Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu| Chettinad Style Chickpeas In Tamarind Gravy

Chickpeas, aka chana or garbanzo beans, are one of my most favourite types of legumes. I love that they are so versatile, blending seamlessly into salads, North Indian sabzis like Chana Masala, chaats, tikkis, soups, South Indian gravies and Middle Eastern hummus and falafel alike. I especially love the big white ones that are commonly called Kabuli Chana (‘Kondakadalai‘ in Tamil). Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for a beautiful dish from Chettinad that is made using these white chickpeas – Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu.

Understanding the Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu better

Like I was saying earlier, this dish hails from Chettinad in Tamilnadu, a place famous for its fiery foods that typically use a number of spices. While Chettinad is best known for its indigenous non-vegetarian preparations, it also has several traditional vegetarian delicacies to offer, which are a delight to the tastebuds. This Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu is one such delicacy, tangy and spicy and a bit sweet all at once. It makes for a brilliant accompaniment to piping hot rice, especially when drizzled with some sesame oil aka nalla ennai. It also goes well with rotis, upma, dosas and the like.

This dish is made using big white chickpeas, which are cooked first, then allowed to simmer in a tamarind broth which, in true Chettinad style, has been flavoured using a blend of spices. Don’t be intimated by the long laundry list of ingredients this entails – all of them are fairly common in an Indian kitchen, and the recipe is in actuality quite simple. The end result, I can assure you, is totally worth the effort you might have to put in to get together all the ingredients.

#ChanaTime at Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe for Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu is brought to you in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group that I am part of. Foodie Monday Blog Hop is a group of food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme each Monday. The theme this week is #ChanaTime, wherein the members are showcasing dishes made using different types of the very nutritious chickpeas.

It was Mayuri ji, the talented author of Mayuri’s Jikoni, who suggested the theme this week. She already has a few very interesting chickpea recipes on her blog, such as this Mombasa Mix and this Kala Chana Pulav. In case you happen to be looking for more recipes that use chickpeas, do check out the Jaisalmeri Kala Chana and Gujarati Raswala Kala Chana Nu Shaak on my blog.

How I learnt to make Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu

There’s an interesting story behind how I came to learn this gem of a recipe. I first tasted Chettinad-style Kara Kozhambu at Krishna Kafe – a Bangalore eatery that I am very, very fond of – and fell head over heels in love with it. This was years ago, after which I tried replicating the dish at home several times but with no success. Then, in 2017, we visited Madurai, which is a hop, skip and jump away from Chettinad. We booked into a homestay in Madurai, where I had the pleasure of sampling some of Chettinad’s vegetarian cuisine. On one such day, we were served this Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu, which was EXACTLY like the Krishna Kafe Kara Kozhambu I so loved! Courtesy of the homestay staff, I managed to get the recipe, which I have made many times over at home now. It remains a hit in our family.

Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu recipe

Without further ado, here’s presenting to you the recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

To grind:

  1. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (sombu)
  2. 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (gasagasa)
  3. 2 tablespoons fresh grated coconut

Other ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup white chickpeas (kabuli chana aka kondakadalai)
  2. 1 tablespoon sesame oil (nalla ennai)
  3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (kadugu)
  4. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeeragam)
  5. 2 pinches of asafoetida (perungayam)
  6. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  7. A pinch of fenugreek seeds (vendhayam)
  8. 7-8 cloves of garlic
  9. 1 big onion
  10. A lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  11. 1 medium-sized tomato
  12. Salt to taste
  13. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  14. 2 cups water
  15. 3/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
  16. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  17. 1 teaspoon roasted coriander (dhania) powder
  18. 2 teaspoons sambar powder
  19. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

Left top and bottom: Steps 1 and 2, Right top and bottom: Steps 3 and 4

1. Soak the chickpeas in enough water for 8-10 hours or overnight. When the chickpeas are done soaking, drain out all the water from them.

2. Transfer the soaked and drained chickpeas to a wide vessel. Add in enough fresh water to cover them fully. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 5 whistles or till the chickpeas are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.
3. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water, for at least 15 minutes.

4. When the tamarind has cooled down enough to handle, extract all the juice from it. Add in fresh water, little by little, to help with the extraction. I got about 1 cup of thin tamarind extract.

Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left: The coconut paste, ground and ready, Bottom right: Step 7

5. In the meantime, chop the onion, coriander and tomato finely. Peel the garlic cloves. Keep these ready, along with the curry leaves.

6. Take the coconut, fennel seeds and poppy seeds in a small mixer jar. Grind together to a smooth paste, using a little water.

7. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked chickpeas out.

