Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Chana Daal Vada Curry :: Bengal gram fritters in yoghurt gravy :: South Indian style Kadhi :: Kuzhambu

When we hear about South Indian cuisine, all that comes to mind is dosa, Idlis and Vadas. In any South Indian restaurant that I have had been in Delhi or nearby, I never saw any other dish on the menu. And so the general outlook among we Northerns was that in South India, they don’t do curries. And I feel so embarrassed now on my ignorance, since South India does have a whole array of various curries and gravy dishes. Only the names are a bit complicated :) , and the method of preparation is way different. Most of them would fall under Kofta curry style, with deep fried vadas simmered in gravy. And the gravy differs too, region by region. So much to explore and taste !! I just wonder why they don’t keep all these dishes in the restaurants. Even in South Indian speciality restaurants the parameter of popularity is based often on the variety of Dosas on the menu. Although we now see some Sri Lankan dishes like Kotu parotta as well in some places. But most of them, unfortunately are still just Dosa, Idlis and Vadas.

I also wouldn’t have prepared any of these curries anytime soon, if it wasn’t for SNC challenge. Thanks to Divya, who started this challenge, I get to prepare all these unique and delicious South Indian dishes every month. This is the only challenge in the blogging world which has really held me tight else I am so lazy I always overlook the deadlines and then curse myself later on. the two other curries that I have prepared for this challenge are Vendayakeerai Parupu Urundai Morkuzhambu ( Steamed dumplings in Yoghurt gravy ) and Pakoda Kozhambu (Chettinad Pakora Curry ). And although the names do sound a bit too complex for my diction,  the method of preparation was simple and end result, totally worth the pain. The gravy for both of these dishes were very different from each other, each one with such delicate flavours. The one which I have done today, has a completely different method of preparation and tastes entirely different. So there you go peeps, try on different curries from South India enjoy the variety. 



Kuzhambu, is a dish common in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan Tamil cuisines, and is primarily made of a variety of dals. Its sort of a stew based on a broth made with tamarind, urad (bean) dal and toor dal, and can include vegetables. The dish is very popular as a side for rice in the southern regions of India especially in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. The number of varieties of kuzhambu are countless, with each state in the South preparing it with a typical variation, adapted to its taste and environment.

There is only one change that I have made to this authentic curry, that is to add a few spinach leaves purely for the reason they were lying in the fridge. But turned out, it blended well with the rest of the ingredients and I would highly recommend their addition to this curry. It also made the Vadas more crispy and tastier to eat them on their own. Do try this Kuzhambu, if you are looking to explore more flavours in Curries, Stews or Gravy dishes. 



What you need?

For Vadais:
  • 3/4 cup Channa Dhal ( Bengal gram ) 
  • 1/2 cup packed spinach leaves 
  • 1 tsp Finely chopped Garlic
  • 3-4 Dried Red Chillies 
  • 8-10 Finely chopped Curry Leaves 
  • 1 onion, finely chopped 
  • ½ cup finely chopped spinach leaves 
To mix together for the gravy: 
  • ½ cup sour yoghurt
  • ½ tsp Turmeric Powder 
  • A generous pinch of Asafoetida  ( Heeng)  
  • Salt to taste 
To grind together and keep aside: 
  • 1/4 cup coconut 
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
To grind together and keep aside: 
  • 1 tbsp Pigeon Peas (Toor Dhal) 
  • 1 tbsp Raw Rice  
To temper:
  • ½ tsp Mustard Seeds 
  • A handful of Curry leaves 
  • 1 inch Finely chopped Ginger 
  • 1-2 dried Red Chillies 
  • 2 tbsp Oil 

How to make?

Lets make Vadas first : 

  • Wash and rinse Chana daal and soak it for 2-3 hours. Drain and blend with dried red chilies into  a coarse paste without adding water. Dont blend it like you are making a Dosa, just 3-4 pulses would be enough, leaving some bits just crushed. 
  • Mix chopped Spinahc leaves, garlic, onion and curry leaves together and then add to the Chana dal mixture. 
  • Heat Oil in a wok ( Kadhayi ) and fry small vadas from this batter on a low-medium flame. Be aware that these vadas do take a bit more time to get cooked, so dont be in a hurry. Usually it takes around 5-6 minutes for a batch to get cooked properly from both inside and outside. 
  • Fry all Vadas and keep aside on a paper towel.   

Once all Vadas are done, we will start with the Curry which is known as Mor Kuzhambu: 
  • Wash and soak Toor Dhal ( Arhard Dal / Pegion peas ) and Raw Rice for 1-2 hours. Drain and blend to a coarse powder. Keep aside 
  • Take grated coconut, dried red chilies and cumin seeds and blend together. Keep aside 
  • In a big bowl beat the yoghurt. Add 2 cups of water and whip for a few minutes to get a smooth thin yoghurt. Keep aside 
  • Now, heat oil in a pan. Throw in Dal-rice paste, and fry on low for a minute. 
  • Then add the grated coconut mixture and fry for a minute. 
  • Add beaten yoghurt, salt, tumeric powder and asafoetida.  Mix everything well together and simmer for next 7-8 minutes till it comes to a boil. Turn off at this moment. The gravy is ready. 
  • In another pan, heat oil and splutter mustard seeds. Add curry leaves, dried red chilies and chopped ginger. Add the Vadais just before serving and pour this "tadka" (seasoning) onto the curry
  • Serve immediately with rice and chapathis aside 



Some Tips and my Notes:

  • If you don't have sour yoghurt, leave some salt into the yoghurt for 2-3 hours. This will make the yoghurt a bit sour and perfect to use in this sort of Curries. 
  • Take care while cooking the curry, if you turn the flame high it might curdle the yoghurt. So keep the flame low all the time. 
  • Adding spinach , like I said, is a choice which blended well with the Vadas and the curry. 
  • I had this curry the next day, and it tasted even better.. just the vadas were all soggy and mashed up but that tasted amazing with the Chapathis 
  • The curry thickens with time, so adjust it accordingly.



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