Vathal kuzhambu: Spicy Tamarind Gravy with Turkey Berry

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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.

Vathal kuzhambu: Spicy Tamarind Gravy with Turkey Berry


Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 4 serving

Delicious tangy spicy gravy made with fried turkey berries(sundakkai vathal)
For Vathal Kuzhambu spice powder
  • 4 Red chili ( Increase if you want more spicy around 2 more)
  • 2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoon toor dal/ sambhar parippu/ spilt pigeon peas
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon urad dal/ split black gram
  • 5 curry leaves
  • A pinch of mustard seeds( 5 to 6 seeds)
For curry
  • 21 shallots/small onions (peeled)
  • 4 tablespoon Sundakkai vathal (dried turkey berry)
  • 2 teaspoon kadala parippu/ Bengal gram
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard
  • 10 curry leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon Asafetoida
  • ¼ teaspoon Jaggery
  • 3 tablespoon of gingerly oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Lemon sized tamarind
  • ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • ½ cup water
  1. Dry roast and grind the ingredients for vathal kuzhambu masala/ spice powder: Dry Chili, pepper, cumin seeds, Coriander seeds, Toor dal, mustard seeds, Urad Dal and fenugreek seeds one by one. Keep it aside.

  2. Extract tamarind juice using ¼ cup warm water and set aside.
  3. Fry the sundakkai vathal in a 3 tablespoon of oil and set aside.

  4. In pan heat the 2 tablespoon oil then mustard seeds. When mustard starts splattering, add chana dal(kadalaparippu) and asafoetida.

  5. To this add spice powder and fry for 2 minutes.

  6. Then add shallots or small onions and curry leaves
  7. and fry for about 6-7 minutes or until it become translucent.
  8. Add tamarind juice along with ¼ cup water.
  9. Then add turmeric, Jaggery, salt and bring to boil to this add fried sundakkai (turkey berry)
  10. vathal cook for 4 more minutes or until gravy reach the consistency you want.
  11. Finally add rest of Gingerly Oil on top.
  12. Serve with boiled rice and applam
You can make Vathal Kuzhambu Vegetables like Pumpkin, Ladys finger, drum stick or Vathals like Manathakkali Vathal, Sundakkai Vathal, Pooshanikkai Vathal, Kothavarangai Vathal, etc

Copyright ©2014 Zesty South Indian Kitchen by Swathi(Ambujom Saraswathy) All Rights Reserved.

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