Vinitha’s Arachi vekkira Pulikuzhambu

My friend Vinitha prepares this amazing pulikuzhambu by simmering eggplants in a mixture of tamarind and freshly ground spices and it tastes great. Everyone who eats it becomes a fan of this dish. It is thick and tangy, and it doesn’t use any coconut, so it is also very healthy. I made this pulikuzhambu yesterday, along with chow chow kootu for a satisfying Sunday Lunch.

Ingredients:

6 small Indian eggplants

1/2 large red onion chopped

6 small garlic cloves, whole

1 tomato chopped

curry leaves

1 small lemon sized tamarind, soaked and juice extracted

2 tbsp gingelly oil

1/2 tsp mustard

1/2 tsp fenugreek

2 tsp thalippu vadagam

1/4 tsp turmeric

salt to taste

cilantro for garnish

For paste:

1/2 red onion or 5 whole shallots

1 tomato

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp red chilly powder

3 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp whole pepper

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp fennel seeds

1/4 tsp fenugreek

1/4 tsp poppy seeds (kasa kasa)

handful of cilantro leaves

Method:

Grind all the ingredients under ‘for paste’ into a smooth mixture. Wash, wipe and quarter the eggplants. Keep them submerged in water as they tend to turn brown. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add the fenugreek seeds and let it brown. Add the thalippu vadagam and curry leaves. Let it fry and add the chopped onion and whole garlic cloves. The original recipe calls for shallots, but I find the red onion to be a good substitute.

Once the onion softens a bit, add the chopped tomato, salt and turmeric powder. Fry until the tomatoes soften and the mixture turns pulpy. Add the eggplant next and fry until browned and almost cooked. Add the ground paste to the eggplants and fry well until the raw smell of onion and garlic disappears and the mixture is well cooked. You should see the oil float to the top. At this point, add the tamarind water and check for seasoning. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened well. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice.

Verdict: Spicy and tangy. The eggplants were like sponges soaked in the pulikuzhambu. The trick is to simmer it so that the eggplant becomes soft and that helps it to absorb the flavors.

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