VATTA KUZHAMBU / VETTRAL KUZHAMBU / STORY OF VATTHA KUZHAMBU
Vatta Kozhambu is a spicy tamarind based curry which goes well with steamed rice & pappads.
The Vatta Kozhambu also known as Vatthal or Vettral(Vettal) Kozhambu ( Because of the use of Vattals also known as Vettral/Vettal(dried vegetables)).
It may be also known as Vatha kuzhambu because of the process. As a joke, you can say, “Vatti vatti pohara kuzhambu (means you add the water and let it reduce and keep repeating it till the raw smell of the tamarind goes).
Vatti vatti pohardu (in Tamil means as the water starts to reduce).
No cooked lentils are added to this kuzhambu, so this kuzhambu can be prepared immediately with no much preparation with the ingredients available in your kitchen.
The Vatta Kozhambu is a famous Tanjorian preparation.
The divide between the Tanjorians and the Pattars of Kerala was not more sharply delienated than in the making of the staple sambhar. The tanjorians were fearfully called easterners by the Kerala Iyers - they would not give their daughters in marriage to a Tanjore family for fear of ill treatment of their daughters but welcomed the Tanjore daughter-in-law as she could be depended upon to run the family with smartness and acumen - make the vettal kuzhambu(sambhar without paruppu (dal)) more frequently. The price of dal was prohibitive for an ordinary family making its living by rituals and temple largesse. So a spoonful of dal, the paruppu at the corner of your banana leaf was served, labelled auspicious, and the rice was eaten mixed with the tamarind pulp, spices and rice-powder-thickened kuzhambu.
(Excerpts from my Article : Sambhar- Story of the South Indian Curry. Refer to the Culinary stories section of my blog for the entire article.)
In the olden days Vatta Kozhambu used to be packed and taken while traveling from village to village for trade or business purposes, as this dish doesn’t tend to get spoilt.
I still remember the aroma and taste of the Vatta Kozhambu prepared by my mom, when we used to be travelling to Madras (now Chennai) by the Madras Mail from Mumbai, a journey of 2 days. Amma would carry the Vatta Kozhambu in a bottle and the taste when mixed with rice would be heavenly.
Incase you are putting onions or any other vegetables, you must remember that it wont last as long as the plain vatta kozhambu but still lasts longer than any other curry.
The Vengaya Vatta Kozhambu tastes better when older as the essence of the onions enter the curry completely and enhance the taste. I am sure once you have tried this recipe, your family will be begging for more.
It remains for 2-3 days in the refrigerator if vegetables are added and lasts upto a week if vegetables are not added even without refrigeration.
Sundakkai / Manathakkali or any vegetable Vattal - 1 tbsp of the vattal
Papadams – 2
Fresh Brinjals / Lady's fingers / Tomatoes / Small onions (Chinna vengayam) / Onions. -1 cup of chopped vegetables.
Tamarind - a golf size ball soaked in water
Sambhar Powder / Vattha Kuzhambu powder – 1 ½ - 2 tbspn.
Mustard seeds – 1 tspn
Udad Dal - 1 tspn.
Fenugreek seeds – ½ tspn
Dry Red Chillies - 4 de-seeded (if you are adding with the seed just add 1-2)
Asafoetida Powder – 1 tspn
Curry Leaves - One Sprig
Oil - 4-6 tbsps.
Sugar – 1-2 tspns
Salt to taste
Rice flour – 1 tablespoon (for thickness)
Soak the tamarind in water & extract the pulp (juice). Keep this aside.
Heat 4-6 tablespoons of oil in a kadhai. Break the papadams into small quarters and fry them. Keep aside on a plate.
Now Fry the Vattals, You can use one or all of the vattals mentioned above. I have used Sundakkai and Tamara Kazhangu (lotus roots) vattal.
Sundakkai and Manathakkali vattals are very good for health.
You can use any vattal like Pavakkai(Bitter gourd), Vendakkai (Ladies Fingers) vattal, Maa (Salted dried Mango) Vattal etc.
Keep aside the fried vattals on a plate.
Now in the same oil, Add mustard seeds, udad dal, fenugreek seeds and the dry red chillies. When the mustard seeds start to crackle, Add the curry leaves.
Now add the vegetables you are using and stir fry in the oil.
If you are using only Chinna Vengayam (Small Onions) – Peel and use as whole
Incase of big Onions, peel and chop into small pieces. Incase of onions stir fry until transparent before adding the next ingredient.
When you add onions, it is called "Vengaya Vatta Kozhambu".
Incase, you are using other vegetables, for example Brinjals have to be cut into long thick slits. If you make the Vattha kuzhambu using Brinjal, it is known as Katrikkai Vattha kuzhambu
Ladies fingers are cut into lengthwise finger length strips. If using only ladies finger, it is known as Vendakkai Vathha kuzhambu
If fresh Lotus roots are used cut them into roundels.
If tomatoes are used, you can cut the tomatoes into small cubes.
Once the seasoning is ready, add the vegetables you are using and stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
Now add the sambhar powder and salt and mix well. The sambhar powder should get fried in the oil (not only will this remove the raw powder smell but give a good color and aroma to your vatta kozhambu).
At this stage add your fried papadams and fried vattals that you have kept aside and stir fry with the masala and vegetables.
You can use freshly prepared Vatta Kozhambu masala (as shown below) and add to the vegetables instead of using the Sambhar powder.
Add the Tamarind water (pulp) and mix well.
Add 4-5 glasses of water & allow to simmer nicely.
The longer it is cooked the better it tastes. After 15-20 minutes of boiling. If you see there isn’t much water left, add some more water as much as the quantity required by you. You keep adding water, till the raw smell (pacchai vaadai) of the tamarind disappears.
Once you feel the raw tamarind smell disappears. Add water according to the quantity of kozhambu required by you. Allow it to come to the boiling point.
Now take the Rice flour in a small bowl and mix with water, ensure there are no lumps. Add this solution to the boiling vatta kozhambu and boil for another 5 minutes. This thickens the kozhambu.
Switch off the gas.
Serve the Vatta Kozhambu with Hot Steamed Rice, A teaspoon of melted ghee and roasted or fried pappadams.
- Vatta Kozhambu will last longer when more oil is added, hence 4-6 tbsps of oil are added.
- Can add Fresh Brinjals / Lady's fingers / Tomatoes/ Lotus roots
- You can avoid Onions completely.
- If you are using only Chinna Vengayam (Small Onions) - Peel and use as whole
You can use any vattal like Sundakkai and Manathakkali vattals, Tamara
Kazhangu (lotus roots), Pavakkai(Bitter gourd), Vendakkai (Ladies Fingers), Vattal Maa (Salted dried Mango) Vattal etc.
- You can add Pappadams - cut them in small quarters & fry them. Keep aside on a plate.
Fresh Vatta Kozhambu Masala
Udad Dal - 2 tspns
Pepper corns - 1 tspn
Fenugreek – ¼ tsp
Coriander – 1 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3- 4
Asafoetida a bit
Oil – A tsp
MethodFry all the above ingredients in a little oil until golden brown & grind to a smooth paste. Add this paste, After you add the tamarind juice to the vegetables and follow the above method to prepare delicious Vattha Kozhambu.