Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu| Lentil Balls In Tamarind Gravy

Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu is a traditional recipe from Tamilnadu. It refers to lentil balls cooked in a tamarind-based gravy. It is an absolutely delectable thing, especially blissful when mixed with some hot rice, drizzled with sesame oil (‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil).

This is an interesting dish, full of flavours and textures. Just the right amount of sour, mildly sweet and spicy, Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu is a real treat to the tastebuds. The coarseness of the lentil balls contrasts beautifully with the smooth texture of the tamarind gravy. You must try it out to truly understand what loveliness this dish is!

Different families make different variations of the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu. Today, I am about to share the way it is made in my house.

Delicious Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu

Looking for other heritage recipes from Tamilnadu? Check out this Vepampoo Pachadi, Elumicchaipazham (lemon) Rasam, Thavala Dosai, Vendhaya Dosai, Sigappu Keerai Kootu, Ezhu Thaan Kootu and Paal Payasam.

Ingredients used in Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu

The lentil balls here are made of chana dal. Unlike koftas or pakoras in gravy, though, these balls of lentils are steamed and not deep-fried.

The steamed balls are cooked further in a gravy made using tamarind. We use home-made sambar powder to spice it up, along with freshly ground coconut and a dash of jaggery.

Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu is quite similar to the Vattalkozhambu that we make, yet different in taste.

Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu recipe

Here’s how we make it.

Don’t be daunted by the long-winded recipe. It is fairly simple to follow. I have broken down the proceedure into sections, so it becomes easy to understand and replicate.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

1. 1/2 cup chana dal

2. 3 dry red chillies + 2 more for tempering

3. A small gooseberry-sized ball of tamarind

4. 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander (optional)

5. Salt to taste

6. 1 tablespoon sesame oil

7. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

8. 1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

9. 1 sprig curry leaves

10. 2 pinches of asafoetida

11. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

12. 1 tablespoon sambar powder or to taste

13. Red chilli powder as needed (optional)

14. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or as needed

15. 3 tablespoons fresh coconut pieces


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

We will begin by doing some basic prep work needed for the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu.

1. Wash the chana dal well under running water. Drain out all the water.

2. Soak the washed and drained chana dal and 3 dry red chillies in enough water to cover the lentils completely, for 2-3 hours.

3. In the meantime, soak the tamarind in some boiling hot water to soften it. Allow it to cool down enough to handle.

4. When the chana dal and dry red chillies have soaked, drain out all the residual water from them. Break up the dry red chillies roughly with your hands. Transfer the drained chana dal and broken dry red chillies to a mixer jar. Grind these together coarsely, without adding any water.

5. Transfer the coarsely ground mixture to a mixing bowl. Add in salt to taste and finely chopped coriander (if using). Mix everything well together.

Top left: Step 6, Top centre and right: Step 7, Below top right: Step 8, Bottom left: The lentil balls, after steaming, Bottom centre and right: Step 9

Next we will prepare the lentil balls and do some more prep work.

6. Keep water in a steamer and place it on high flame. Let the water come to a boil.

7. When the steamer is ready, make small balls out of the lentil mixture. Place the balls in the steamer. Steam on high flame for about 12 minutes. Switch off gas.

8. When the tamarind has cooled down enough, extract all the juice from it. You can add more water as needed to help with the extraction, but don’t make the extract too watery. I had about 1 cup of semi-thick tamarind extract.

9. Take the coconut in a small mixer jar, along with a little water. Grind together to a mostly smooth, slightly coarse paste.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 10, 11 and 12, Below top right: Step 13, Bottom right: Step 14, Bottom left and centre: Step 15

Now, we will start preparing the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu.

10. Heat the sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard, and allow it to sputter. Then add in the asafoetida, fenugreek, curry leaves and 2 dry red chillies for the tempering. Let these ingredients stay in for a few seconds, without burning.

11. At this stage, add the tamarind extract to the pan. Mix well.

12. Add a little salt and the turmeric powder. Mix and cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind has gone completely.

