Chettinad Thakkali Soup| South Indian Tomato Soup

Chettinad Thakkali Soup is a tomato soup made in the South Indian style, a light but flavourful concoction that is just the right thing for cold, rainy weather. This soup recipe hails from Chettinad in South Indian and, like many recipes from the region go, is flavoured using spices like coriander seeds, pepper and fennel. This South Indian Tomato Soup is mostly had with rice in Chettinad, as I recently learnt, but it is beautiful to sip on on its own too.

While I was researching Chettinad cuisine for the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge recently, I remembered this tomato soup recipe that Chef Damodaran had once shared on one of his TV shows. I recreated it at home, and it was so well loved by everyone that I went on to make it a few more times since then. The incessant rains and chilly weather in Bangalore provided just the right setting for it. 🙂 Let me share with you all how to make this delicious Chettinad Thakkali Soup.

Chettinad Thakkali Soup or South Indian Tomato Soup

Head to this post of mine for a detailed write-up about Chettinad cuisine and the recipe for Vengaya Kose, a lovely onion and potato gravy for dosas and idlis. This Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu is another recipe from Chettinad, for chickpeas cooked in a tamarind gravy, to be had with rice.

What goes into Chettinad Thakkali Soup

This Chettinad Thakkali Soup might look similar to Tomato Rasam, but it tastes quite different. For starters, there is no tamarind used here, and the spices used are quite different from those typically used in rasam. Like I was saying earlier, this soup is flavoured in the South Indian style, with spices like black pepper, fennel, coriander seeds, cumin and cinnamon. It has a unique flavour profile of its own, and is vastly different from the regular tomato soup we usually get in restaurants.

Tomatoes are the main ingredient in this soup, of course. Onion, green chillies and garlic are added in to make it all the more tasteful. Sometimes, it is even tempered with curry leaves, though I do not prefer doing so.

This Chettinad Thakkali Soup is thickened using cooked toor dal – there is no corn flour or other thickening agent involved, which makes this a very wholesome drink. A dollop of ghee also goes into it, adding a very unique, lovely fragrance to the soup.

How to make Chettinad Thakkali Soup

Here is how to go about it.

Ingredients (serves 4):

1. 2 tablespoons toor dal

2. 4 medium-sized tomatoes

3. 1 green chilli

4. 1 small onion

5. 2 teaspoons ghee

6. 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

7. Salt as needed

8. 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander

To roast and grind:

1. 2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3. 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

4. A 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon

5. 5-6 cloves of garlic

Method:

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

1. Wash the toor dal well and drain out the water.

2. Take the washed and drained toor dal in a vessel. Add enough fresh water to cover the lentils completely. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 7-8 whistles or till the toor dal is soft and mushy. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Next, we will prepare the spice mix that goes into the soup. First, peel the garlic cloves and keep them ready. Then, dry roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and cinnamon in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium flame, for about a minute. Add in the garlic cloves at this stage. Continue to dry roast the ingredients for 2 minutes or so, or till they become aromatic. Ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate and allow them to cool down completely.

4. In the meantime, peel the onion and chop roughly. Chop up the green chilli into pieces. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep ready.

5. When the roasted ingredients have entirely cooled down, transfer them to a small mixer jar. Grind to a coarse powder, without adding any water. Keep aside.

Top left: Step 6, Top right: Step 7, Below top right and bottom right: Step 8, Bottom left: Step 9

6. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash well. Keep aside.

7. Now, take the oil in the same heavy-bottomed pan we used earlier. Add in the chopped onions. Saute on medium flame till they are cooked.

8. Add the chopped tomatoes and green chilli to the pan, along with a little salt. Saute on medium flame till the raw smell of the tomatoes is gone and they have turned soft and mushy. Switch off gas and allow this mixture to cool down fully.

9. When completely cool, transfer the tomato mixture to a mixer jar. Grind everything together to a smooth paste.

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

10. Now, we will start preparing the soup. Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the fennel seeds, and allow them to stay in for a few seconds without burning.

11. Add the ground tomato mixture to the pan, as well as the cooked and mashed toor dal. Add about 1-1/2 cups of water or as needed to adjust the consistency of the soup. Mix well.

12. Taste and adjust salt to taste. Cook the mixture on medium flame for about 2 minutes.

13. Add the coarsely ground spice powder we prepared earlier. Mix well.

14. Cook on medium flame till the soup comes to a boil, then reduce the flame a bit more. Allow to simmer for about 2 minutes, then switch off the gas.

15. Garnish with finely chopped coriander. Your South Indian Tomato Soup is ready. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve hot.

