‘Rasavangi‘ is a heritage dish from the state of Tamilnadu, a flavourful gravy that is usually consumed with rice. Today, I’m sharing with you all our family recipe for Parangikkai Rasavangi, or Rasavangi made using red pumpkin.
History of the Rasavangi
The Rasavangi is believed to have originated in Tanjore, Tamilnadu. The Marathas, who ruled the town of Tanjore for some time, were known for experimenting with locally available ingredients and coming up with several unique dishes of their own. It is said that the Rasavangi is one such dish invented by the Tanjore Marathas. Today, this is quite a common preparation in several Tamil Brahmin homes.
‘Rasa‘ is Marathi for ‘gravy’ and ‘vangi‘ is ‘brinjal’. Hence, the Rasavangi is a gravy that was traditionally made using brinjals or eggplants (‘kathrikkai‘ in Tamil). However, Rasavangi made using ashgourd or white pumpkin (‘poosanikkai‘ in Tamil) is also quite popular. My grandmother would prepare beautiful Rasavangi using red pumpkin (‘parangikkai‘ in Tamil), and two generations down the line, we continue to do so. The recipe I am sharing today for Parangikkai Rasavangi is my grandmother’s, the way we have learnt it from her.
A closer look at the Parangikkai Rasavangi
Rasavangi is made with a fragrant, freshly ground spice mix – lentils, dry red chillies and coriander seeds roasted till fragrant and then ground with coconut. Along with whatever vegetable you choose to use, there’s toor dal that goes into it, providing body to the gravy. There’s a hint of sweetness from jaggery, tamarind extract souring it. Can you imagine the rich flavours this gravy holds? It’s definitely a treat to the tastebuds, and not very difficult to put together too.
The light sweetness of the red pumpkin is a perfect complement to the coconut, jaggery and tamarind that goes into the gravy, making it a wonderful candidate for Rasavangi. Sometimes, whenever I have been able to get my hands on it, I have used butternut squash in Rasavangi instead of the regular Indian red pumpkin, and it has been a brilliant substitute. Here, though, I have used baby pumpkins that I picked up at Namdhari’s.
Rasavangi turns out so flavourful that is much loved even by people who aren’t fans of eggplant or pumpkin. It’s just a great foil to disguise these veggies, I say! It is a close cousin of the Arachuvitta Sambar, Pavakkai Pitlai and Kootu that are a few other oft-prepared things in Tamilian households. It usually has a thick consistency, thicker than sambar, and is a lovely companion to steamed rice. I know many who love eating Rasavangi with dosa, adai and rotis too.
How to make Parangikkai Rasavangi
Here’s how we make it.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 2 baby red pumpkins, 3 cups when peeled, cleaned and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 tablespoon oil
- A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
- 1-1/2 tablespoons chana dal
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 4-5 dry red chillies
- 1/2 cup fresh coconut
- 1/2 cup toor dal
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3/4 to 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- 2 sprigs of curry leaves
1. Soak the tamarind in boiling water for at least 15 minutes, for it to soften. Let it get cool enough to handle.
2. Peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds and strings. Chop into large cubes.
3. Wash the toor dal well under running water. Drain out all the water. Take the washed and drained toor dal in a wide vessel and add in enough fresh water to cover it fully. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Cook on high flame for 7-8 whistles or till the toor dal is completely cooked, soft and mushy. Let the pressure release naturally.
4. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chana dal, dry red chillies and coriander seeds. Turn the flame down to medium. Roast the ingredients till the lentils turn brown and start emitting a lovely aroma. Take care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate and allow them to cool down completely.
5. When the tamarind has completely cooled down, extract all the juice out of it. Use fresh water as needed to help with the process of extraction. I had about 3/4 cup of tamarind extract.
6. When the roasted ingredients have fully cooled down, transfer them to a small mixer jar. Add in the coconut. Grind everything together to a paste, along with about 1/4 cup water.
7. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash the toor dal thoroughly, with a masher.
8. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in the same pan we used earlier for roasting. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Add in the asafoetida and curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
9. Add the pumpkin cubes to the pan, along with a little salt and the turmeric powder. Mix well and reduce flame to medium.
10. Add in about 1/2 cup of water. Close the pan with a lid.
11. Cook covered on medium flame for about 4 minutes or till the pumpkin is cooked through. Do not make it overly mushy. Open the lid intermittently to check on the pumpkin, and add in more water if needed.
12. At this stage, add in the tamarind extract. Continue to cook, uncovered, on medium flame for 2 more minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.
13. Add in the jaggery, cooked toor dal and the ground coconut paste. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt.
14. Cook uncovered on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the mixture starts thickening. Add in some water if the mixture gets too thick. Switch off gas when the mixture is still a bit runny, as it thickens upon cooling. Your Parangikkai Rasavangi is ready. Serve with steamed rice.
Tips & Tricks
- I have used baby red pumpkins here, which I picked up from Namdhari’s. Butternut squash goes beautifully in this dish too. You may use the regular, commonly available Indian red pumpkin instead, too.
- In case you are using butternut squash, refer to this post to understand how to peel, clean and chop it.
- Adjust the amount of jaggery you use as per personal taste preferences. If the pumpkin is very sweet, you may skip adding the jaggery or use very little.
- Adjust the quantity of tamarind, dry red chillies and salt as per personal taste preferences.
- Adjust the amount of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Rasavangi you require.
- Brinjal (eggplant, ‘kathrikkai‘ in Tamil) or white pumpkin (ash gourd, ‘poosanikkai‘ in Tamil) can be used in place of red pumpkin used in this recipe.
- You may pressure cook the pumpkin for one whistle instead of cooking them in a pan like I have done here. Make sure they don’t turn overly mushy.
- Some families add black peppercorns and fenugreek seeds to the spices that are roasted and ground. We don’t.
- I have used a mix of the very spicy Salem Gundu and the less hot Bydagi dry red chillies here. You may use any variety you prefer.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!
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