Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vathal Kuzhambu without the vathal (with onions and tomatoes)

My husband comes home for lunch occasionally.  If there is a cricket match going on, he will come home, catch a few overs, eat lunch, and then head back to work.  Most days, I will have left-overs from the previous night and he will eat that happily. Otherwise, I end up making something that he likes.  My kids typically don’t eat a full Indian meal at lunch.  They prefer burritos, pasta, sandwiches, or a veggie burger for lunch.  So this is my chance to make something that my husband likes, but my kids don’t care for at all.

Onion and tomato vathal kozhambu
He came home one day last week and I ended up making pongal and vathal kuzhambu.  He loves pongal.  I did not want to make chutney or sambar.  So decided to make vathal kuzhambu to go with the pongal.

This time, I made vathal kuzhambu with onions and tomatoes.  This is how my mom makes it:

Here is what you need:

  • lime size ball of tamarind (see note)
  • 3 tsp sesame oil (see note)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp split channa dal
  • ½ tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • ¼ tsp hing (asafetida)
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • few curry leaves
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sambar powder
  • salt to taste
Note 1:  I use tamarind and not store bought tamarind paste because it tastes much better when you extract the pulp yourself.  You can use tamarind paste if you are in a rush or if you don't have tamarind handy.  Substitute 2 tsp. tamarind paste for the tamarind.

Note 2:  Sesame oil gives this dish a unique flavor.  You can use any vegetable oil that you have on hand, if you don't have sesame oil.
In my cast iron pot

Here’s how I made it:

  1. Soak the tamarind in a cup of so of water for ½ hour.  Squeeze out the pulp from the tamarind and save the liquid.
  2. Heat oil.  Add mustard seeds, channa dal, methi seeds hing, and dry chilies.
  3. Once the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves (be careful because the hot oil can splash).
  4. Add onions.  Fry for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes.  Fry for a few more minutes.
  6. Add the sambar powder and mix everything together.
  7. Add the extracted tamarind juice and salt.
  8. Let this mixture come to a boil and then simmer on medium to low heat till the raw flavor of tamarind is gone (about 10 minutes).

Serve with rice, pongal, or kancheepuram idli.

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