Is this Chettinad Thakkali Soup vegan and gluten-free?

This soup recipe is completely vegetarian and gluten-free.

It is not vegan because of the use of ghee, which is a milk-based product. If you want to make this soup vegan (plant-based), skip the ghee and use oil for the tempering instead. Personally, I prefer ghee in this soup, though – that is what is traditionally used, and it does add a lovely aroma to it.

Tips & Tricks

1. This is supposed to be a watery but flavourful soup. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the soup you require.

2. Adjust the quantity of black pepper and green chillies as per personal taste preferences. If you want a milder-tasting soup, skip the green chilli altogether – using black pepper is a must, though.

3. Take care to ensure that the spices do not burn while roasting. This might alter the taste of the soup.

4. You can temper the soup at the end, just before serving – with ghee and fennel seeds – instead of at the beginning, as I have done here. The fennel and ghee will be more fragrant this way.

5. Make sure you use only a small piece of cinnamon. Using too much can overpower the soup.

6. A sprig of curry leaves can be used, along with the fennel seeds, to temper the soup. I have avoided this, since we don’t like whole curry leaves in our soup.

7. This soup does not use any tamarind – there’s only the sourness of the tomatoes. Use country aka ‘Nati’tomatoes, as opposed to the ‘farmed’ ones for a nice tangy flavour.

8. A splash of coconut milk can be added to the soup, when it is almost done. This adds a unique flavour and some sweetness to the soup. I usually do not do so.

9. If you feel the need, a dash of lemon juice can be added to the soup. So can a bit of jaggery. It’s all up to your personal taste preferences, though the traditional Chettinad version of the soup does not use these two ingredients.

10. Small onions, popularly called ‘sambar onions’ in South India, are traditionally used in the soup. However, if you do not have them, regular red onions can be used too.

11. Do not use more than the specified amount of toor dal, as that might make the soup too thick.

12. Moong dal can also be used in place of the toor dal I have used here. You may also use a tablespoon each of moong dal and toor dal.

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

Vengaya Kose| Chettinad Onion & Potato Gravy

Vengaya Kose is a popular accompaniment for ‘tiffin’ items like idlis, dosas, pooris and khara pongal in Chettiar households. It refers to a delicious gravy made using onions and potatoes, tempered with whole spices like fennel and cinnamon in the typical Chettinad style. In today’s post, I am going to share with you all how to prepare the delightful Vengaya Kose, also referred to sometimes as Vengaya Kosu.

Vengaya Kose, served with dosas

The wonders of Chettinad cuisine

Chettinad refers to a cluster of over 70 villages and two towns in the Sivaganga district of Tamilnadu, with a small part extending into Pudukottai. Karaikudi and Devakottai are the major towns of this cluster, which is majorly inhabited by the Chettiar community, most of whom happen to be bankers and businesspeople. Trading took the Chettiars to foreign shores like Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma, the influence of which can be seen in the magnificent architecture and cuisine of this region.

The food of Chettinad is one of the best known among South Indian cuisine. This region boasts of several hearty and flavourful dishes, with the generous use of spices like fennel, cinnamon, pepper, stone flower, cumin, chillies and cardamom. The use of sun-dried vegetables and freshly ground spice mixes is common to Chettinad cuisine. The cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian, but there are many beautiful vegetarian dishes on offer too.

Vellai Appam, Paal Paniyaram, Seeyam, Urulai Roast, Kola Urundai, Mandi, Kandarappam, Palkatti Chettinadu, Therakkal, Karupatti Paniyaram and Kavuni Arisi Sweet are some examples of vegetarian dishes from Chettinad cuisine. Vengaya Kose is yet another vegetarian Chettinad dish, albeit a lesser known one that is not commonly found on restaurant menus.

It is impossible to talk about Chettinad cuisine and not mention Mrs. Meenakshi Meyyappan. A Chettinad matriarch, Mrs. Meyyappan or ‘Aachi‘ as she is fondly referred to, is the proprietor of The Bangala, a well-known boutique hotel in Karaikudi. She is extremely passionate about preserving her roots and chronicling her heritage, which is how she happened to pen the cookbook The Bangala Table. I have had the pleasure of speaking to Mrs. Meyyappan regarding a trip to Chettinad that we were planning a few years earlier – the visit did not materialise, unfortunately, but the lady’s immense knowledge and direct speech has stayed with me. Some day, I do want to get my hands on the cookbook – I’m sure it is a beauty.

