Saturday, April 5, 2014

Vallarai Thogayal (Pennywort / Brahmi Chutney)

My mom has visited us a few times in the last few years.   She has almost always come here when the kids are in school and the weather is cold.  Due to various scheduling issues and commitments, she has not been able to spend summer with us.  The last time she came, it was in August.  The weather was wonderful – late summer, fall temperatures.  School still had not started for either the kids, or me, and we could actually spend some time together.

After school started, she would get bored sitting at home, alone, through the day.  We got Sun TV and some other channels, but there is only so much TV one can watch.  She loves to read. We would go to the library every week and get tons of books.  If the weather is good, she would go for a walk.  She also talked to her friend in Houston everyday, exchanging kitchen stories and recipes, especially the ones that came on cooking shows.

Brahmi / Pennywort Chutney

I always take her grocery shopping because it was one way for her to get out of the house and she loves looking at the massive produce we have here (some of them look great, but don’t taste as good as what we get in India).

Our local Asian market is one source for Indian vegetables.  They also have a variety of greens in stock.  I have been buying pennywort (vallarai/brahmi) from there frequently.  I usually make it like I would any other saag (greens). My mom got really excited when she saw this – because she said – it improves memory and is really good for kids’ studies.  She also said that even in Chennai, she doesn’t see this keerai often.

We bought the keerai and she made chutney with it.  This is my first attempt at making this.


Here is the recipe:

  • about ½ lb. vallarai (pennywort / brahmi)
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 2 – 3 red chilies
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • ¼ cup urad dal
  • small ball tamarind (about the size of a grape/cherry tomato) or 1 tsp. tamarind pulp
  • ¼ cup grated coconut
  • salt to taste


Here is how I made it:

  1. Remove and discard the stems.  Wash the leaves thoroughly and let it sit immersed in a bowl of water for about ½ hour, till all the sand and debris settle to the bottom.  Remove the leaves and rinse again.
  2. Heat oil in a pan.  Add the red chilies, hing, and urad dal.  Fry till the urad dal and chilies change color.
  3. Add the leaves and fry till they are wilted.  Turn off the heat and let this cool.
  4. Grind the leaves with salt, tamarind and coconut to a smooth paste.

Serve with idlis, dosas, uttappams, or rice.

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