Puli kuzhambu roughly translates into sour gravy, and is very easy and simple to cook. The three elements that epitomizes Tamil cuisine are uppu (salt), puli (tamarind) and milagai (chilli) and puli kuzhambu is the best example that brings out all the 3 individual flavours to their fullest, yet blending to create a taste that can only be described as magical. The gravy can be made with different vegetables. Last week when i saw some fresh pea aubergine (sundakkai) in a Chinese grocery, i simply couldn't resist it. Pea aubergine are usually dried and then used to make gravy or deep fried as an accompaniment for yogurt rice in South India. Fresh Sundakkai is a luxury and a real treat if made into puli kuzhambu. The gravy is cooked using sesame oil which gives it the unique taste.
1. Pea aubergine (Sundakkai) - 100gms
2. Chilli powder - 2 Tbsp
3. Coriander powder - 4 Tbsp
4. Tamarind - a lime sized ball ( If you can't get hold of tamarind, then 2 Tbsp of tamarind extract available in supermarkets can be used)
5. Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
6. Fenugreek seeds - 2 Tbsp
7. Shallots or small onions - 10 (alternately 1 big red onion can be used)
8. Tomato - 1
9. Green Chilli - 1
10. Curry leaves - 1 twig
11. Sesame oil - 3 Tbsps (Vegetable oil can also be used instead)
12. Asafetida - a pinch
Chop the onions if using big ones, if using shallots then cut them into two. Quarter the tomatoes.
To extract the tamarind juice, place the tamarind in a bowl and add enough water to immerse it and then microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and add some cold water (so that your hands won't burn when you dip in the hot water) and squeeze the tamarind. Filter the water and retain it and throw the pith.
Heat a wok and add 2 Tbsp of sesame oil. When the oil becomes hot, add the fenugreek seeds. When they start turning brown add the curry leaves, Asafetida, green chilli (whole) and then the onions. Sauté the onions and then add the sundakkai and fry it for a few minutes. Add the chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder and mix it with the onions and sundakkai. Add the tomatoes and then add some water and salt to it. When the vegetable is half cooked add the tamarind extract and let it boil. When the gravy is thick and the vegetable is cooked add the remaining 1Tbsp of sesame oil and remove from fire.
This tastes heavenly with hot boiled rice.