Top left and right: Steps 8 and 9, Above leftmost bottom: Step 10, Leftmost bottom and bottom right: Step 11

8. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard, and allow to sputter. Now, add in the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. Let these ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds.

9. Add in the garlic cloves. Saute for half a minute.

10. Add the onion to the pan. Saute on medium flame till the onion gets brown.

11. Add in the chopped tomato, along with the turmeric, a little salt and some water. Cook on medium flame for a minute.

Top left and above leftmost bottom: Steps 12 and 13, Leftmost bottom: Step 14, Bottom right: Step 15, Top right: Step 16

12. Add the tamarind extract to the pan, along with salt to taste and the cooked chickpeas. Also add in the water the chickpeas were cooked in. Mix well.

13. Cook everything together for 3-4 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.

14. Now, add in about 2 more cups of water or as needed to adjust the consistency. Add in the jaggery powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder and sambar powder. Mix well.

15. Add in the coconut paste we ground earlier. Mix well.

16. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 more minutes, for the mixture to thicken and for the raw smell of the spice powders to go away. Switch off gas at this stage.

Top: The Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu is almost ready, Bottom: Step 17

17. Mix in finely chopped coriander. The Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu is ready. Serve hot with steamed rice, drizzled with sesame oil.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used home-made sambar powder here. You can use a store-bought version, instead, too.

2. This Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu is made using white chickpeas, which are commonly called kabuli chana. Black-eyed peas (aka cowpeas, lobia or karamani) or black chickpeas (aka karuppu kondakadalai or kotthukadalai) can be used instead too.

3. Sesame oil aka nalla ennai works best in the making of this dish. However, if you don’t have it, you may use any other variety of oil you prefer.

4. Adjust the quantity of salt, jaggery powder, sambar powder, red chilli powder and coriander powder as per personal taste preferences.

5. Instead of poppy seeds, a few cashewnuts can be used to thicken the Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu. A slurry made using rice flour and a little water can be used instead, too.

6. Upto 1/2 cup of coconut can be used in this dish. I prefer using just about 2 tablespoons of coconut only.

7. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu you require. I prefer keeping it just slightly thick, quite runny in consistency.

8. The garlic cloves are, traditionally, kept whole in this recipe, and I have done the same. However, if you so prefer, you may chop them up roughly or crush them using a mortar and pestle.

9. You may drizzle some sesame oil over the Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu, once it is cooked and ready. This adds a whole lot of flavour to it. We usually skip this, instead drizzling the oil over the rice in our plates, while eating.

10. Some cinnamon and cloves can be added to the tempering too. I prefer leaving out these ingredients.

11. Here is how I make the roasted coriander powder – I dry roast some coriander seeds (dhania) in a pan till fragrant, then allow them to cool down and grind to a powder. I usually make a small batch of this, store in an air-tight bottle, and use as needed. If you don’t have roasted coriander powder ready, you can add about a 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds to the coconut, while grinding.

12. This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet. If you want to make it gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour, to a lesser or greater extent, and are best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely use it.

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

Bun Halwa| Easy Bread Halwa Without Milk

I was introduced to Bun Halwa on our visit to the temple town of Madurai, a couple of years ago. While breakfasting at the iconic Gopu Iyengar’s one day, Bun Halwa was on the list of specials. We had never tried it before, were intrigued enough to order it, and fell in love with it when it arrived. When they saw how much I was enjoying the piping-hot halwa, the serving staff was kind enough to teach me how to go about making it. After that, this has been a go-to dessert at our place, any time we have buns (or bread!) left over.

I present to you today the way I prepare Bun Halwa at home, largely the way I learnt at Madurai, with a few little flourishes of my own. Let me tell you that this is one super simple dessert to make, one you can blindly trust when you have unannounced guests over and need to make a sweet treat in a jiffy. It’s a delicious, delicious way to use up those last few bakery buns or bread that have been lying around the house, threatening to go stale! 🙂

Let’s now check out the recipe for Bun Halwa aka Easy Bread Halwa.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  1. 2 medium-sized buns
  2. About 4 tablespoons ghee
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1 cup water
  5. 1 tablespoon raisins
  6. 6-7 cashewnuts
  7. 6-7 almonds
  8. 2 generous pinches of cardamom powder
  9. 4-5 glace cherries for decoration (optional)

Method:

1. Cut up the buns into small squares. Keep ready.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a pan, and add the bun pieces to it. Fry the bun pieces on medium flame till they get brown and slightly crisp. Do not burn them. Transfer the fried pieces of bun to a plate and keep aside.

3. In the same pan, take the water and sugar together and place on high heat. Let the sugar get completely dissolved in the water.

