Chinna Vengaya Kara Kuzhambu or South Indian Style Shallots Gravy

Kara Kuzhambu is tamarind based South Indian gravy that is mixed and had with steamed rice. If you love tangy and spicy dishes, then you would definitely love to have Kuzhambus. Though there are many Kuzhambu varieties, the simplest and the most common one is the Plain Kara Kuzhambu or Vengaya Kara Kuzhambu, which is made with tamarind extract, chilli powder, chinna vengayam/onions/shallots as the base ingredients.

Chinna Vengaya Kara Kkuzhambu

I always prefer Kuzhambu over Sambar and I would be happy to have a bowl of Kuzhambu Sadam for all my three meals. Maybe the genes were passed on from my Grandfather. He loved Kuzhambu so much that it was made especially for him all 365 days of the year. Though Kuzhambu is also made with regular red onions, using Shallots or Sambar Onions make this tangy gravy more delicious. I get Sambar Onions in our place only occasionally. But, whenever I see them available in the stores, I immediately pick and use the Shallots in all the dishes I prepare. Without fail, Kuzhambu and Chinna Vengaya Sambar would make an appearance in our dining tables on those days.


Shallots or Sambar Onions or Chinna Vengayagam – 20
Garlic – 1 whole pod
Tomato – 1 small sized (optional)
Tamarind – 1 big lemon sized ball (aged tamarind suits best for this kuzhambu)
Sambar powder – 4 tsps heaped (You can use Kuzhambu Milagai Thool also)
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste

To temper
Gingelly or Sesame oil – 4-5 tbsps
Thalippu vadagam – 1 small lemon sized ball (If vadagam is not available, replace it with one tsp each of mustard seeds, urad dal and fenugreek seeds)
Curry leaves – few sprigs


Preparation time – 15 mins
Cooking time – 20 mins
Total time – 35 mins
Serves 4

  1. Peel the garlic and shallots and slice them. Chop the tomato too, if using. Soak tamarind in 2 cups (around 350 ml) of water for 10 mins and extract the juice. Discard the pulp.
  2. Heat oil in a pan; once the oil is hot, reduce the flame to medium and add the vadagam, let it sizzle.
  3. Add the onions and garlic along with curry leaves. Saute the onions until golden brown.
  4. Add the chopped tomato and cook until it turns mushy.
  5. Now add the sambar powder or kuzhambu milagai thool and turmeric powder, tamarind extract and salt to taste. Mix well.
  6. Cover the pan with a lid. Allow it to simmer on low flame until the Kuzhambu thickens and the oil separates. Switch off the flame.

Tangy and yummy Kara Kuzhambu is ready for relishing. Serve this poondu chinna vengaya kuzhambu with hot steamed rice, any simple stir fried vegetable or Kootu or Appalam.

Chinna Vengaya Kara Kuzhambu also makes an excellent side dish to Idlis and Dosas or Set Dosas. We love the combo so much that whenever making Kuzhambu, I make a little extra to be had along with Idlis or Dosas the next day.

Chinna Vengaya Kara Kkuzhambu


  1. If vadagam is not available, replace it with one tsp each of mustard seeds, urad dal and fenugreek seeds.
  2. I added Garlic in the gravy as we like them in the Kuzhambu. You can skip garlic and just use Shallots alone for making the Kuzhambu.
  3. I used homemade sambar powder and the quantity used resulted in medium spiced Kuzhambu. Adjust the spice levels as per your taste preference if you want it spicier or less spicy.
  4. While the Kuzhambu is simmering, it may splutter. Cover with a lid and let it simmer.
  5. Do not reduce the quantity of oil used. Adding sufficient oil and sautéing the onion well will make the Kuzhambu tasty.
  6. Kuzhambu stays good outside for 2 days. You can also refrigerate and use it for 4-5 days.