Vatha Kuzhambu (A Tangy Spicy Gravy)


When I think of Vatha Kuzambu I remember my aunt-in-law. We visited my husband’s uncle and aunt every alternate year in Coimbatore. She made Vathakuzambu every single time. It was mouthwateringly scrumptious, the tanginess of the sauce with the spiciness of the chillis and a mildly sweet flavor from the jaggery served on hot rice with a dollop of ghee. Heavenly!

I have been trying to make it and it has not been half as good. Recently my friend Angie’s cook, Mary, made this dish and it brought back memories. This is an adaptation of her recipe as she did not give me the exact measurements, I had to taste and add ingredients to get the taste I was looking for. Thanks to Mary, I made a pretty good Vatha Kuzambu.

I made an onion (shallot) kuzambu but you could add eggplant, sundakkai or manathangali vathal (these are berries which are soaked in buttermilk, sundried and then fried).

Do add some more sambar powder if you want it spicy. It should have the right balance of tanginess  (from the tamarind) and spice from the sambar powder/ chilli powder. It always tastes better the next day.

My father who is a very good cook and also good at critiquing food (could have become a food critic), enjoyed the dish, that says a lot!


1 cup shallots (sambar onions)

3 tsp sambar powder (I  used MTR)

1/2 tsp red chili powder

tamarind large sized lime size

2 cups water

1 tsp jaggery (brown sugar) – optional

turmeric powder 1/2 tsp

salt to taste

To Temper:

curry leaves a few

mustard seeds  1/2 tsp

methi seeds 1/4 Tsp

channa dal 1 Tsp

asafoetida 1 pinch

gingelly oil (sesame oil) 2 1/2 tbsp + 1 Tsp


Peel shallots (onions)

Soak tamarind in 2 cups of hot water and extract juice. Strain and keep aside the tamarind juice

Heat 2 tbsp oil, add ingredients for tempering. Once mustard splutters add the onions and saute.

Add the sambar powder and chili powder and fry for a minute. Add the tamarind juice, turmeric, jaggery, and salt. Cover and cook on medium heat. Keep checking, until it reduces to half. It should be a thick saucy consistency. Add 1 tsp oil to the gravy.

Serve hot on rice with a dollop of ghee.








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