13. Add in about 1-1/2 cups of water, or as needed to adjust the consistency of the gravy. It should be slightly watery at this stage – the gravy will thicken up later as the lentil balls cook in it.

14. Add sambar powder and red chilli powder, if needed. Mix well.

15. Mix in the jaggery powder. Taste and adjust salt, red chilli powder, sambar powder, jaggery and/or water as needed. At this stage, the mixture should taste tangy (but not overly so), fragrant from the sambar powder, as spicy as you want it, and mildly sweet.

Top left and right: Steps 16 and 17, Below top right: Step 18, Bottom right: Step 19, Bottom left: Step 20

Now, we will cook the lentil balls in the gravy.

16. Continue to keep the flame at medium. Add the steamed lentil balls to the pan, gently.

17. Let the balls cook in the tamarind gravy for 7-8 minutes on medium flame. By this time, the gravy would have started to thicken and the lentil balls would have been cooked and floating on the surface.

18. At this stage, add the coconut paste to the pan, constantly stirring with one hand. The flame should still be at medium. Mix gently.

19. Cook the mixture for a minute or so more, on medium flame. Switch off gas. The Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu is ready. Keep it slightly runny at this stage – it will thicken up further with time.

20. Serve the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu when warm, along with rice and sesame oil.

Is this recipe vegan and gluten-free?

Many South Indian dishes are inherently vegan, like this one. There are no animal products used in this dish, thus making it suitable for those following a vegan (plant-based) diet.

If you want to make this Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu gluten-free, skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. The sambar powder I use contains asafoetida – you need to make sure you use one without. Most commercially available Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to some extent, and it is therefore better to avoid the same when one is following a gluten-free diet.

This is a no-onion no-garlic recipe too.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

I’m part of this wonderful group of food bloggers called the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, and am sharing this recipe in association with the same.

The members of the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge showcase recipes based on a pre-determined theme, each month. The theme this month is ‘Vegan Dishes’, chosen by Radha of Magical Ingredients. She prepared this divine Vegan Jackfruit Kofta Curry for the challenge.

The group members are divided into pairs for the challenge. Each pair decides upon two secret ingredients which they will use to make their dish of the month. A picture of the completed dish is posted in the group, and all the other members try to guess the two secret ingredients each pair has used.

My partner for the month was Rafeeda of The Big Sweet Tooth. Rafeeda suggested I use the ingredients ‘curry leaves’ and ‘coconut’, and I decided to make this vegan Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu. Rafeeda made this amazing-looking dessert, Mango Bango, using the two secret ingredients of ‘coconut milk’ and ‘sugar’ that I gave her.

Tips & Tricks

1. Some families use a mix of chana dal and toor dal to make the lentil balls. We use only chana dal.

2. The use of red chilli powder is completely optional. If the sambar powder you are using is spicy enough, you can omit the red chilli powder completely.

3. Adjust the quantity of water depending upon how thick you want the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu to be. It might initially look watery, but tends to thicken up with time.

4. I have used a steamer to cook the lentil balls. You could also do the same in an idli steamer.

5. Do not grind the chana dal into a fine paste. For best results, it needs to be coarsely ground. Do not add any water while grinding.

6. Adjust the quantity of tamarind as per personal taste preferences. A small lemon-sized ball of Double Horse tamarind (which is quite sour) works perfectly for us.

7. Don’t miss the jaggery. It doesn’t make the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu overly sweet, but rounds off the other flavours beautifully.

8. Do not overcook the lentil balls, or they tend to become hard. Steaming for about 12 minutes and then cooking in the tamarind gravy for 7-8 minutes is good.

9. Ensure that you keep the flame at medium while adding the coconut paste and stir constantly, so that it gets mixed evenly into the tamarind gravy.

10. You may drizzle some sesame oil over the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu, once it’s ready. This takes the flavour quotient up by several notches.

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


Quick-Fix Boondi Masala| Boondi Chaat

Boondi Masala is a simple appetiser, a tasty snack that you can fix in a matter of minutes. Also, it needs just a few ingredients. Perfect for your evening hunger pangs or even for a party!

