Puli Kuzhambu is a rustic, tangy tamarind-based South Indian curry served with hot steamed rice.
South Indian cuisine’s contribution to the world is a bountiful variety of tamarind-based curry/broth/gravy among other thing. Some with lentils, and without, each unique and yummy. Each South Indian state has its own offering of the sour curry like Vatha Kuzhambu, Pulusu, Kara Kuzhambu, Sambhar, Gojju, Puli Kuzhambu and more.
Being born Tamilian and married into a Telugu family, I am quite fortunate to savour the best of both worlds. Add to that a Kannadiga friend in Sydney who happens to be a sensational home cook, there is no shortage for your truly to enjoy some hearty meals from the South of India.
While Puli Kuzhambu didn’t get made as often as vatha kuzhambu or karuveppilai/ milagu kuzhambu at home but when it was made, it went down a treat especially when there was some crispy vadam and curd rice involved!
This simple and delectable Puli Kuzhambu is vegan and stays fresh in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. I find that the dish tastes better the day after its made when it’s bursting with flavour. The options are endless with the kuzhambu as it tastes amazing with many vegetables and is a great way to consume them.
Pour a generous ladle of the Puli Kuzhambu over hot steamed rice and a drizzle of sesame oil and serve with chips, potato kari or vadam. That, my friends, is what heaven would taste like!
How about trying some of my favourite South Indian recipes?
- Shallots/chinna vengayam – 125g, peeled
- Tomato – 100g, rouchly chopped
- Garlic cloves – 10 to 12
- Sesame oil – 1 tsp
- Dried red chillies (optional) – 4
- Tamarind- A small lemon sized ball
- Onion – 1, cut into thick slices
- Tomato – 1, cut into chunky cubes
- Garlic – About 10 cloves
- Sesame Oil – 1 tblsp
- Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
- Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
- Chilli powder – 1 heaped tsp
- Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
- Coriander powder – 1 heaped tsp
- Sambhar powder – 1 heaped tsp
- Asafoetida – 1 pinch
- Curry leaves – 1 sprig
- Salt – As required
- Water – As required
- Soak tamarind in 2 cups of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Extract the tamarind water and discard the pulp.
- Alternatively, you could use readymade tamarind paste and mix with 2 cups of warm water.
- Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan, add shallots and garlic cloves.
- Sauté until fragrant.
- Add chopped tomatoes and dried red chillies.
- Cook until the tomatoes are soft.
- Allow the mixture to cool.
- Grind into a smooth paste and set aside.
- Heat sesame oil in the same pan.
- Add mustard seeds and let it sputter.
- When it sputters, add the fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves.
- Stir the ingredients until fragrant.
- Add the thickly sliced onions and garlic cloves.
- Cook until translucent.
- Toss in the chopped tomatoes.
- Cook until soft.
- Mash the tomatoes gently with the back of the ladle.
- Pour the tamarind extract and mix.
- Add spice powders listed under ‘Other Ingredients’ and salt.
- Mix well and let it come to a boil.
- Add the ground paste into the boiling mixture.
- Stir and let the kozhambu simmer until a thick gravy is formed.
- Turn the stove off once the kuzhambu has achieved the desired thickness.
- Serve hot with steamed rice and chips or vadam.
- Puli kuzhambu is generally thick. That said, if you like a thinner kuzhambu, add more water.
- I have used onion and tomato, add other vegetables like eggplant, okra or drumsticks.
- Grind a small handful of fresh coconut for a richer kuzhambu. Note that it may shorten the shelf life.
- Add/omit/adjust ingredients to suit your preference.
- Add a couple of teaspoons of crushed jaggery while simmering the kuzhambu to give it that delicate sweetness that complements the sourness and heat.