4. When the sugar syrup starts bubbling, reduce the flame to medium. Add in the fried bun pieces. Mix well, mashing the bun pieces with your ladle. Add in a tablespoon more of ghee.

5. Continue to cook on medium flame, stirring constantly, till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan begins to come together like a halwa. Add 1 more tablespoon of ghee to the pan at this stage, and mix well. Switch off gas.

6. Mix the cardamom powder to the Bun Halwa.

7. Now, chop the almonds and cashewnuts roughly. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon ghee in a small pan. Turn the flame down to medium, and add in the raisins and the chopped cashewnuts and almonds. Mix well and let them stay in till the raisins plump up and the nuts begin to brown. Don’t let the dry fruits and nuts burn.

8. Mix the fried raisins, cashewnuts and almonds into the Bun Halwa. Serve hot, decorated with chopped glace cherries (if using).

Notes:

1. I have used two Nilgiri’s tea buns here, which were moderately sweet. If you are using sweeter milk buns instead, you could decrease the quantity of sugar you use.

2. Bread can be used in place of buns. About 6 slices of bread could be used in the above recipe, in the place of the 2 buns.

3. Adjust the quantity of ghee and sugar you use, as per personal taste preferences.

4. A bit of rose essence can be added to this Easy Bread Halwa, too. Here, I haven’t.

5. This Bun Halwa tastes best when had hot or warm.

6. Some versions of Bun Halwa also use milk. I haven’t used any here.

7. Don’t skimp on the ghee, otherwise the halwa will stick to the bottom of the pan and turn out lumpy and tasteless.

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This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. Every Monday, the members of this group share recipes as per a certain theme.

The theme this week is #MithaiMeinTwist, suggested by Sasmita of First Timer Cook. For the theme, we are showcasing Indian dessert recipes with a twist. This Bun Halwa aka Easy Bread Halwa was my choice for the same.

I’m linking this recipe to Fiesta Friday #286, co-hosted this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Around Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai: A Photo Story

Most everything in the town of Madurai revolves around the famous Meenakshi Amman temple. Most tourists are in the town to visit the world-famous Meenakshi Amman temple. There is an entire ecosystem built around the temple – there are shops selling everything from eatables and fruits and vegetables and vessels and flowers to clothes and wigs and cosmetics and jewellery here, for this very reason. Directions to tourists here are often given in terms of the temple – a place is almost always located straight ahead from, right or left from, or just around the Meenakshi Amman temple. The temple is the heart of the town, it’s heartbeat, rather. Walk around the roads and bylanes of Madurai, like we did on our holiday, and you will, more often than not, end up at the Meenakshi Amman temple.

The temple surroundings buzz with activity, frenetic with the comings and goings of locals and tourists alike. The place wears the look of a fair ground, especially so on the days of Indian festivals. Today, I present to you some sights we captured from around the famed Meenakshi Amman temple, on our camera.

A shop selling a variety of snacks, at the very entrance to the Meenakshi Amman temple
A short walk away from the temple is a little market, where you can spot the freshest of vegetables, among other things. We found these beautiful, beautiful little bittergourds there.
Panneer drakshe, Indian Gulabi or rose-flavoured grapes, for sale outside the Meenakshi Amman temple. Simply gorgeous, these are!
A row of tailors operating in the Pudhu Mantapam, adjacent to the Meenakshi Amman temple. These tailors stitch garments that adorn deities in temples as well as dance costumes, I believe.
There are several Muslim-owned shops around the temple that sell a variety of pooja paraphernalia. Some of these stores offer excellent freshly ground sandal.
Mounds of karupatti or palm jaggery for sale on the streets outside the Meenakshi Amman temple
A busy thoroughfare in Madurai with the Meenakshi Amman temple’s gopuram rising up majestically
Colourful, colourful bangles on offer at the shops in Pudhu Mantapam, near the temple. You get an excellent selection of colours, shapes, types and materials of bangles here!
Cast iron and iron utensils on sale at a shop inside Pudhu Mantapam. I treasure the mini idli maker and the dosa pan that I picked up here!
A tree near the temple, considered sacred and being worshipped
The famed Madurai mallige aka jasmine, being sold outside the temple by weight
Colourful old-fashioned trunks being sold in the marketplace near the Meenakshi Amman temple
This kind of shops are everywhere around the temple – they sell a variety of knick-knacks, most of them priced at just INR 10!

I hope you enjoyed this virtual journey with me! Do let me know, in your comments!

PS: The Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple was in the news earlier this month because of a fire that caught hold of some of the shops around it. A short circuit in one of the shops is believed to have caused the fire, which gutted over 50 shops. Read details here.

