Vathal or vendhaya kuzhambu is the ultimate Tambrahm rustic dish, made when you don’t have fresh produce on hand, especially during the monsoons when the sundried vegetables from the previous year come in handy. Vathal means dried stuff basically any vegetable or certain berries like turkey berry (sundakai in Tamil), black night shade (manathakkali in Tamil) in their sundried form are added to a thick tamarind extract, with basic kuzhambu powder (spice mix) and boiled to a thick jam-like gravy, and eaten with rice. The flavor comes from the tadka/thalippu/tempering in sesame oil and the tart tamarind extract, the tartness balanced by the vathal or vegetable of your choice. Fresh vegetables such as drumstick, red pumpkin, onions/shallots are also used and are typically my favorites. If you have no vegetable or vathal on hand, one version of this uses papads. Fry the papads broken in pieces in the initial tempering, and proceed as usual.
This recipe was taught to me by my husband’s cousin, Indu, who is a fabulous cook. The title “pagarkai gojju” means Bittergourd Gravy. Bitter gourd, or as its sometimes called, bitter melon, is a green vegetable that is very bitter and is used extensively in Indian cuisine. Gojju is a Kannada term for a spiced gravy that typically incorporates sour, pungent, heat, and sweet tastes. Add to it the bitter taste of the gourd, and this dish truly tickles every inch of the palate. The sourness comes from the tamarind, the heat from the red chilies, and the sweet comes from jaggery/gud/vellam/brown sugar or raw, unrefined sugar. This dish is my husband’s favorite and is a real adventure in your mouth. On to the recipe now.
Today’s recipe is made out of the grains that are fed to horses, ergo horse gram. Yep! Instead of the toor dal that is traditionally used in rasam, this recipe bases its protein content on horse gram. Horse gram is supposed to have some magical properties such as helping in weight loss. I don’t know if that’s a confirmed fact or not, but on cold rainy or winter days, it’s a good hearty soup/rasam to have piping hot with some steamed rice.
A quick sambar for idlis/dosas, this literally gets done in the time it takes to steam the idlis! No spices to roast and grind, and most people will always have most of the ingredients in their kitchen.