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.
5tbsp sesame oilgenerous quantity of oil used to preserve
2tspVathal kuzhambu powderAny good kuzhambu powder will work
Extract a fairly thick juice from the soaked tamarind
Chop vegetables if using fresh. I used red pumpkin, and fresh drumsticks
Heat oil in a thick bottomed kadai, add the mustard seeds, When they pop, add the hing, chilies, and the methi seeds and saute without burning them
Add the vegetables, curry leaves, podi, turmeric and saute well
Add the tamarind extract, salt and boil until thick and reduced to about half the quantity
I like to drizzle a bit more oil towards the end, and if it's not thickening well, dissolve a tsp of rice flour in cold water to make a paste and add to the gravy
Optionally, add a bit of jaggery/gud/raw brown sugar to balance the taste. I always forget to do this, but it adds a different dimension to the taste. Serve on top of hot rice, with a drizzle of oil or ghee, with some fried papad on the side.
Preferred Vathals: Sundakai (turkey berry), Manathakkali (black night shade), mango
Preferred vegetables: shallots, eggplant, red pumpkin, drumstick, onions
You have neither: take one whole urad papad (plain), break into pieces, fry in the initial tempering oil, and proceed as usual. This is not very commonly done, but it's amazing!
Serve with hot rice, with a drizzle of oil or ghee and a side of papad.
Also great with cool yogurt rice on a warm summer evening.