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!