Manthakkali Vatha Kuzhambu with step-by-step pictures. This is a classic kuzhambu recipe made with sundried black nightshade berries. This traditional vegan kuzhambu/curry recipe does not use garlic or onion, yet it is all flavour. It is a tangy, mildly sweet and spicy South Indian curry that pairs well with rice.
Vathal – The Hero of the Recipe
The ‘Vatha’ in this recipe is actually vathal, which means sun-dried berries or vegetables. Vegetables or berries are soaked in salted yoghurt or buttermilk for several hours and then sun-dried until it is dehydrated.
Vathal can be then stored in a clean, dry container for several months. Shallow fry a handful of the vathal and mix with rice and ghee, it even tastes fantastic as a side for thayir sadham or use it as a base for dishes like this Vatha Kuzhambu.
Nostalgia & Manthakkali Vatha Kuzhambu
Right from freshly picking the berries to helping my grandmother make vathakuzhamabu, this is a recipe that reeks of nostalgia for me.
Our maternal grandparents’ home was surrounded by greens. Fruits, flowering plants and herbs were all a common sight there. Fortunately for us, they were in the same city and a weekend trip to their home was always something we looked forward to.
My cousins, my sister and I would have to keep busy by helping Thaatha and Paati forage curry leaves, manthakkali, and fruits that were ready to harvest. It was an experience I always looked forward to.
In particular, picking black nightshade berries was fun. To make vathal, unripe green berries have to be picked. However, the real reward was picking the ripened purple black ones, which is not suitable for making vathal but is yummy to eat on its own.
Paati would effortlessly prep the unripe berries for sun drying. We would then help her lay them out a tray and take it to the terrace to dehydrate. In Chennai’s hot weather it typically doesn’t take too long to dry. Sometimes in just a day or two, it is ready to be stored and fried.
Thayir Sadham and Vatha Kuzahmbu – Match Made in Heaven
Another lovely memory I associate with the recipe is dinner time involving thayir sadham and Manthakkali Vatha Kuzhambu. Paati would mix a big bowl of curd rice and keep the leftover vatha kuzhambu. All the grand kids would have to sit in a line next to each other. She would then give a small morsel to each of us in our hands, we would have to make a small well in the middle of the thayir sadham, which will be followed by a small ladle of kuzhambu that goes in that little ‘well’. We would all gobble it up in seconds. That combination is divine.
This humble combination reminds me of home, the memories made with simple home cooked food.
This close-to-heart recipe is loved, cherished and savoured every bit. I hope you enjoy this family favourite classic Vatha Kuzhambu too.
- Sesame oil works the best for this recipe but use any other cooking oil to suit your taste.
- I simmer the kuzhambu to achieve the thickness. Alternatively, mix a heaped teaspoon of rice flour with ¼ cup of water. Mix it briskly to remove any clumps. Pour it when simmering the kuzhambu. It will thicken it and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes to cook the rice flour mix.
- You can make this vatha kuzhambu with shallots, sliced onion, drumstick, fresh/ sun-dried sundakka (Turkish Berry), and okra/ladies’ fingers.
- Jaggery is optional. You could avoid the use of it completely or add a tablespoon of raw sugar/brown sugar/naatu sakkarai.
- Mix a generous ladle of the Manthakkali Vatha Kuzhambu with steamed rice. Enjoy it with appalam, chips or vadam.
- Savour the kuzhambu with curd rice. Make a small well in every morsel pour a spoonful of Manthakkali Vatha Kuzhambu.
- Serve this rice and dry chutney powders like Thenga Podi, Paruppu Podu or Curry Leaves Podi.
- It makes an interesting side for idly, dosai and sevai.
Check Out other South Indian Recipes:
- Manthakkali/sundried black nightshade berry/makoy – 2 Tbsp.
- Sesame oil/gingely oil – 2 Tbsp.
- Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
- Mustard seeds – 1 heaped tsp.
- Dried red chillies – 3 or 4
- Asafoetida – ¼ tsp.
- Tamarind pulp/paste – ½ Tbsp.
- Water – 3 to 4 cups
- Powdered jaggery – ½ Tbsp.
- Salt – As required
- Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp.
- Coriander powder – 2 tsp.
- Chilli powder – 1 heaped tsp.
- Sambhar powder – 2 heaped tsp.
- Heat oil in a saucepan.
- Add mustard seeds and let it crackle.
- Toss in the curry leaves and let it fry for a few seconds.
- Add the manthakkali and fry it.
- Follow that up by adding dried red chillies and let it fry until golden brown.
- Add asafoetida.
- Now, pour the water into the saucepan.
- Add the tamarind pulp or extract.
- Add salt and the ingredients listed under Spice Powders.
- Stir and mix well to combine the ingredients.
- Cover the saucepan and let the kuzhambu come to a rolling boil.
- Sprinkle the powdered jaggery.
- Mix well and let it simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.
- At this stage, check salt and spice levels. Add more salt or jaggery, if you prefer.
- Turn the flame low and let it simmer for another 10 to 12 minutes or until the desired thickness is achieved.
- Alternatively, mix a heaped teaspoon of rice flour with ¼ cup of water. Mix it briskly to remove any clumps. Pour it when simmering the kuzhambu. It will thicken it and simmer for another 7 to 10 minutes to cook the rice flour mix.
- Once done, turn off the stove.
- Serve hot Manthakkali Vatha Kuzhambu with steamed rice, appalam and a drizzle of sesame oil.
- This will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Use tamarind instead of pulp. Take a small lemon sized tamarind and soak it in warm water for 20 minutes and extract the pulp if you are not using tamarind pulp.
- Add/omit/adjust ingredients to suit your taste.