Dates Puli Inji| Perichampazham Thokku

Dates Puli Inji is a beautiful condiment you can serve to your family and guests this Onam. It is a spin on the regular Puli Inji, which is a quintessential part of an Onam sadya. This version is made using soft dates instead of the jaggery that is usually used, imparting a unique flavour and aroma to it. Try it out, and I’m sure you will fall in love with it too, the way my family did.

Perichampazham Thokku or Instant Dates Pickle

I developed this recipe for a contest on Goya Journal (a wonderful, wonderful online magazine for food lovers – check it out if you haven’t already!) some time ago. The recipe didn’t make the cut, but we all surely loved the Dates Inji Puli! I have made it quite a few times since, and it has always been slurped up to the last bit. 🙂

What goes into this Dates Puli Inji

Like I was saying earlier, this recipe is a spin on the traditional recipe for Puli Inji. It has ginger, green chillies, tamarind and curry leaves – the same as the heritage recipe. However, I have ground the green chillies and ginger into a paste here, instead of keeping them finely chopped. Also, dates have been used here instead of the jaggery that is typically traditionally used. We all know the health benefits of dates, and this is a delicious way of adding them to one’s diet – I’m not sure whether it is a healthy way of doing it, but it sure tastes awesome!

This Dates Puli Inji (it wouldn’t be wrong to call it Perichampazham Thokku in Tamil) is a gorgeously aromatic and flavourful thing. It goes so well with tiffin items like dosa, pongal and upma, and even makes for a lovely spread for rotis and parathas. You can make it part of your Onam sadya, or have it with plain ol’ curd rice too.

Perichampazham Thokku/Dates Puli Inji recipe

Here is how to go about making it.

Ingredients (makes about 1-1/2 cup):

1. 1 heaped cup of soft dates

2. A large piece of fresh ginger, 1/3 cup when peeled and chopped

3. About 5 green chillies or to taste

4. A large lemon-sized ball of tamarind

5. 3 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons of sesame oil

6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

7. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida

8. 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

9. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves

10. Salt to taste

11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

12. Jaggery powder to adjust taste (optional)

13. Red chilli powder to adjust taste (optional)


Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Below top right: Step 3, Bottom left and right: Steps 4 and 5

1. Soak the tamarind in boiling water for at least 15 minutes, for it to become soft.

2. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Chop the green chillies roughly too. Remove seeds from the dates and separate each one into two. Keep these ingredients ready.

3. Grind the ginger and green chillies together, slightly coarsely. There’s no need to add any water while grinding. Keep ready.

4. When the tamarind has cooled down enough, extract all the juice from it. Use water as needed to help with the extraction process. Do not make the extract too watery; keep it thick. I had about 1-1/4 cups of tamarind extract. Remove seeds, fibres and impurities, if any. Keep ready.

5. Grind the dates coarsely without adding any water. Keep ready.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 6, 7 and 8, Below top right: Step 9, Bottom right, centre and left: Steps 10

6. Now, we will start preparing the pickle. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Next, add in the asafoetida, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.

7. Add the ground ginger-green chilli to the pan. Reduce the flame down to medium. Cook for about 2 minutes on medium flame.

8. Add the ground dates to the pan. Cook on medium flame for 2 minutes, stirring intermittently.

9. Now, add the tamarind extract to the pan, along with salt to taste and the turmeric powder. Mix well.

10. Continue to cook on medium flame for about 10 minutes or till the mixture thickens. It will first start thickening then change colour to a darker brown and get glossy. Switch off gas when it reaches a jam-like consistency that isn’t too thick. The Perichampazham Thokku is ready. At this stage, drizzle 2 tablespoons of sesame oil over the thokku and mix well.

10. Let the thokku cool down completely, then transfer to a clean, air-tight, dry bottle. Refrigerate and use a clean, dry, spoon to remove.

Vegan, can be made gluten-free

The above recipe for Perichampazham Thokku is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

It is not vegan because of the use of asafoetida. Most commercially available Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour, to some extent, and are therefore best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can get your hands on 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you can definitely use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. Use a soft variety of dates, for best results. I have used Kimia dates here.

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

3. If you feel the heat or sweetness in the thokku is less, you may add in some red chilli powder and/or jaggery powder. I didn’t need to.

4. Use a heavy-bottomed pan only for preparing this Perichampazham Thokku.

5. The thokku needs to be cooked to a jam-like consistency. Remember not to make it too thick.

6. Remember to keep the tamarind extract on the thicker side and not too watery.

7. Some people dry roast some mustard and fenugreek, grind together and add this to the thokku at the end, just before the gas is switched off. We usually add them in as part of the tempering.

8. Use tender, fresh ginger for best results.

9. Sesame oil goes best in the making of pickles like this one.

10. This Perichampazham Thokku stays well for 10-15 days when refrigerated. However, it is best used sooner rather than later.

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


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