Travel Shot: Madurai Malli| The Jasmine Flowers Of Madurai

The minute we entered our hotel in Madurai, we were assailed by the heady scent of jasmine. This was no ordinary scent, mind you, but a haunting, beautiful perfume that I haven’t come across with jasmine flowers anywhere. I looked around and, soon enough, found the source of the scent – a strand of jasmine flowers laid before the idol of Ganesha in the reception area. The famous Madurai malli! That moment, more than anything else, drove home the fact that we had, well and truly, arrived in Madurai.

For the uninitiated, the temple town of Madurai is well known for the special variety of jasmine flowers that it produces – popularly called Madurai malli or Madurai mallige. These flowers, grown abundantly in Madurai and surrounding areas, have thicker petals and longer stems, making it easier for flower vendors to string them. Also, these flowers retain their fragrance and freshness for up to two days, making them a huge hit with tourists and locals alike.

Apparently, it is the topography and climate of Madurai that lends the malli its special qualities and fragrance.

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Madurai malli for sale outside the Meenakshi Amman temple

So feted are these flowers, in fact, that they have received their own Geographical Indication (GI) tag! They have found mention in ancient Tamil scriptures as well.

In Madurai, you will come across these flowers for sale everywhere – on pavements, outside big showrooms, in marketplaces and, of course, outside the famous Meenakshi Amman temple. They are commonly sold by quantity here, though – a string of 100 flowers will cost you a certain amount (I forget exactly how much) – as opposed to sale by length (mozham) that I have seen in case of jasmine everywhere else.

How could we resist buying the mallige while in Madurai? I wore strings of them in my hair every day, and basked in the glorious fragrance of them.

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I hope you have been reading and enjoying my posts about our recent trip to Madurai. If you haven’t, here are the links for you!

On a jigarthanda trail in Madurai

Our street food (and drink) journey in Madurai

Madurai Diaries: Of hogging at Nagapattinam Halwa Shop

Thoughts after visiting MS Subbulakshmi’s house in Madurai

Gopu Iyengar’s, Madurai: Serving delicious for 80+ years

Bun sandwiches, 4 ways

Travel shot: Panneer drakshe aka Indian Gulabi grapes

Azhagar kovil dosai| Black urad dosa

The other Azhagar temple in Madurai: Koodal Azhagar kovil

 

 

Gopu Iyengar’s, Madurai: Serving Delicious For 80+ Years

While I was researching for our recent trip to Madurai, the name Gopu Iyengar’s popped up often. I read about this all-vegetarian little eatery being touted as one of the best places in Madurai for South Indian snacks, particularly the variety of dosas that they serve and their vellai appam. Of course, we had to include a visit to Gopu Iyengar’s while we were in Madurai!

The history

Long, long ago, a certain Gopala Iyengar was working as a waiter in one of the old restaurants in Madurai. He was a good, hard-working and earnest person, much liked by everyone. When the owner decided to sell the restaurant, he found a willing buyer in Gopala.

In the year 1930, Gopala launched his own restaurant by the name of Gopu Iyengar’s, on West Chitirai Street, near the famed Meenakshi Amman temple. On the menu were traditional South Indian tiffin items like dosas, idlis, vadas, thavalai adai, pongal and halwa. The eatery became hugely popular, with dignitaries like Supreme Court Judge AR Lakshmanan and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu K Kamaraj making it a regular haunt. Priests from the Meenakshi Amman temple began eating here too. The fame of the hotel spread far and wide, and locals began referring to the place as ‘Moolai Kadai‘ (‘corner shop’ in Tamil, thanks to its location at a corner of the street).

Over time, Gopu Iyengar’s launched a second outlet on the bustling Bypass Road in Madurai, too. They also began selling some of their signature snacks and pickles online. I was also surprised to see this ancient, traditional hotel having an active and well-maintained Facebook page!

The branches, presently owned by Gopala’s son RG Srinivasan, remain open from 6.30 AM to 10.30 AM in the mornings and from 3 PM to about 7.30 PM in the evenings. It is believed that the menu and style of preparation of dishes here still the way Gopala Iyengar planned them out.

Gopu Iyengar’s, West Chitirai Street

While in Madurai, we decided to visit the old, first outlet of Gopu Iyengar’s, rather than the new one on Bypass Road.

The old outlet of the eatery was not difficult to find at all. It is, indeed, a small, hole-in-the-wall place that we might have missed if we weren’t really looking for it, but I am sure the throng of people getting in and out of it would have drawn us to it eventually. A blackboard by the door told us about the day’s specials, all in Tamil.

