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Onion Vathal-Kuzhambhu

Vatha Kuzhambhu, gets its name cause of vathal, sun-dried vegetables and berries used in this preparation. The main ingredient is tamarind, which makes it a Spicy tangy South Indian specialty. The vathal and tamarind extract are cooked with spices. Sesame oil is used in this kuzhambhu preparation which actually enhances the taste.

Vathals that are generally added are:
sundakkai (Turkey Berry)
manathakkali (Black nightshade)
Kothavarangai Vathal (Dry cluster beans)

You can also add vegetables like Onions/Shallots, Okra,  egg-plant (brinjal), yellow pumpkin or drumsticks for a different flavor.

Onion and Manathakkali Vathal-Kulambu.. A unique blend of tangy tamarind, bitter(though not very bitter!) dry vathals, spicy sambhar powder and sweetness from onions. It tops the ” Perfect and comfort food for winter” cause of the simple ingredients and the hot and tangy taste.

2 Tbsp Sesame oil
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Bengal gram
1/8 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida/Hing
1/2 cup Dry Vathal- Sundakai & Manathakali
1/2 cup of length-wise cut Onions/ Peeled shallots
A string of curry leaves
1/3 tsp Turmeric powder
2 Tbsp Sambar Powder
1/3 cup Thick Tamarind Extract (made by squeezing a golf ball sized tamarind in luke warm water)
1 1/2 cups of water
Salt – To taste
1 Tbsp  rice flour (mixed with some water for thickening)- Optional


Heat Oil in a thick bottom pan and add Mustard Seeds, Bengal gram, fenugreek Seeds and Dry Vathal of your choice. I often use sundakai (turkey berry), Manathakali (black nightshade berry). Fry them till they turn dark brown and then add Asafoetida/Hing.
Add Onions/Shallots, curry leaves, turmeric powder and sambar powder.
Fry Sambhar powder for 30-40 seconds for darker color. Add thick tamarind extract. Mix well and dilute with water. Add salt.
Let the kuzhambhu cook for 15-18 minutes in medium flame and then add rice flour mixed with water for thickening. Continue cooking for 5-8 minutes.
Serve with steamed white rice and ghee/ Sesame oil drizzled on top. Coconut based curries, appalam are ideal side dishes.

Happy cooking

One Response to Onion Vathal-Kuzhambhu

  1. sunitha subramaniam

    Sneha akka, any idea what to ask for in Indian stores for Manathakali and sundakai ? The owners r north Indian, should I just go with the English berry names ??

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