A closer look at Vengaya Kose

On a holiday in Madurai a few years ago, I was able to get a glimpse of the robust flavours of Chettinad cuisine. There is a considerable influence of Chettinad cuisine on the foods of bordering Madurai, which spills over into the latter’s street food, local messes and hotels. We tried out the famous Chettinad Vellai Appam, Tomato Bath and Kara Kozhambu in Madurai. Over the years, I have dabbled in cooking from Chettinad cuisine at home, but Vengaya Kose is something I tried out recently. It turned out fragrant and very delicious, an instant hit with everyone at home.

Like I was saying earlier, Venkaya Kose refers to a gravy served with idlis, dosas and the likes. Onions and thin slivers of potato are cooked along with a freshly ground fragrant spice paste. It is tempered with whole spices, which makes it all the more aromatic. The reddish gravy tastes absolutely delicious, and makes for a nice change from the usual chutney, sambar and gotsu we usually serve with our tiffin dishes. It is a very easy dish to put together too!

I followed this authentic recipe for Vengaya Kose from the blog Chettinad Fiesta. Meena, the author of the blog, is a passionate chef who believes in showcasing the vast range of Chettinad cuisine to the world. She has written about several traditional Chettinad recipes on her blog, including some that are not very well known. I chose to make the Vengaya Kose recipe as jotted down by her, with a couple of minor changes.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

I am sharing this post as part of the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, a foodie group that I am part of.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is run by a group of enthusiastic food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every month. The theme for July 2022 was ‘Recipes from Chettinad’, for which I zeroed in on this Vengaya Kose recipe.

The group members are divided into pairs, for the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge. Each pair exchanges two ingredients secretly, unknown to the rest of the group. The pairs then use these secret ingredients to create a recipe that fits into the theme for the month. The other group members have to look at a picture of the prepared dish, and try to guess what the two secret ingredients were. 🙂

Kalyani, the versatile blogger at Sizzling Tastebuds, was the one who suggested the theme last month. Her Chettinad Vellai Kurma looks so good, I could eat it straight off the screen! Do check out her recipe.

I was paired with Seema, another talented blogger at Mildly Indian, for the challenge. I gave Seema ‘rice’ and ‘coconut’ as the secret ingredients, and she made the classic Kavuni Arisi Sweet or Chettinad Black Rice Pudding. She suggested I make something using ‘potato’ and ‘coconut’, and they fit right into this Vengaya Kose recipe.

How to make Vengaya Kose?

Here’s how to go about it.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

To grind:

1. 4-5 dry red chillies

2. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)

3. 3/4 tablespoon fried gram (daliya)

4. 3/4 tablespoon poppy seeds (khus khus)

5. 4-5 cashewnuts

6. 1/4 cup fresh coconut

Other ingredients:

1. 1 medium-sized onion

2. 2 medium-sized tomatoes

3. 2 medium-sized potatoes

4. 1/2 tablespoon oil

5. 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)

6. A small piece of cinnamon

7. 2 sprigs of curry leaves

8. 2 pinches of asafoetida

9. Salt to taste

10. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

11. 2 teaspoons of tamarind extract or to taste (optional)

12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

Top left and right: Step 1, Below top right and bottom right: Step 2, Bottom left: Step 3

1. Take all the ingredients listed under ‘To grind’ in a mixer jar. Grind to a smooth paste along with about 1/4 cup of water. Keep aside.

2. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Grind them to a smooth paste without adding any water. Keep aside.

3. Chop the onion finely. Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices, dropping them in water to prevent them from getting discoloured. Keep ready.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 4, 5 and 6, Below top right: Step 7, Bottom right, centre and left: Steps 8, 9 and 10

4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida. Let them stay in for a few seconds.

5. Now, add in the finely chopped onions. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the onions are done.

6. Drain out all the water from the sliced potatoes and add them to the pan. Add about 1/2 cup water, along with the turmeric powder and a little salt. Mix well.

7. Cover and cook on medium flame for 6-7 minutes or till the potatoes are about 90% cooked.

8. At this stage, add in the tomato puree and the spice paste we ground earlier.

9. Adjust salt to taste. Add 1/2 cup more water or as needed to adjust consistency. Mix well.

10. Cook on medium flame for 7-10 minutes or till the raw smell of the ingredients has completely gone. Switch off gas when the mixture is still on the runnier side – it thickens up quite a bit with time.

11. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Your Vengaya Kose is ready. Serve warm with pooris, rotis, idli, dosa, khara pongal or upma.

Is this recipe vegan and gluten-free?