Both times we visited, the few tables and chairs inside were full of people who seemed to be relishing their tiffin on plantain leaves, slowly sipping on their filter coffee. Both times, we got a table after a short wait, and were soon relishing our own tiffin and coffee too. I don’t know how this works – it felt like we weren’t rushed at all, we were given time to leisurely enjoy our food, with the people waiting outside being managed efficiently as well.

Inside, the eatery retains its old-world charm – the interior still probably looks very much the same as it did when the place was started in 1930. Peeling paint on the walls, framed pictures of Indian gods, an old-fashioned cashier’s desk by the door, barebones tables and chairs, the lack of fancy cutlery, waiters in T-shirts and veshtis, a little washbasin to clean your hands, a bin where you drop the plantain leaves after you eat, all add to the quaint atmosphere of the place.

The food and drink story

Like I said before, Gopu Iyengar’s is an all-vegetarian outlet that mostly serves traditional South Indian tiffin items, and is particularly famous for its vellai appam and dosas. Every day, there are different specials, announced on the blackboard, while the signature dishes as well as the most-ordered ones are served every single day.

The eatery prides itself on serving fresh, homely food, made without the use of any artificial colours, flavouring agents or preservatives.

Over the course of our two visits to Gopu Iyengar’s, we tried out quite a few items, most of which we absolutely loved. I’m so glad to see that this eatery hasn’t taken its reputation for granted and, even after over 80 years of existence, is serving finger-licking delicious fare to its patrons.

Here is a round-up of all the food we sampled at this eatery.

Vellai Appam: At Gopu Iyengar’s, you are brought a plate of vellai appams first, even before you have decided what you are going to have. That is de rigeur. You could refuse them if you want, but why would you do that? These vellai (white) beauties are things of joy, after all. These appams, a recipe from neighbouring Chettinad, are nothing but deep-fried balls of lentil batter. We found them quite delectable, albeit a tad oily. The two types of chutney we were served alongside these appams made for perfect accompaniments to them.

Filter Coffee: Filter coffee was good, wherever we sampled it in Madurai. Gopu Iyengar’s was no exception.

Plain Dosa: The dosa here was very well done, just the way I like it – neither overly soggy nor overly crispy. It was quite homely and delish,  a far cry from the thick and greasy dosas that you get in most hotels these days.

Podi Dosa: Again, this dosa was made beautifully, just the right texture, sprinkled with a liberal dose of karuveppalai (curry leaves) podi (powder). The dosa tasted lovely, but we didn’t particularly like the taste of the podi within.

gopu iyengar
On the left: Vellai appam, On the right: Podi dosa, both at Gopu Iyengar’s

Idlis: The idlis we sampled here were lovely, pillowy soft and delicious. They were quite homely too, as against the grainy idlis that you get in most restaurants now.

Ulundhu Vadai: The ulundhu vadais – deep-fried rounds of urad daal batter – were absolutely delectable. They were perfectly fried, neither overly crispy nor underdone. The coconut chips and curry leaves in the batter took the taste to a whole new level.

Godhumai Dosa: The godhumai (wheat) dosa here was another delicious affair.  It was, again, homely and made just right.

On the left: Bun halwa, On the right: Idlis and vadai, both at Gopu Iyengar’s

Bun Halwa: On one of the days we visited Gopu Iyengar’s, we were lucky to find bun halwa in the list of specialties. The halwa, made with bakery buns, came to our table in a little plastic cup. It was absolutely delish, loaded with ghee and dry fruits. It is a distant cousin of the Hyderabadi shahi tukda, if you may.

Prices and service

We found the service to be quite fast. The waiters were courteous, friendly, and attentive.

The prices are highly reasonable, considering the quality of the food here. We don’t remember the exact amounts of the bills we paid, both times we visited, but we do remember that they were quite, quite reasonable.

Though the place is small and cramped, it is neat and well-managed.

Verdict

Don’t miss this place whenever you are in Madurai. Do gorge on the lovely traditional fare here!

I’m not sure if the quality and taste of the food at the (relatively) new Bypass Road outlet matches up to this one. The West Chitirai Street branch is the one we visited and loved, and the outlet that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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I hope you have been reading and enjoying my earlier posts about our Madurai trip! If you haven’t, here are the links for you.

On a jigarthanda trail in Madurai

Our street food (and drink) journey in Madurai

Bun sandwiches, 4 ways

Madurai diaries: Of hogging at Nagapattinam Halwa Shop

Travel shot: Panneer drakshe aka Indian Gulabi grapes

Thoughts after visiting MS Subbulakshmi’s house in Madurai

Azhagar kovil dosai| Black urad dosa

The other Azhagar temple in Madurai: Koodal Azhagar kovil