Delicious Boondi Masala. You should definitely try this out!

What is Boondi Masala?

For the uninitiated, boondi refers to droplets of spiced gram flour batter dropped into hot oil and deep-fried till it is crispy. It isn’t the healthiest thing, but I know many who adore it, myself included. Actually, everyone in our house is a boondi fan – we love eating it as is, in raita, or sprinkled over bisi bele bath.

When I saw this recipe for restaurant-style Boondi Masala on my friend Preethi’s blog, I knew I had to make it. Just as I had known it would, it was an instant hit at home. All of us loved it so, so much!

Boondi Masala is a sort of bhel made using boondi. With finely chopped onions and tomato, a dash of lemon juice, garnished with fresh coriander, Boondi Masala is surely a delight to the tastebuds. Making boondi at home is a tedious process and one that requires considerable skill, but if you happen to have it on hand, this Boondi Masala is an easy-peasy snack to put together. Here, I have used store-bought boondi.

How to make Boondi Masala

I have used Preethi’s recipe as the base, and made the Boondi Masala with a few variations of my own. Here’s how I went about it.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

1. 1-1/2 cups of salted boondi

2. Black salt to taste

3. 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin (jeera) powder

4. 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

5. 1 small onion

6. A small piece of carrot

7. 1 small tomato

8. 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander

9. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste


Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Bottom right and left: Steps 3 and 4

1. Take the boondi in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add in black salt to taste, powdered sugar and roasted cumin powder.

3. Peel the onion and chop finely. Peel the carrot and grate medium-thick. Chop the tomato finely. Add the chopped onion and tomato and grated carrot to the mixing bowl, along with the finely chopped coriander.

4. Add the lemon juice to the mixing bowl.

5. Mix everything up well. Your Boondi Masala is ready. Serve immediately.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used store-bought boondi here. You can make your own at home instead.

2. The boondi I used had red chilli powder and roasted peanuts added to it. If you are using plain boondi, you could add red chilli powder or finely chopped green chillies. Dry-roasted and crisp peanuts can also be added. Roasted cashewnuts would also make a great addition.

3. To make roasted cumin powder, I dry roast a few tablespoons of cumin seeds on medium flame in a heavy-bottomed pan, till they become fragrant. I allow these to cool down completely, then coarsely grind them, and store the powder in a dry and air-tight bottle. I always have a batch of this roasted cumin powder at hand, which I use as needed.

4. You can add finely chopped capsicum and/or grated raw mango to the boondi too.

5. Adjust the quantity of black salt, sugar, roasted cumin powder and lemon juice as per personal taste preferences.

6. This Boondi Masala needs to be consumed immediately after making it. If it sits around for too long, the boondi will lose its crispiness.

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

Vella Payasam| Rice Kheer With Jaggery

Happy, happy new year, people! I hope you had a lovely holiday season. 🙂 We sure did, and I’m now finding it so tough to get back to my regular routine! Anyhow, I’m here to tell you about this lovely Vella Payasam we enjoyed for New Year’s Eve.

Payasam or kheer is somewhat of a staple in our house on every festive occasion. Figures, because it is such an easy dessert to put together and you can have so many varieties! Vella Payasam – or Rice Kheer with jaggery (‘vellam‘ is Tamil for ‘jaggery’) – is one of our favourite types. I’m going to show you exactly how we make it at home, in this post. Do make it this festive season and share your feedback!

Most kheer varieties we prepare use sugar. The jaggery used in this Vella Payasam gives it a unique colour and taste. I use powdered organic country (Nati) jaggery which has a dark brown colour. You can use any other type of jaggery you prefer in the same recipe – Nolen Gur (liquid date palm jaggery from Bengal) or Karupatti (blackish palm jaggery from Tamilnadu) make for wonderful substitutes.

Vella Payasam or Rice Kheer With Jaggery

Other kheer varieties on the blog

There are quite a few different versions of kheer on my blog. You might be interested in checking them out:

What goes into Vella Payasam?