This Vengaya Kose recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

It is not gluten-free because of the use of asafoetida. Most Indian brands of asafoetida commercially available these days do contain wheat flour, to a lesser or greater extent, and are best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. If you wish to make this dish gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you can definitely go ahead and use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used a mix of the hot Salem Gundu dry and the not-so-spicy Bydagi dry red chillies. You can use any variety you prefer. Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies depending upon your personal taste preferences. The colour of the gravy will depend upon the variety of dry red chillies used.

2. Adjust the quantity of water you use depending upon the consistency of Vengaya Kose that you require.

3. Use country (aka ‘Nati’) tomatoes, as opposed to the regular ‘farmed’ ones, for the beautiful sour flavour they add to the dish.

4. Adding the tamarind extract is purely optional – skip it if you feel the sourness from the tomatoes is enough. Tamarind is not used in Vengaya Kose traditionally, but I do prefer using it.

5. Remember that the Vengaya Kose thickens up upon cooling. It is, therefore, best to keep it on the runnier side.

6. Other whole spices like bay leaves, cloves and star anise can also be added to the tempering. Some families keep the tempering ingredients to a minimum, and that is what I have done too.

7. The potatoes are typically chopped into thin slices, for this recipe, so that they cook well and evenly. The slices should not be very thin, otherwise they tend to disintegrate in the gravy and become very mushy.

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

Vendakkai Poriyal| Bhindi Ki Sabzi

Here’s presenting Vendakkai Poriyal or Bhindi Ki Sabzi, a rather simple stir-fry made with okra. When made right, it tastes finger-lickingly delicious. Just the perfect accompaniment to rice with rasam or sambar!

Okra, often referred to as lady’s finger in India, ‘vendakkai‘ in Tamil and ‘bhindi‘ in Hindi, is a vegetable that one either loves to bits or hates heartily. I belong to the former category – I adore okra. We use it in several different ways at home, such as this Vendakkai More Kozhambu. This Vendakkai Poriyal is a family favourite . It comes together so very easily, and is such a great choice for a weekday lunch.

Simple Bhindi Ki Sabzi, with minimal ingredients used

One of the biggest challenges in cooking with okra is to manage all the gooey slime that comes with it. It does put some people off, which I totally get. However, it is definitely possible to make Bhindi Ki Sabzi that is not slimy at all – you just need to take care of some aspects while cooking. As easy as that! Read on…

How to make delicious Bhindi Ki Sabzi that is not slimy

No, you don’t need to use a lot of oil to do that! There are a few simple things that you need to keep in mind, speaking from personal trials and tribulations and general knowledge from the elders in the family.

1. Use very fresh okra that are firm. The tail should break off with a clean and easy snap – that indicates that the vegetable is fresh and not overly mature. Squishy or over-aged bhindi will not give you the right results.

2. Cook the bhindi soon after you buy it, within a day or two at the maximum. Letting the okra lie in the refrigerator for days will cause it to mature, which in turn will affect the taste of your dish. Fresh bhindi cooks faster than mature ones, and is also less slimy.

3. Wash the bhindi at least a few hours prior to making the sabzi. If you are making it for lunch, if possible, wash it the night prior and lay it out on a cotton cloth under the fan. In the morning, you can lay it out in the sunlight. The idea is to remove all traces of moisture from the okra, which helps in cutting down on the slime.

4. Use a heavy-bottomed, wide pan to cook the okra. You should be able to spread out the okra slices evenly in the pan, without overcrowding. There should be enough space for the slices to move around while cooking. I use a large hindalium kadhai to cook my Bhindi Ki Sabzi. Using a non-stick pan is not necessary, but you may do so if you want.

5. Slice the bhindi thin. Thin slices cook faster, and lose their slime faster.

6. Drizzle the oil evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan, while preparing Bhindi Ki Sabzi. This will help the okra slices cook evenly when they are spread out in the pan.

7. Cook the Bhindi Ki Sabzi on low-medium flame only. The okra cooks evenly and well that way and needs minimal oil too.

8. Salt draws out the moisture from okra and makes it slimy. So it is important that you do not add any salt to the okra slices in the initial stages of cooking. Add salt only after the okra is almost done and its slime has completely gone.

9. Do not stir the okra constantly while cooking. Just spread the slices out on the hot oil-greased pan, letting them come in contact with the heat and cooking gradually. Stirring makes the okra more slimy, hence avoid doing it very frequently. Okra should be cooked uncovered, without a lid.

How to make Vendakkai Poriyal or Bhindi Ki Sabzi

Here is how to go about it.

