I simply love the kaara kuzhambu that is served in most of the restaurants in the state of Tamil Nadu. It just takes you out of the world. My Mom never likes it much and hence did not take the effort to learn it (fair enough I think :-)). A few months back, I was craving for kaara kuzhambu and went online to look for recipes. I came across a ton of them and did not know which one would yield the taste I was looking for. So, I asked one of my undergrad friends, Mahimaa, an amazing cook, if she has a specific recipe that she can pass along (coming from Chennai herself, I knew Mahi would understand if I tell her what taste I'm expecting in my kaara kuzhambu). She did send me a link and after carefully thinking about the ingredients involved in that recipe, I decided to give it a shot. Thanks to Mahi for steering me in the right direction, for it turned out very well and carried the exact taste and flavor that I had in my mind :-). Below is the procedure from the link that Mahi had forwarded.
Ingredients (about 3 - 4 servings):
Tamarind soaked in water - about the size of a small lemon
(If using tamarind paste, about 3/4 teaspoon)
Onions - 2 medium sized finely chopped
Tomatoes - 1.5 medium sized finely chopped
Cooking oil - 4 to 5 tablespoons
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Garlic - 4 to 5 cloves peeled and crushed
Fenugreek seeds or powder - 1 teaspoon
Asafoetida - 1/4 teaspoon
Curry leaves - a few
Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Red chilli powder - 2 to 3 teaspoons (vary this to suit your taste)
Coriander powder - about 3 teaspoons
To grind to a fine paste:
Poppy seeds (kasakasa) - 1.5 teaspoons
Grated/dry coconut - 3 to 4 tablespoons
Cashews - 4 to 5
(Note: Adding cashews while grinding gives the kuzhambu a rich, creamy texture but if you choose not to use cashews, you can use about 2 teaspoons of rice flour)
1. Grind poppy seeds, coconut and cashews to a fine paste and set aside.
2. Extract about 3 cups of tamarind water from the soaked tamarind or dilute the paste to yield about 3 cups of water and set aside.
3. Take a deep vessel, heat some cooking oil, add mustard seeds and wait for them to splutter. After the mustard splutters, add the fenugreek seeds (or powder), asafoetida, crushed garlic, turmeric powder, curry leaves and chopped onions and fry until the onions turn golden brown in color.
4. To the onions in step 3, add chopped tomatoes and fry until they get cooked.
5. To the mixture in step 4, add red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt, fry for about a minute, then add tamarind water and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for about 10 - 15 minutes. If you want to add raw vegetables to the kaara kuzhambu, you can add it now. If adding something half cooked, add it after 10 - 15 minutes.
6. Finally, add the ground paste from step 1, boil for 5 - 10 more minutes and turn off the stove. Mouth-watering kaara kuzhambu is done!!!!
I've made kaara kuzhambu with okra, potatoes, blackeyed peas and boiled eggs so far and have liked them all. It goes very well with rice and potato chips or papad :-). Yum!!!!!