This is a very easy payasam to make, requiring only a handful of ingredients. In fact, there are just 5 basic ingredients that are used in this recipe – full-fat milk, ghee, rice, jaggery and cardamom powder!

We prefer keeping this kheer very simple, and do not use raisins or nuts. You could, if you want to, but there’s really no need – the flavours of the jaggery and thickened milk together make this a very special dessert as it is.

It is quite common for milk to curdle when jaggery is added to it. However, there’s a technique to prevent that from happening while making Vella Payasam – read on to know!

How to make Vella Payasam

Here’s how to go about it.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

1. 1/2 tablespoon ghee

2. 2 tablespoons rice

3. 1 litre full-fat milk

4. 1/3 cup jaggery powder or to taste

5. 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (elaichi) powder


Top left: Step 1, Top right and below: Step 2, Bottom right: Step 3, Bottom left: Step 4

1. Wash the rice well under running water. Drain out all the water from it, then place it on a cotton kitchen towel and rub out all the moisture.

2. Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the rice. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute for about 2 minutes on medium flame or till the grains of rice puff up slightly.

3. At this stage, add in the milk to the pan. Mix well.

4. Still keeping the flame at medium, allow the milk to come to a rolling boil. Reduce flame to low-medium now.

Top left, top right and below: Step 5, Bottom right and left: Step 6

5. Allow the milk to cook on low-medium flame till the grains of rice turn soft and break between your fingers, as shown in the picture above. This might take 30-45 minutes. Keep stirring intermittently, scraping down the cream that forms on the sides of the pan back into the milk. By the end of 30-45 minutes, the milk would have thickened considerably. Switch off gas at this stage.

6. Allow the milk to cool down till it is slightly more than lukewarm in temperature. Now, add in the jaggery powder and cardamom powder. Mix well. Do not add the jaggery while the milk is still hot – this can cause curdling.

Your Vella Payasam is ready – serve it warm or at room temperature.

Related event: Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

I’m sharing this recipe in association with the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a group of food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every month. The participants are divided into pairs, and each pair secretly exchanges two ingredients, unknown to the rest of the group. These two ingredients are used by each pair to prepare a dish that fits into the theme of the month. Looking at a picture of the finished dish, the group members try to guess the two secret ingredients that each pair has used.

The theme for December 2022 was ‘festive foods’, which was suggested by Priya Vijayakrishnan of Sweet Spicy Tasty.

I was paired with Kalyani of Sizzling Tastebuds for the theme. I suggested she use ‘asafoetida’ and ‘ginger’ as her secret ingredients, and she did so beautifully in this Tri-Colour Quinoa Pongal. Kalyani gave me ‘milk’ and ‘rice’ to work with, and I chose to use them in this family favourite Vella Payasam recipe.

Tips & Tricks

1. Always use a heavy-bottomed pan to make this payasam.

2. We use Sona Masoori rice to make this Vella Payasam. Basmati, Kollam and Gobindobhog rice are some other substitutes which work well too.

3. Jaggery powder is nothing but powdered jaggery, commonly available in several departmental stores. This melts easily, and is perfect for making the Vella Payasam. I have used the Nati variety, which has a dark brown colour. If you are using regular jaggery blocks, make sure it is well chopped before adding it to the milk. Adjust the quantity of jaggery as per taste.

4. Full-fat milk is an absolute must, for a rich and creamy payasam.

5. It is very important to allow the milk to cool down before you add in the jaggery. If you do not allow time for this, the milk might split when the jaggery is mixed in.

6. The right consistency of the milk mixture when the flame is switched off is thick and creamy, but still runny. Remember that it thickens up further with time. If the mixture has become very thick at this stage, add in some more full-fat milk as needed and cook for 7-8 minutes.

7. Do not vigorously heat the Vella Payasam after the jaggery has been added in. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

8. Keep checking on the rice intermittently while the milk is cooking. The grains of rice should break between your fingers when done.

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