Vendakkai kara kuzhambu is one of our favorite gravies. Kara kuzhambu is tamarind based gravy that is tangy, sour and spicy and had mixed with rice. It is made either plain or by adding vegetable like ladies finger, brinjal or drumstick. This is my grandmother’s recipe, which is very tasty and easy to prepare.
My Thatha preferred Kuzhambu over Sambar. His love for Kuzhambu was such that he would prefer having it for all three meals of the day. Hence, Kuzhambu was always there in our daily menu. Except that there was little variation everyday, either plain or in addition with a vegetable.
Everyone in our family love the way my grandmother makes this tangy gravy. Normally, tomatoes, if used are sauted in oil but she uses her hands to mash the tomatoes in the squeezed tamarind juice, adds the spice powders and salt and prepares the base for the kuzhambu. Onion and vegetables are sauted after the tempering and added to this dissolved water and made into Kuzhambu. We call this process of using hands and preparing the liquid for Kuzhambu as Kuzhambu kooturadhu. As kids, my cousins and I used to be official tasters to check the salt and spice levels before Kuzhambu is made.
My grandmother would ask us to taste the raw kuzhambu by giving the liquid in spoons. We used to love sipping on the raw tangy water; it used to be so yummy. We would go in for many rounds of tasting until we hear our mothers warning that consuming raw kuzhambu is not good for kids.
Vendakkai or Ladies finger aids in better digestion due to high fiber content and promotes healthy bowel movements. It contains folate or folic acid, which is very good for pregnant women. It also helps in lowering bad cholesterol. Ladies finger contains high level of vitamins B1, B2 and B6. Also contains Vitamin C, which helps in building immunity and Vitamin A, which helps in improving eyesight. It is also said to control blood sugar levels and aid weight loss.
Ladies finger – 10-12 ladies finger
Tamarind – 1 big gooseberry sized ball
Small onions – 12-15
Tomato – 1 medium sized
Milagai thool – 3 tsps heaped
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Garlic – 8-10 cloves
Salt to taste
Oil – 4-5 tbsps
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – ¾ tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Preparation time – 15 mins
Cooking time – 15 mins
Total time – 30 mins
Serves 4 people
- Chop the ladies finger into 1” pieces. Peel the small onions and half it. Chop the tomato roughly.
- Soak tamarind in 2 ½ cups of water for 10 mins and extract the juice. Add tomato to the tamarind juice and squeeze it using your hands. Add in the salt and milagai thool (refer notes for details).
- Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and let it crackle. Add fenugreek seeds, sauté it for 30 secs. Add onions and garlic. Saute till the onions turn translucent.
- Now add the Vendakkai or ladies finger and sauté it until the stickiness goes.
- Add the tamarind-tomato-spice powder dissolved water to the pan. Allow it to boil until the raw smell of tamarind and spice powder disappears, ladies finger is completely cooked and the gravy thickens. This may take around 12-15 mins.
- Switch off the flame when Vendakkai Kuzhambu is thick and the oil separates and floats.
Tangy, spicy and delicious Vendakkai Kara Kuzhambu is ready to be relished with rice, kootu or any vegetable of your choice and appalam. We enjoyed ours with rice, keerai kootu and appalam.
- We prepare milagai thool by sun drying equal quantities of red chillies and coriander seeds and grinding it in a mill. If using smaller quantities, same can be ground at home. We use this powder in our everyday cooking for preparing Kuzhambu, Poriyal, Varuval, and Sambar. My grandmother’s ratio for red chillies to coriander seeds is 1:1. Powder prepared using this ratio is spicy. Ratio of 1:0.5 yields a mildly spiced powder. This powder remains fresh for 6 months if stored and handled properly.
- I used gingelly oil, which gives a very nice taste to the Kuzhambu. Any cooking oil can be used.
- I transferred the ingredients after sauting to a vessel and made the Kuzhambu. You can directly make it in a kadai or pan.
- Vendakkai Kuzhambu remains fresh if kept outside for 2-3 days. Be generous in the oil used in prepareing this kuzhambu as it infuses a very nice flavour to the Kuzhambu and also prevents it from getting spoilt.