Thuvarai Kai Sundal| Pigeon Peas Sundal

It’s the season for pigeon peas, aka hare tuvar or tuvar dana in Hindi, pachai thuvarai or thuvarai kai in Tamil. How about some Thuvarai Kai Sundal this Navratri?

About fresh pigeon peas

Fresh pigeon peas, aka hare tuvar, tuver dana, thuvarai kai or pachai thuvarai

Fresh green pigeon peas make an appearance towards the start of winter. Here in Bangalore, they are available for a 2-3 weeks at this time of the year.

For the uninitiated, fresh pigeon peas are what become toor dal or arhar dal upon maturing and drying. These fresh, green peas are quite nutritious. When very tender, the entire pod can be consumed, though in our family, we eat only the shelled peas.

I have seen whole pods of pigeon peas being cooked in salted water in Gujarat; these pods are then opened up and the cooked peas inside are eaten hot. The Gujaratis also love using the shelled peas in gravy-based curries and kachoris. Down South, I don’t see that much of a craze for pigeon peas. I managed to get hold of some good ones recently, and decided to use them in a very South Indian sundal.

Thuvarai Kai Sundal

Of Navratri and sundal

Navratri and Sundal are synonymous with each other, in South India. Many Tamilian households have the tradition of setting up a display of dolls – called Golu – for the festival, which can range from simple to very elaborate. Friends and family are invited to view the golu, and various offerings (prasadam) are prepared and shared with them. Usually, different varieties of rice – lemon rice, coconut rice, tamarind rice and curd rice – are preferred, as are different types of sundal.

Sundal‘ refers to a stir-fry made using legumes like black or white chickpeas, whole green moong beans or kidney beans. Sometimes, sundal is also made using ingredients like chana dal, peanuts, moong dal and sweet corn. A simple tempering of mustard, asafoetida, curry leaves and green chillies is added to these ingredients, along with a generous amount of coconut – these are the hallmarks of sundal. In today’s recipe, pigeon peas are the main ingredient, and I stir-fried them the same way sundal is traditionally prepared.

How to make Thuvarai Kai Sundal

Thuvarai Kai Sundal is easy to prepare, but tastes absolutely delicious. Here is how I made it.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  1. 1 heaped cup of shelled pigeon peas (aka tuver dana, thuvarai kai or pachai thuvarai)
  2. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  3. 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  4. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  5. 2 green chillies
  6. 1 sprig curry leaves
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon jaggery powder
  10. About 3 tablespoons grated fresh coconut
  11. A dash of lemon juice
  12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander


1. Wash the pigeon peas thoroughly. Drain out the water from them.

2. Take the drained pigeon peas in a wide vessel. Add in about 2 tablespoons water.

3. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally. In the meantime, slit the green chillies length-wise and keep them ready. Keep the chopped coriander, curry leaves and lemon ready.

Top: Step 1, Bottom left and right: Steps 2 and 3

4. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked pigeon peas out. Now, we will start making the sundal. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add in the mustard seeds. Allow them to sputter. Add in the curry leaves, asafoetida and slit green chillies. Let these ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds.

5. Add the cooked pigeon peas to the pan, along with the water they were cooked in. Cook on medium flame till the water almost evaporates, 2-3 minutes.

6. Now, add the salt and turmeric powder to the pan. Mix well. Cook on medium flame till the water has completely dried up, about a minute.

7. Add in the jaggery powder. Mix well. Saute for about a minute.

Top left and right: Steps 4 and 5, Bottom left and right: Steps 6 and 7

8. Still keeping the flame at medium, add in the grated coconut to the pan. Mix well. Cook for a few seconds, then switch off gas.

9. Mix in the finely chopped coriander.

10. Add in the lemon juice. Mix well. Your Thuvarai Kai Sundal is ready. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

Top left and right: Steps 8 and 9, Bottom left: The Sundal, almost ready, Bottom right: Step 10

Tips & Tricks

1. Make sure the pigeon peas or thuvarai kai are fully cooked, before using them in making the sundal.

2. Adjust the quantity of salt, jaggery, green chillies and coconut as per personal taste preferences.

3. Typically, we don’t use lemon in sundal. However, a dash of lemon tastes nice in this Thuvarai Kai Sundal.

4. You can drain out the water from the cooked pigeon peas, if you so prefer. However, I prefer cooking them with very little water and then drying out the water, as in the recipe above.

5. This Thuvarai Kai Sundal can be eaten on its own. It also makes for a lovely accompaniment to sambar rice, rasam rice and the likes.

6. This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet. It can be made gluten-free by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. This is because most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, please do go ahead and use it.

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

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