Appalam Vattalkozhambu|Papad In Tamarind Gravy

Today, I’m sharing with you all the recipe for Appalam Vattalkozhambu, a heritage Tamilnadu dish.

Tamilnadu’s heritage ‘budget recipes’

A while ago, I was talking about the heritage ‘budget recipes’ of Tamil Nadu, like Appalam Vattalkozhambu, Milagu Kozhambu, Manathankali Vattalkozhambu, Vepampoo Rasam, More Koozhu, and Paruppu Thogayal. I call them ‘budget recipes’ because these were the sort of things our ancestors prepared when fresh fruits and vegetables, groceries, milk, etc. were scarce, mostly due to budget constraints. Lentils, sun-dried berries and vegetables, tamarind, weeds, papads and dry spices would star in these dishes. And, no, these foods did  not taste bland and boring – far from it; they are super delicious!

Weren’t our ancestors wise to have a repository of such recipes?

About the Appalam Vattalkozhambu

Reminiscent of the Rajasthani Papad Ki Sabzi, Appalam Vattalkozhambu is made using plain urad dal papads (called ‘appalam‘ in Tamil) and a few other ingredients commonly found in a South Indian pantry.

It is a traditional Tamilnadu preparation, wherein the papads are broken into pieces, then fried and cooked in a spiced tamarind gravy. It is hearty and full of flavour, to say the least, bliss when had with hot steamed rice with a bit of sesame oil or ghee.

As delicious as it is, the Appalam Vattalkozhambu is easy-peasy to prepare!

Appalam Vattalkozhambu recipe

Here is how we prepare Appalam Vattalkozhambu, in our family.

Ingredients (serves 4):

1. A lemon-sized ball of tamarind
2. 1 tablespoon oil
3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4. 2 pinches of asafoetida
5. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
6. A pinch of fenugreek (methi) seeds
7. 4-5 small urad dal appalam (plain papad)
8. Salt to taste
9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
10. 1-1/2 tablespoons sambar powder or to taste
11. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
12. 1-1/2 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
13. 1 tablespoon rice flour or wheat flour + 2 tablespoons water to make a slurry
14. 1-1/2 to 2 cups water


Left top and bottom: Steps 1 and 2, Right top: Popular brand appalam; Right centre and bottom: Steps 3 and 4

1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for 15-20 minutes, for it to soften. Allow it to cool down fully.
2. When the tamarind has completely cooled down, extract all the juice from it. Use a little more water for the extraction, if needed. You will get about 1/2 cup of semi-thick tamarind extract. Keep aside.
3. Take 4-5 appalams, and tear them roughly into large pieces, using your hands. Keep aside.
4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Add in the asafoetida, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Turn the flame down to medium and allow the ingredients to stay in for a couple of seconds. Now, add the appalam pieces into the pan. Mix gently with a ladle, so the appalam pieces get evenly fried and puff up in the hot oil.

Left top and bottom: Steps 5 and 6; Right top and centre: Step 7; Right bottom: Step 8

5. Add the tamarind extract to the pan. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.
6. Add 1-1/2 to 2 cups water to adjust the consistency as required. Still keeping the flame on medium, add salt to taste, sambar powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and jaggery powder. Mix well.
7. Take the rice flour or wheat flour in a small cup. Add in 2 tablespoons of water and mix well to make a lump-free slurry.
8. Still keeping the flame on medium, add this slurry to the pan little by little, stirring constantly. Mix well. Continue to cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes until the mixture thickens to a silky-smooth consistency that is neither too runny nor too thick. It will acquire a glossy sheen too. Switch off gas at this stage. Your Appalam Vattalkozhambu is ready. Serve it hot, warm or at room temperature with hot steamed rice and a bit of ghee or sesame oil.

Tips & Tricks

1. Sesame oil (nalla ennai) works best in the making of this dish. However, you can use any other type of oil you prefer, too.
2. Adjust the quantity of tamarind you use, as per personal taste preferences. Make sure all seeds and impurities from the tamarind are removed, before using it in making the Appalam Vattalkozhambu.
3. For best results, use Tamilnadu-style appalam (I prefer those from Ambika and Popular brands). Pappadam has more soda than the standard appalam, so we avoid using it.
4. You can use either rice flour or wheat flour to thicken the mixture. Make sure you make a slurry that is without any lumps. It is important to add the slurry to the pan little by little, stirring constantly, keeping the flame on medium.
5. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the thickness of the Appalam Vattalkozhambu you prefer. We keep it moderately thick.
If you like it runny, you can avoid adding the slurry altogether. Remember that the urad dal appalam will make the mixture a little thick, too.
6. Adjust the quantity of jaggery you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.
7. I use home-made sambar powder to make this Appalam Vattalkozhambu. You can use a store-bought version instead, too.
8. Since my sambar powder is only moderately spicy, I add in a dash of red chilli powder to the pan. You can skip the red chilli powder completely, if your sambar powder is spicy enough.
9. Make sure all the appalam pieces are evenly fried, before adding the tamarind extract to the pan.
10. Use a heavy-bottomed pan, to avoid burning.
11. Any leftover Appalam Vattalkozhambu can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!