Vatha Kuzhambu or Vetha Kuzhambu is a tangy gravy that is served with plain white rice. Originally, its “Vathal-Kuzhambu”-meaning Vathal-Dried vegetable, which can be preserved for a long time and kuzhambu means gravy. Dried Vathals like Sundakai vathal, Manathakali vathals are used to make this kuzhambu. However, I really like the variations and absolutely love the fact that something that would typically go in a dustbin, can actually be used to make something useful.
Most of the vegetables and fruits have a lot of the vitamins in their peel. But we tend to use the fruit and discard the peel, which is like wasting half of the nutrients. So, I have made it a practise, not to take the peel off from some vegetables and fruits. For instance, Potatoes, Carrots, Cucumbers, Zuccini, Apples, Mangoes, Suppota and few other fruits and veggies can be consumed without taking the peel off. This way, you can fully benefit from the veggies and fruits. But make sure, you wash the skin well to get rid of the wax coat.
Vatha kuzhambu is a food of South Indian Brahmins. Poor people who couldn’t afford fresh vegetables, would still make this Vathakuzhambu and enjoy a filling and gratifying meal with Vathal kuzhambu & sutappalam( papad, which is just heated in flame and not deep fried with oil). So, it is also called a poor man’s food. It is such a wonderful dish and this orange peel vatha kuzhambu in particular is fabulous, bursting with Citrus flavor and a mild hint of bitterness. Its also my Yogamba paati’s (my mom’s mother) all time favorite. After travelling for 4-5 days and eating food from outside, your tongue really craves for simple home made vatha kuzhambu.
A variety of Vatha Kuzhambu can be made. Like I mentioned, Sundaikai Vathals, Manathakali vathals can be used. Vegetables like Drumsticks, Red pumpkin, Small onions, Okras, Bringal, Capsicum, fresh sundaikai can be used to make vatha kuzhambu. Use one vegetable at a time, to get a unique tasting vathakuzhambu each time. Another interesting vatha kuzhambu is appalam kuzhambu, where urad dhal papad is fried and used instead of the vegetable. Though the papad gets soggy and soft, it adds an interesting flavor to the kuzhambu.
- Clementine peel- from 2 fruits.
- Sambar powder- 3tsp.(refer my previous post)
- Tamarind paste-11/2 tsp.
- Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp.
- Salt- 1 tsp.
- Asafoetida- a pinch.
- Gingelly Oil- 2tsp.
- Mustard seeds-1/2 tsp.
- Toor dhal-1 tsp.
- Fenugreek seeds-1/2 tsp.
- Red chillies-2.
- Curry leaves-an arc.
- Rice flour- 1tsp.(optional)
- Peel the skin from 2 clementines.
- Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
- After the mustards splatter, quickly add thoor dhal, fenugreek, red chillies, curry leaves, asafoetida.
- Then add clementine peel and saute for a minute.
- Now add sufficient water( 2-3 cups), and add tamarind paste.
- Allow it to cook for 5 minutes.
- Then add sambar powder, salt and turmeric.
- Let it simmer for 1/2 hour.
- The kuzhambu gets thick. If it is still thin, rice flour can be mixed with water and added(Only if required, as it could affect the original taste).
- Turn the heat off, cover it so, the aroma doesn’t escape.
- Serve with plain white rice, sutta appalam and gingelly oil.
- This is just like wine. The older the better. Vatha kuzhambu always tastes better the 2nd and 3rd day after you cook it.
- Can be enjoyed as side for Curd rice.
- My mom usually makes some cooked Thoor dhal, so we can enjoy some parupu saadham with vathakuzhambu.