu powder (podi).
4. Add the shallots, curry leaves, green chilies and the sun-dried vegetables (vatral) if available here. Fry till medium brown.
5. Add the tamarind juice and salt.
6. Let the mixture boil on a low flame for 10-15 minutes until the soup starts to thicken a little. You can also add a small amount (half a tsp)of jaggery (crystallized brown sugar) here for an added taste. If the soup is too watery, you can add a little rice flour and water made into a paste to thicken it. But if you let it boil enough, you may not need this step at all.
7. Serve with hot white or brown rice and ghee (clarified butter) with a side of paruppu (boiled and mashed lentils).