Curry leaves or Karuvepilai(tamil) is rarely something that is the star of a dish. Although it adds a beautiful finishing touch to almost all South Indian dishes, it also has an ill fate of being ‘cast away’, as a mere garnish. It is purely edible, quite tasty and also is very healthy. Treat it just as you would spinach, but twice as good. 🙂 That said, I realized that I did not have any dish that used this in its entirety – of flavor. I found some really good curry leaves in the store today and I decided to make a quick and easy kaara kuzhambu with it. It was not only an easy recipe to put together, but a very tasty one.
1 cup curry leaves, washed, rinsed and dried
1 cup chopped red onion/shallots
1/2 cup whole garlic pods
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp whole urad dal
1 tbsp toor dal
1 tbsp channa dal
1 tbsp dry dessicated coconut
4 red chillies
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup of tamaraind extract
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
salt to taste
Heat a pan and dry roast the urad dal, toor dal, channa dal, until golden brown and fragrant, over medium heat. Remove and set aside. Add the red chillies, pepper, coriander and cumin and roast until the spices give out their aroma and are toasted. Don’t burn them. Switch off the stove and add the coconut and the curry leaves. The residual heat from the pan is enough to toast the curry leaves and the coconut. Now dry grind all of these into a fine powder.
In the same pan heat the 2 tbsp oil. Add 1/2 tsp mustard and 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds. Let the seeds splutter. Add the chopped onion or shallots and saute until translucent. Add the whole garlic pods and cook for about 5 minutes, until the garlic is soft and cooked through. Add turmeric powder and salt. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes, so that you get a nice saucy mixture. Add the dry spice mixture and mix this with the tomatoes and onions. Add the tamarind extract and mix thoroughly. Add another cup of water. Let this thicken up to a thick stew consistency. Serve with extra curry leaves sprinkled on top for garnish. 🙂
Verdict: This was a tangy, spicy and vibrant green kara kuzhambu that we enjoyed with hot steamed rice and cabbage poriyal. There is a warmth of spice from the pepper and the coriander seeds, and the dals act as great thickening agents. A very comforting meal – but rich in nutrition.
* If you have store bought kauvepilai podi, you can use that, just add 1 tsp red chilly powder and coriander powder and proceed with the same recipe.
* You can also omit the onion, garlic tomato and proceed without it, add some vathal(sundakkai, manathakkali) etc. for a tasty variation on vathakuzhambu.