Method (serves 2-3):

1. About 350 grams of okra

2. About 1-1/2 tablespoons oil

3. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

4. 2 pinches of asafoetida

5. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

6. Red chilli powder to taste

7. Salt to taste

8. 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)

Method:

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

1. Wash the okra well a few hours before beginning to make the poriyal. Spread them out on a cotton cloth in the sunlight or under the fan, removing all traces of moisture from them. Then, remove the tops from the okra and slice them thinly and evenly.

2. Drizzle the oil all over a wide pan. Add in the mustard seeds and let them sputter. Add the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of seconds.

3. Add the sliced okra to the pan. Saute for about half a minute.

4. Add in the turmeric powder and mix well. Spread the okra slices all around the pan. Turn the flame down to medium. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes. Do not stir too much, do it only once or so.

Top left: Step 5, Top right and bottom left: Step 6, Bottom right: Step 7

5. Add in the red chilli powder and mix well. Spread out the okra slices again. Allow to cook on medium flame till the okra is almost done and the sliminess is gone. Again, do not stir very often.

6. When the okra is 80-90% done, add salt to taste and sugar. Mix well.

7. Continue to cook on low-medium flame till the okra is completely done, 3-4 minutes, stirring intermittently. I cook it till it becomes slightly burnt and crispy. Switch off gas at this stage. Your Vendakkai Poriyal is done – serve alongside rice and rasam or sambar.

Is this Vendakkai Poriyal vegan and gluten-free?

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan recipe, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

It is not gluten-free because of the use of asafoetida. Most commercially available Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, do go ahead and use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. You may add urad dal and/or curry leaves to the tempering. We don’t prefer them, so I don’t.

2. Adding sugar is optional. I add some because I think it adds a beautiful flavour to the sabzi. You may skip the sugar if you so prefer.

3. Jaggery powder can be used in place of the sugar.

4. This is a simple poriyal made using minimal spices. You can add spices of your choice – coriander (dhania) powder, roasted cumin (jeera) powder, garam masala and/or amchoor powder.

5. Some people add lemon juice or amchoor powder while cooking okra, to cut down the slime. I do not do so because I feel it alters the flavour of the Vendakkai Poriyal completely. It is not strictly necessary to use a souring agent if the above measures to reduce slime are followed.

6. We prefer our Bhindi Ki Sabzi to be a bit burnt, with a darker colour to it. If you do not prefer this, stop cooking the sabzi sooner.

7. Like I was saying earlier, you don’t need a ton of oil to make a nice-tasting Vendakkai Poriyal. I have used only about 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil here. You can drizzle a wee bit more if you feel the sabzi is sticking to the pan.

8. Okra shrinks down considerably while cooking. About 350 grams of okra will give you a small amount of poriyal only. Do keep this in mind whenever you cook with the vegetable.

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

Kacchi Keri Ni Kadhi| Raw Mango Kadhi

We are at the fag end of mango season, here in Bangalore, and I have been happily gobbling up the fruit. I have been cooking with both ripe and unripe mangoes but, as I recently realised, not shared many of these dishes here on the blog. Well, I’m here to remedy that, with this recipe for Raw Mango Kadhi that I tried out recently and loved to bits.

About Raw Mango Kadhi

This Raw Mango Kadhi is a variation of the sweet Gujarati Kadhi. It is one super delicious and satisfying thing, this kadhi, which goes perfectly with hot rotis as well as rice. With the sourness of raw mangoes and curd, the heat of green chillies and ginger, and the hint of sweetness from jaggery, it is a blissful blend of flavours indeed! When made right, the texture turns out wonderfully silky-smooth and enticing. You should make this before raw mangoes disappear from the markets completely, I say!

The inspiration for this Raw Mango Kadhi comes from Mrs. Uma Sasidharen, a lovely lady I discovered on Instagram. She had posted about making this kadhi recently and, when I told her I had never had it before, she was kind enough to share the recipe in detail. I soon tried it out with some variations of my own, and it was so much loved by the family that I requested for Mrs. Uma’s permission to share it on the blog too, so that more people could make this beauty. Of course, she obliged. A big huge ‘thank you’ for this, Mrs. Uma!

Other kadhi varieties on the blog

We love kadhi in our family, and I make several variations. I have shared most of these recipes on the blog – you might want to take a look!

Here are the kadhi varieties on my blog, so far.

Ingredients used in Raw Mango Kadhi

Raw mango is the star ingredient in this kadhi. It is best to use one that is not extremely sour, like a green Totapuri mango. Some of the raw mango is chopped into cubes and added to the kadhi, while the remaining is ground to a coarse paste along with a few other ingredients.

