Step by step guide to make Vendakkai Puli Kulambu, a Tamil style stew with Okra and tamarind. This traditional dish that has a version in every Tamil household, is naturally vegan and gluten-free. This tangy Kuzhambu tastes delicious with hot rice and a South Indian style beans and carrot poriyal.
What is Puli Kulambu?
Puli in Tamil refers to tamarind. Sometimes referred to as Kuzhambu, this means a stew in Tamil. Like all Kuzhambu recipes, the recipe for Puli Kuzhambu too differs from home to home.
It doesn’t have anything fancy. Yet, it makes a delicious, tangy and satisfying meal when served with rice and poppadum. You can also make the same kuzhambu with vegetables like eggplant and drumstick.
Please try to use old tamarind for this kuzhambu. Also, freshly grated coconut works best. You can make this with frozen coconut that has been thawed. But desiccated coconut will not work here.
Soak tamarind in 1 cup of warm water for 20 mins. Mash the tamarind well into the water and make an extract. Make sure you discard all strings by straining the water. I never strain the water. I pour the extract through a slotted ladle into the pan directly. Something i learned from Amma 😉
Peel shallots and garlic.Wash and pat dry the okra. Chop them into 2″ pieces. Chop tomatoes finely. You can see bits of coconut here in the plate. I don’t bother grating my coconut. I just scrape off the flesh from shell, chop into pieces and use these. Here I have used about ¼ of a coconut.
Frying the okra
Heat a pan with oil. Fry the okra pieces until they begin to brown and drain on a kitchen towel.
Frying shallots, garlic and tomatoes
In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon more oil. Add shallots and garlic and fry till light brown. Now, to this add the tomatoes and fry till mushy. Once the tomatoes are done, add the spice powders and mix well. Cook for 30 secs. Remove from flame and let cool completely.
Making the spice paste
Once cool, combine with the coconut and grind to a smooth paste. I did not use any water for grinding.
Making Puli Kuzhambu
Now, in the same pan, add the fried okra along with the tamarind extract and salt and mix well. Add sambar powder to this and mix. Let simmer till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away. This takes about 5 mins on medium flame.
Once done, add the ground paste and mix well. Let this simmer for about 4 to 5 mins on low flame. When the Kuzhambu froths up, switch off flame.
Heat a small pan with 1 tbsp. Pop the mustard and add the fenugreek, urad dal and fennel seeds along with curry leaves. Once the dal begins to brown, pour this over the kuzhambu and mix well.
Your Kuzhambu is ready to be served with rice.
Vendakkai Puli Kuzhambu
- Frying Pan
- 12 Okra dried and chopped into 2″ pieces
- 6 to 7 Shallots peeled
- 4 cloves Garlic peeled
- ½ cup finely chopped tomatoes
- 6 grams Tamarind
- 1 cup hot water
- 3 tablespoon Grated fresh coconut
- 1.25 teaspoon Coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon Red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon Sambar powder
- 2 teaspoon Salt or to taste
- 3 tablespoon Sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon Fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon Urad dal 1 tsp
- 10 leaves Curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon Fennel seeds
- Make tamarind extract by mashing the tamarind well with water and straining it. Set aside.
- Heat a pan with 1 tablespoon oil and fry the okra till it begins to brown.
- Drain and set aside.
- In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil.
- Add shallot and garlic to this and fry till light brown.
- Now add tomatoes and fry till mushy.
- Next add chili powder, turmeric and coriander powder to this and mix well. Cook for 30 secs.
- Remove from flame and let this mixture cool.
- Once cool, combine the tomato mixture with grated coconut and blend to a smooth paste in a blender.
- In the same pan that you fried the shallots etc, add the okra pieces along with the tamarind and salt and mix well.
- Add sambar powder to this and mix.
- Let simmer till the raw smell of tamarind goes away.
- Once done, add the ground spice paste and mix well.
- Let simmer till kuzhambu froths up.
- Heat a small pan with the remaining oil.
- Pop the mustard and tip in the urad dal, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds and fennel seeds.
- Once dal begins to brown, pour the tempering over the kuzhambu.
- Mix well.
- Serve hot with rice.