Vatral kuzhambu is a tamarind based curry made in South India. Vatrals are sun dried vegetables and these are available in most Indian grocery stores. I have used dried mini tomatoes known as manathakali in this recipe from Meenakshi Ammal’s “Cook and See” Part1. You can also use fresh vegetables like onions, drumsticks and eggplant in this recipe. The flavors meld well the longer they sit and you can store this kuzhambu/curry for several weeks in the refrigerator. Vatral Kuzhambu mixed with rice used to be a popular travel food during the days of no airconditioning in trains and buses in India because it stays good at room temperature for 2-3 days. While the popular combination is vatral kuzhambu rice with pappadums, a lentil based wafer, I like mine as a side for yogurt rice.
1 teaspoon tamarind paste mixed in 1.5 cups of water
3 teaspoons sambar powder
2 tablespoons sun dried vegetables or 1/2 pound fresh vegetable of your choice ( I used a combination of dried mini tomatoes and pearl onions)
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon channa dal/Bengal gram
2 dry red chilies
1/2 teaspoon asafetida powder
5 curry leaves
4 teaspoons oil (preferably sesame oil)
1. Heat oil in a saucepan. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, red chilies, Bengal gram and asafetida powder. Let it cook for a minute.
2. Add curry leaves and dried vegetables and cook for couple of minutes.
3. Add sambar powder and fry for couple of minutes till the raw smell goes away.
4. Add tamarind water and salt, bring it to a boil. Let it cook on low flame till it reduces to 3/4th of the original quantity.
5. If you want a thicker consistency, mix a teaspoon of rice flour with a tablespoon of water and add it to the kuzhambu. Bring it to a boil and serve with rice.