Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chinna Vengaya Vatral Kuzhambu

        Chennai, still known as Madras is famous for various things. Among them is Chinna Vengayam or Madras sambar onions/ red onions. In US, we get them frozen or even fresh. For the real Madras onions, you have to have the mann vasanai (fragrance of the earth). In the vegetable markets in Madras, these onions are sold as close  to the place they came from. The vegetable vendors heap these on sack cloths on the ground. When you buy them although they appear dry, you get that distinct smell of just plucked freshness mixed with your own imagination of the future meal of onion sambhar or vatral kuzhambu. I honestly don't get that smell on the ones we get here in US, still I get them for the taste.
      My dad used to tell us stories of this amazing Vatral kuzhambu his grandma Ooramma made. The kuzhambu was made in kar chatti or stone pots, they retain heat longer and will allow the kuzhambu to reduce and thicken without burning. Vatral kuzhambu if made in the morning is eaten with appalam in the evening. Ooramma  made vatral kuzhambu to the consistency of honey, fiery hot and glistening with nalla ennai. In the evenings, she mixed rice with the kuzhambu and made rice balls of this kuzhambu sadam and gave each of her many grandchildren a few big rice balls to eat with appalam. My dad still gives me kuzhambu sadam this way, I love it.

     Whenever Vatral Kuzhambu is made, a good combination to make are kootu, keerai or any roast kari. As kids, this kuzhambu was served with paruppu saadam with nei and vegetable side dish, as it is spicy. As you grow up and get used to spiciness you could take it mixed with hot rice and kari.

Chinna Vengaya Vatral Kuzhambu


Small Madras onions- 1 cup
sambar powder 2 heaped tsps
kadala paruppu / chana dal   1 tsp
mustard seeds   1 tsp
Venthayam / fenugreek seeds  3/4 tsp
curry leaves   a few
red chillies halved    2
Tamarind paste 1 1/2 tsps
Nalla ennai / sesame oil   2 tbsps
Rice flour 1 tsp
Asafoetida 1/4 tsp
jaggery 1 tiny piece(optional)
salt to taste

1. Heat 2 tsps of oil in a thick bottomed pan, pop mustard seeds.Then add the chana dal and let it become red. Add the venthayam, let it  heat lightly , then add red chillies , asafoetida and curry leaves.
2. Add the onions and fry till translucent.
3. Some people add  the sambar powder at this stage and fry it a little bit, it is optional, you can add it to the    tamarind water. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 cups of water and add it to the pan. If not yet added then add the sambar powder next.
4. Let this mixture come to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium and let it gently boil for 10 minutes.
5. The kuzhambu thickens a little, if not then make a paste of the rice flour and water and add it to the kuzhambu. In a few minutes it thickens.
6. Now add a tsp of sesame oil/ nalla ennai to the the kuzhambu and jaggery and turn off heat.

 Serve it with steamy hot rice, a touch of nalla ennai and side dish of your choice or just plain sutta appalam (flame roasted papadom). Susvaad.


  1. AAaahhhhhhhaaaaaaaaa, super vathakuzhambu. My ideal combo is vathakuzhambu,sutta appalam and super urulai kizhangu kaara curry.Click is too good.

  2. Oh My God... this looks soo awesome Ramya... I have been going through some of your posts and drooling all over my monitor... this especially... am making this as soon as I get my hands on chinna vengayam :)

  3. ooh, love the vattralkuzhambu...chinna vengayam is definitely delectable...i miss that authentic taste here, though!!

  4. Looked so yummy, I made it yesterday.. Came out great as expected. Nowadays whenever I make something extreme-South Indian, my husband immediately asks me.. 'Is it on Susvaad today??' I have to thank you for the inspiration.. and will let you know if my hubby feels like eating something. You can post that :D

  5. Ms.chitchat, Indhu, Meena,San -Thanks :)
    Lol! San

  6. Yummy Ramya Akka!! I will try it out :))
    I am following ur recipe for Jeera Rasam these days.!!

  7. hey this looks so superb..slurrp slurrp..