The next crucial element is curd. While I prefer using slightly sour curd in most of the kadhi varieties I make, this one calls for fresh curd that is not sour. To balance the sourness of the unripe mango, it is important that the curd you use is not sour at all.

Green chillies and ginger are used to add a beautiful flavour punch to this kadhi, along with some jaggery. Gram flour aka besan is used as a thickening agent.

This Raw Mango Kadhi is given a simple tempering of mustard, asafoetida, dry red chillies and fenugreek seeds in some oil or ghee.

How to make Raw Mango Kadhi

Here is how to go about making Raw Mango Kadhi or Kacchi Keri Ni Kadhi, as it would be called in Gujarati.

Ingredients (serves 4 -6):

1. 1 small-sized raw mango

2. A 1-inch piece of ginger

3. 2 green chillies

4. About 2-1/2 cups thick curd

5. Salt to taste

6. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

7. A sprig of curry leaves

8. 2-3 tablespoons of jaggery powder or as needed

9. 2 heaped tablespoons of gram flour (besan)

10. 3/4 tablespoon oil

11. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

12. 2 dry red chillies

13. 2 pinches of asafoetida

14. A pinch of fenugreek (methi) seeds

15. 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander

Method:

Top left: Step 1, Top centre and right: Step 2, Below top right, bottom right, bottom centre and left: Step 3

1. Peel the raw mango. Cut half of it into cubes. Keep aside.

2. Cut the other half of the raw mango into cubes too and transfer to a mixer jar. Peel the ginger. Chop up the ginger and green chillies roughly and transfer to the mixer jar too. Grind everything coarsely without adding any water. Keep ready.

3. Take the curd in a large mixing bowl. Add 3/4 to 1 cup of water or as needed. Add to this the curry leaves, salt to taste, jaggery powder, turmeric powder and gram flour. Whisk everything together to form a lump-free mixture. Keep it ready.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 4, 5 and 6, Below top right: Step 7, Bottom right and centre: Steps 8 and 9, Bottom left: The Raw Mango Kadhi is ready to be served

4. Take the cubed raw mango in a heavy-bottomed pan, along with a little salt. Add in about 1/2 cup water. Place on high flame. When the pan gets heated up, reduce flame to medium. Stirring intermittently, cook till the mango cubes are done. They should get cooked but not overly mushy, which should take 3-4 minutes.

5. At this stage, add in the raw mango mixture we had ground earlier. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes.

6. Add in the curd mixture, while stirring constantly.

7. Cook on medium flame till the mixture comes to a boil, then reduce to low-medium. Allow the mixture to simmer for 3-4 minutes.

8. In the meantime, prepare tempering for the kadhi. Heat oil in a tempering pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Then, add in the dry red chillies, asafoetida and fenugreek seeds. Allow them to stay in for a few seconds, without burning. Add this tempering to the kadhi simmering in the other pan. Switch off gas when it has simmered for 3-4 minutes.

9. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Your Raw Mango Kadhi is done – serve it warm with rice or rotis.

Tips & Tricks

1. Use a raw mango that’s not extremely sour. Totapuri mangoes work beautifully. You could even use a semi-ripe one. The raw mango should be firm and not squishy.

2. Use fresh curd that’s not very sour, for best results. Sour curd will make the kadhi overly sour. I have used a 500 ml pack of Akshayakalpa curd. Adjust the quantity of curd you use depending upon the size of the raw mango used.

3. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and jaggery you use depending upon personal taste preferences.

4. Adjust the quantity of water depending upon how thick you want the kadhi to be. If the curd you are using is not too thick, add less water. The gram flour will also make it thick. The ideal kadhi, at least for me, should be silky-smooth in texture and runny, neither too watery nor too thick. You can keep the kadhi consistency the way you prefer it in your family.

5. You can also make this Kacchi Keri Ni Kadhi using half of a medium-sized raw mango. You can make it with just raw mango cubes, and skip grinding the other half. In that case, you would need to add ginger-green chilli paste to the curd.

6. Cook the Kacchi Keri Ni Kadhi on medium flame only. Do not let it cook for too long after it comes to a boil.

7. This Kacchi Keri Ni Kadhi thickens up with time, so account for the water accordingly.

8. Pakode (fritters) made with gram flour and onion or fenugreek greens (methi) are a great addition to this kadhi. A little kasoori methi, rubbed between your palms, makes for a lovely addition to this Raw Mango Kadhi too.

9. This Raw Mango Kadhi is best made fresh, and used up soon after making. It tends to become quite sour if prepared in advance.

