Cluster beans, ‘Kotthavarangai‘ in Tamil, are among my most favourite vegetables. I love the slight sweetness, the slight bitterness the beans possess, the wonderful flavour they impart to dishes. Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu or cluster beans cooked in tamarind gravy, Tamilnadu style, is a big hit with everyone at home. I’m here today with our family recipe for this beautiful, heritage dish.
What goes into my Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu
In simple words, ‘Vattalkozhambu‘ refers to a heritage Tamilnadu preparation, a sort of spicy-sour gravy which has tamarind at its heart. Vattalkozhambu can be made using a variety of vegetables, fresh or dried – onion, pumpkin, Manathakali or dried nightshade berries, brinjal, drumsticks, Sundakkai or dried Turkey berries and even papad! This one, like I was saying before, is made using Kotthavarangai or cluster beans. Traditionally, this gravy is made with sun-dried cluster beans, but in our family, we love using fresh ones – the dish is all the more flavourful for it, I think!
The gravy is thickened using a bit of rice flour, spiced with red chilli powder, flavoured with our home-made sambar powder, and slightly sweetened with jaggery. The overall effect is tantalising to the tastebuds, hugely delicious and pleasing. This Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu makes for a delightful companion to piping hot rice mixed with some cooked toor dal and a dollop of ghee.
My family recipe for Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu
Here is how we make the Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu or Cluster Beans In Tamarind Gravy.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
- A lemon-sized ball of tamarind
- A big handful of cluster beans
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- A sprig of fresh curry leaves
- A pinch of fenugreek seeds
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon rice flour
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Red chilli powder to taste
- 1 tablespoon sambar powder or to taste
- 1-1/2 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Allow it to cool down enough to handle.
2. Remove the strings from the cluster beans. Chop them into finger-length pieces. Keep aside.
3. When the tamarind has cooled down enough to handle, squeeze out all the juice from it. Add water little by little, to get all the juice out. I had about 1-1/2 cups of semi-thick tamarind extract.
4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Next, add in the asafoetida, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds. Allow these ingredients to stay in for a couple of seconds.
5. Add the chopped cluster beans to the pan, along with some salt and about 1/4 cup water.
6. Cover and cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes, or till the cluster beans have changed colour and are done. Check one or two of the beans, and they should be cooked through.
7. While the beans are cooking, take the rice flour in a small cup. Add in about 2 tablespoons of water and mix well to make a lump-free slurry. Keep aside.
8. Add the tamarind extract to the pan. Mix well. Cook uncovered on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind has completely gone.
9. Add in salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and sambar powder. Also, add 1-1/2 to 2 cups water, depending upon how thick you want the gravy to be. Mix well.
10. Add in the rice flour slurry little by little, mixing constantly to make sure no lumps are formed.
11. Now, let the mixture cook on medium flame, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes or till it thickens up. We stop cooking when the mixture has thickened up a bit and is neither too watery nor too thick. It should attain a silky-smooth consistency too. At this stage, your Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu is ready.
Is this Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu vegan and gluten-free?
This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suitable to those following a plant-based diet.
To make it gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely use it.
Tips & Tricks
1. Use more or less quantity of cluster beans, as per personal taste preferences.
2. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu you require.
3. Adjust the quantity of salt, sambar powder, red chilli powder and jaggery as per personal taste preferences.
4. I have used home-made sambar powder here, which is only moderately spicy. I have therefore added in some red chilli powder too. If the sambar powder you are using is quite spicy, reduce the amount of red chilli powder you use or skip it entirely.
5. Make sure the rice flour slurry is without any lumps.
6. Use a heavy-bottomed pan to cook this Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu. Cook on medium flame.
7. Sesame oil, ‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil, works best in the making of this dish. However, if you do not have it, you may use any other type of oil you prefer. Use more or less oil, as per your preferences.
8. Like I was saying earlier, this preparation traditionally uses sun-dried cluster beans, which can be made at home easily. These are also quite commonly available in several Tamilnadu stores. We prefer using fresh cluster beans when in season, for they lend a lovely flavour to the dish.
9. Wheat flour can be used to make the slurry, in place of rice flour. However, don’t use wheat flour in case you are attempting a gluten-free version.
10. Choose cluster beans that are fresh and tender, for best results. They should be firm and not overly tender or droopy.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!