It is hard to forget dishes that you liked, whiling growing up. I have a few in my list, even though I may not make those very often, but the taste of these dishes lingers in my taste buds now and then. But once in a while I get a carving for one of those dishes and then decide to experiment it in my kitchen. Yes this Vathal kuzhambu is one of the gravy that my grandma used to prepare very often. I liked everything she cooked, especially dosa the breakfast crepe which is most favorite after the Indian sweets she makes.
In Southern part of India, when there is abundance of certain fruits and berries, they process it (washed, cleaned raw fruit or berries are coated with salt and yogurt ) and is dried in the sun for long time preservation along with pickling. This process is called Vathal making. Usually it is made with raw mango, ( manga vathal), Turkey berry/pea eggplant (Sundakai Vathal)and Black night shade (Manathakkali Vathal). I have some stock of Sundakai Vathal (Turkey berry) in hand which my dad bought for me when I visited him in Kerala, India about more 5 years ago. I fry them occasionally and I some more left till now. It has a bitter taste which you need to be acquired. My kids stay away from it.
While checking on Google I came to know that Turkey berry (Solanum torvum) is native of West Indies, and got distributed to Florida, Southern Alabama, Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil and Asia and Africa over the decades. They are used in Thai, Jamaican, Ghana and Indian cuisine. We make curries with both fresh and dried berries. I am going to hunt recipes with turkey berries in international cuisine. Here in US it is considered as an invasive species. Turkey berries are known to have health benefits too; they are rich in Iron used to treat for anemia (Fe 4.6 mg/ 100g of edible fruits) in Indian folk medicine. Also its leaves are dried and powdered and given to diabetic patients. Read more from here.
Back home grandma used to make vathal kuzhambu with both fresh as well as dried turkey berries. We used to have turkey berries in our backyard garden. Grandma as a cook did not like any pre-made powder for curries, and loved to start everything from scratch. So I too made this Sundakkai vathal kuzhambu with freshly grounded spice powder.
Some use sambar powder to make Vathal kuzhambu, according to grandma it is not real version of this curry. Normally this curry is served with fire roasted appalam. Trust me it is a tasty and simple lunch.
Curry is very easy to make, first make the spice powder, lightly fry the small onions, then add tamarind juice and fry the dried turkey berries. Finally mix everything together; tangy spicy curry is ready. I added small onions along with turkey berries, thinking that the bitterness of turkey berry make not appeal my little ones. In the end my little ones also enjoyed it. We both hubby and wife loved it a lot.