10. Ghee can be used in the tempering instead of the oil I have used here. A few cloves of garlic can be added to the tempering too.

11. This Raw Mango Kadhi is not vegan (plant -based) because of the use of dairy curd. You could try to make it with plant-based curd, but I have never tried that out. Do not use ghee in the tempering if you want to make the kadhi vegan.

12. To make this Raw Mango Kadhi gluten-free, skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour, due to which it is best to avoid them when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you should definitely go ahead and use it.

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

Methi Zunka| Jhunka

Zunka is a popular tea-time snack in Maharashtra, as well as in the bordering region of North Karnataka. It refers to savoury squares made using gram flour (besan), which are lightly sweet and sour and absolutely flavourful! Today, let me take you through the recipe for Methi Zunka, where fenugreek greens are added to these squares, making them all the more delicious.

Methi Zunka, healthy and delish!

What constitutes Zunka?

Zunka, also often referred to as Jhunka, is a rather simple thing to make. Gram flour is mixed up into a sort of slurry, with water and a few other ingredients, which is then cooked till thick. This mixture is then poured into a greased plate and cut into squares. It is typically served garnished with fresh grated coconut and finely chopped coriander leaves, sometimes sesame seeds too.

Sugar is used to add a hint of sweetness to Zunka, while tamarind is used for sourness. A freshly made paste of ginger and green chillies adds the spice punch.

It is believed that Zunka originated from the need to create a snack out of a very lean pantry that had limited or no vegetables in stock. That is why the typical Zunka is made plain, with no vegetables. However, sometimes, as a variation, vegetables or greens like onions, coriander, spinach, fenugreek leaves and cabbage are added to it. Like I was saying earlier, I have made mine with fenugreek greens aka methi.  I have also added in some garlic here, as it goes really well in Zunka.

A closer look at Zunka

Tamilian households prepare an accompaniment for idlis and dosas using gram flour, called Bombay Chutney. This chutney is believed to have its roots in Pitla, a runny dip from Maharashtra which is made using gram flour too, but with slightly different ingredients. When Pitla is cooked further, giving it a consistency similar to Rava Upma, it becomes Zunka.

Some people steam the Zunka, similar to the Khaman from the state of Gujarat. Some deep-fry the pieces after it cools down and hardens. We prefer Zunka cooked to ‘cake’ consistency, as in this recipe, neither steamed nor deep-fried.

This version of Zunka can be eaten as a snack, on its own, or with a cup of tea on the side. It is also part of full-fledged thali meals in Maharashtra and North Karnataka, where it is paired with rotis made from jowar or other millets. I still remember the distinctly beautiful taste of the Zunka that was part of the North Karnataka-style Jolada Rotti Oota we ordered in from Kamat Yatri Nivas, during the lockdown last year.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

This recipe for Methi Zunka is brought to you in association with the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, a group that I am part of.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is run by a bunch of passionate food bloggers, who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme every month. The group members are divided into pairs, with each pair exchanging two ingredients secretly, unknown to the rest. Each pair then uses these two ingredients to prepare a dish that fits into the theme of the month. The other group members then try to guess the two secret ingredients that have been used in each dish – it’s a very challenging and fun exercise!

The theme for the month of July 2022 was ‘Maharashtrian recipes’, as suggested by Poonam of Annapurna. Maharashtra is Poonam’s home state, and she has several traditional recipes from the cuisine on her blog. I have been drooling over her gorgeous Misal Pav for long – I should try it out soon. 🙂

I was paired with Preethi, the versatile blogger behind Preethi’s Cuisine, for the challenge. Preethi suggested I make a dish using ‘tamarind’ and ‘methi greens’ as my ingredients, and I decided to use them to make this Methi Zunka. I suggested ‘green chillies’ and ‘peanuts’ as her secret ingredients, and she used them in this delectable Hirvi Mirchi Cha Thecha.

How to make Methi Zunka

Most of the Maharashtrian recipes on this blog are inspired by my Paati, my paternal grandmother. She spent a large part of her life in a Maharashtrian colony, and it was here that she learnt how to prepare several dishes from the cuisine.

My Paati’s Tendli Masale Bhat, Aambe Dal, and Shevgyachi Shengachi Amti are huge favourites in our family. For this Methi Zunka recipe too, I turned to my memories of Paati dishing up some wonderful Maharashtrian treats for us, things that she had learnt from her friends and neighbours, me sitting beside her and watching her cook. Paati would usually prepare the Zunka without any vegetables, while I commonly add in some or the other greens to fortify it.

Here is how to go about making Methi Zunka.

