Kanchipuram Idli – spiced with ginger in fresh and dried forms, pepper, cumin, kariveppelai (curry leaves), cashew nuts, and tempered in gingelly oil (nallennai/sesame oil) – just reading the description makes me almost drool. So named for its origins in (from who knows when) the temple kitchen (madapalli) of the Kanchipuram Varadaraja Perumal kovil, it’s been enjoyed by millions as a temple prasadam and in homes around the world. I was introduced to it quite late in my life when I got married and had it at my husband’s aunt’s place. I’ll admit – I wasn’t a huge fan initially. But my husband loves it to pieces. So, over the years, I’ve learned to make it (not frequently enough for him), and have grown to like, even love it. I simply love that it’s a temple prasadam. The temple kitchen uses only raw rice but at home we use an equal measure of raw and parboiled rices. Here’s the recipe.
You say gongura and I say Andhra! It’s The king of Andhra cuisine. The one and only gongura pachchadi. This chutney made with the sour leaves of the roselle plant is an absolute favorite dish, and I’ve always thought the store bought one was too oily and oversalted. So this year, I got a couple of plants at a plant sale. And it’s doing extremely well in the Florida weather. I harvested about 8 cups of leaves today, and set to work making this yummy chutney. My husband and I had it for lunch with hot steaming rice, and a dollop of ghee. Heaven! I researched several recipes, and used the Guntur recipe, the way it’s made in Guntur in Andhra.
I am not sure what language thokku is in, most likely Telugu, but it refers to any fresh herb/vegetable pounded/ground to a paste with salt, tamarind and jaggery, and reduced in sesame oil. The key ingredients are tamarind, jaggery, and sesame oil. This recipe makes a thokku out of fresh green chilies and is dynamite!
Ah! What can I say about puliyodarai that hasn’t been said. It’s a kind of mixed rice, what we call “kalanda sadam” in thamizh. The gravy that it’s mixed with is made up of tamarind extract and a spice mix that has chana dal, red chilies, coriander seeds, a little bit of black pepper, and most importantly, sesame seeds. These spices are toasted in a bit of oil, preferably sesame, and made into a powder. The tamarind juice is boiled with a bit of oil, hing, chana dal, red chilies, and curry leaves and made into a thick paste – this is called pulikachal. It’s then mixed with rice, a bit of the spice powder, and tempered with more hing, curry leaves, and roasted peanuts. Heaven! It’s a very popular prasad in many temples, travels really well, and is part of the meal on one of the pongal days along with coconut rice, and yogurt rice, and fried papads, vathals. The most important thing to note about puliyodarai is that it needs sesame oil, and sesame oil only. None other will do if you want authentic puliyodarai.
This specific version is the Iyengar version as I’ve learned. The Iyer version stops with making the puli gravy with chilies, curry leaves, methi powder and hing. At that stage, it can be mixed with rice and eaten. The Iyengar version goes one step further and adds this beautiful spice powder, the dominant flavor there being sesame seeds.
To summarize, there are 3 steps in making puliyodarai:
1. Make the pulikachal paste (this will stay in the refrigerator for a couple of months, so make a good quantity)
2. Make the spice powder
3. Make the rice, and mix, add tempering
Kuzhambu means a thick mix/slurry. True to its name, this kuzhambu is a spicy thick gravy with a tamarind base, with a few vegetables, and dal. The difference between vathal kuzhambu, kara kuzhambu and this is that this has cooked dal added to it. Then why is it not sambar? Good question. We use a pre-made spice powder to season this dish, whereas for sambar, we freshly roast and grind spices to make the masala. Also, this is a bit thicker than sambar.
So, as far as tamarind based gravies go, there are mainly 3 kinds in Tamil (brahmin) cooking:
Vatha kuzhambu/kara kuzhambu: no dal, limited vegetables, more oil and almost like a pickle
Sambar: Tamarind, dal, vegetables, freshly roasted and ground masala
Kuzhambu: Thick tamarind gravy, premade masala/spice powder, dal, limited vegetables.
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