Ingredients (serves 4):

1. 1 cup gram flour (besan)

2. Salt to taste

3. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

4. A small piece of tamarind

5. 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons of sugar

6. 1 loosely packed cup fenugreek (methi) greens

7. 4-5 cloves of garlic

8. A 1-inch piece of ginger

9. 2 green chillies or as per taste

10. 3/4 tablespoon oil + some more for greasing plate

11. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

12. 2 pinches of asafoetida

13. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

14. 1 tablespoon grated fresh coconut

Method:

Top left and centre: Steps 1 and 2, Top right and below: Step 3, Bottom right: Step 4, Bottom centre and left: Steps 5 and 6

1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Let it get cool enough to handle.

2. In the meantime, wash the methi leaves thoroughly under running water, to remove all traces of dirt from them. Place in a colander and let all the water drain out.

3. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Remove the tops from the green chillies and chop roughly. Grind the chopped ginger and green chillies together to a paste, using a little water, in a small mixer jar.

4. When the tamarind has cooled down enough, extract all the juice from it. Keep aside.

5. Peel the garlic cloves. Chop them finely. Keep aside.

6. After all the water has drained out of the methi greens, chop them up finely. Keep ready.

Top left and centre: Step 7, Top right: Step 9, Bottom left: Step 10, Bottom centre and right: Step 11

7. Take the gram flour in a large mixing bowl. Add salt, sugar and turmeric powder. Add in the tamarind extract and 1 cup of water. Mix well to form a runny lump-free batter. Keep this ready.

8. Grease a medium-sized plate with a little oil and keep it ready.

9. Now, we will begin preparing the Methi Zunka. Heat 3/4 tablespoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter. Next add in the asafoetida and the finely chopped garlic. Saute for about a minute for the garlic to cook.

10. Now, add the green chilli-ginger paste to the pan. Reduce flame to medium. Saute for a minute.

11. Add the chopped methi leaves to the pan. Add a little salt and water. Saute for about 2 minutes or till the greens are cooked.

Top left: Step 12, Top centre and right: Step 13, Below top right: Step 14, Bottom right and centre: Steps 15 and 16, Bottom left: Step 17

12. At this stage, add the gram flour mixture to the pan, stirring with one hand. Continue to keep the flame at medium.

13. Stir constantly for 4-5 minutes or till the mixture thickens up. It should not be overly thick, but not very runny either. Turn the gas down to low. 

14. Close the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Let the mixture cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes or till it no longer tastes raw. Switch off gas at this stage.

15. Immediately transfer the cooked batter to the greased plate. Smooth out the top using the back of a small bowl (katori).

16. Sprinkle grated fresh coconut and finely chopped coriander evenly over it. Let it sit undisturbed till it cools down fully.

17. Once it has completely cooled down, cut into square pieces using a knife. Your Methi Zunka is ready to serve. Serve it as a snack on its own or as part of a full-fledged Maharashtrian meal.

Is this a vegan and gluten-free recipe?

This recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

However, it is not gluten-free due to the use of asafoetida. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. If you want to make this Methi Zunka gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the above recipe.

Tips & Tricks

1. For best results, use fresh gram flour that is free of any odour.

2. Use methi greens that are very fresh, for best results.

3. Adjust the quantity of green chillies, tamarind, salt and sugar as per personal taste preferences.

4. Jaggery powder can be used in place of the sugar.

5. Make sure all impurities and seeds are removed from the tamarind extract, before it is used in the dish.

6. You can dry roast the gram flour for 2-3 minutes, before using it in this recipe. This helps it cook faster, but it is not really required to do so.

7. Do not overcook the gram flour mixture. When it has thickened up and is past the ‘runny’ stage, switch off gas and pour into the greased plate.

8. You may skip the garlic if you do not prefer using it.

9. Allow the Zunka to cool down completely before cutting it into pieces. It will harden up somewhat on cooling, making the process of cutting easier.

10. Spinach (palak) or fresh coriander can be used in place of the methi greens used here. You can even make Zunka Vadi without the addition of any greens.

11. Do not use more than the specified amount of methi greens, as that might make the Methi Zunka bitter.

12. Use a greased plate of the right size for the perfect Methi Zunka. If you use a very small plate, the vadi will be too thick. If you use a very large plate, the vadi will turn out too thin.

13. A non-stick pan works best for making this Methi Zunka. If you don’t have a non-stick pan, a regular pan will work, but some of the batter will stick to the bottom – you need to be prepared for that.

14. The batter will get thick really fast, once it is poured into the hot pan. So you will need to work quickly with it.

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