Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki is a unique dish made using gooseberries (amla) and curd, from the city of Palakkad in Kerala. It is a side dish which is the specialty of the Palakkad Iyers residing in this region. I learnt this recipe from my mother-in-law and, in today’s post, am going to share with you all how to go about making it.
This is a simple but beautiful dish, though I must say the taste takes a little getting used to. My husband and I adore it! I love relishing it with tiffin items like dosa or upma, while the husband likes having it with plain, hot rice. It can also be served as part of an elaborate meal, especially along with other Palakkad Iyer specials like Molagootal and Poduthuval.
Arachu Kalakki trivia
‘Arachu Kalakki‘ is a classic Palakkad Iyer dish, which can be made using a few different types of fruits and vegetables. Gooseberries, elephant-foot yam (‘suran‘ in Hindi, ‘senaikizhangu‘ in Tamil), and raw mango are the most commonly used.
‘Arachu Kalakki‘ is Palakkad Tamil for ‘grind and mix’, which is exactly how this dish is prepared. The preparation of arachu kalakki involves very little cooking, which makes it the perfect side dish for the hot months of summer – you don’t have to stand in front of the gas stove for long hours, cooking. It is delicious, super cooling and refreshing too!
Either fresh or preserved fruits/vegetables can be used to make arachu kalakki. In traditional Palakkad homes, seasonal fruits like gooseberries and small raw mangoes are preserved in salted water (brine) – they stay well for a long time when stored this way, and can be used as needed. My mother-in-law sometimes uses gooseberries preserved in brine to make Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki, but I almost always use the raw ones whenever they are readily available in the markets.
Ingredients used in Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki
So, the gooseberries (preserved or fresh) are ground to a slightly coarse puree, along with coconut and green chillies, and mixed with curd to make Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki. If you are using fresh gooseberries, they need to be cooked before using them, while the preserved ones can be used as is. This arachu kalakki is full of the natural goodness of gooseberries, whichever way you use them.
A simple tempering of mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves in coconut oil is added to the Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki, once it is ready.
This method of preparation is similar to the making of raita. It would, therefore, not be wrong to call Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki as Nelikkai Thayir Pachadi (Tamil for ‘Amla Raita‘).
How to make Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki
Different families have their own little touches in the making of arachu kalakki, but the base ingredients remain more or less the same. Here’s how I make the Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki, a la my mother-in-law.
Ingredients (serves 4-5):
1. 4 medium-sized gooseberries (amla)
2. 1/4 cup fresh coconut slivers
3. 2 green chillies or as per taste
4. 1-1/2 cups fresh thick curd or as per taste
5. Salt to taste
1. 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
2. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
3. 2 pinches of asafoetida
4. A sprig of curry leaves
1. Wash the gooseberries well under running water. Pat dry using a cotton cloth.
2. Place the gooseberries in a wide vessel. Do not add in any water. Take about a cup of water in a pressure cooker bottom and place it on a high flame. Place the vessel with the gooseberries inside the pressure cooker. Close the cooker and put the whistle on. Allow the gooseberries to cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
3. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, open it and get the gooseberries out. Allow them to cool down enough to handle.
4. When the gooseberries have completely cooled down, press them gently and separate the segments. The segments will get separated very easily. Remove and discard the seed.
5. Place the gooseberry segments in a mixer jar. Add in the coconut slivers. Chop up the green chillies roughly and add them to the mixer jar too. Grind everything together to an almost smooth puree, using a little water.
6. Take the gooseberry puree in a large mixing bowl. Add in the curd and salt to taste. Add about 1/2 cup water or as needed.
7. Mix everything up well.
8. Now, we will prepare the tempering. Heat the oil in a small tempering pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Then, add in the asafoetida and curry leaves. Allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds. Pour the tempering into the gooseberry-curd mixture. Mix well. Your Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki is ready – serve it as an accompaniment to rice/upma/dosas or as part of an elaborate meal spread.
This dish is completely vegetarian, made using very little oil.
It is NOT vegan because of the use of dairy-based curd. You could try making it using vegan (plant-based) curd, but I have never tried that out.
To make this Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki gluten-free, skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. If you do find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, however, you can definitely go ahead and use it.
Tips & Tricks
1. Use fresh gooseberries (amla), which are firm and without any blemishes.
2. You can use amla that has been soaked in brine, as is commonly done in many parts of India. In case the amla has soaked well and is quite soft, you can grind it as is – there’s no need to cook it. In this case, you would need to be cautious while adding salt as the amla would be a bit salty anyways.
3. Do not add any water to the amla while pressure-cooking it. 4 whistles in the pressure cooker, and it’s perfectly done – not overcooked, just right.
4. Adjust the quantity of green chillies, salt and coconut as per personal taste preferences.
5. For best results, use fresh curd that is not very sour.
6. Adjust the amount of water you use depending upon the consistency of the Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki that you require. It is supposed to be thick but not overly so, runny but not too watery.
7. You may add a small piece of ginger while grinding the cooked gooseberries, coconut and green chillies. I usually don’t do so.
8. Use coconut oil for the tempering – it adds a beautiful flavour to the Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki.
9. Do not grind the gooseberries, coconut and green chillies too finely. Let the puree be slightly coarse, for best results.
10. This Nelikkai Arachu Kalakki is best prepared and consumed fresh. However, any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in a clean, dry, air-tight refrigerator for a day.
Looking for other recipes using gooseberries?
Check out these posts on my blog:
Arinelikkai Thokku| Instant Star Gooseberry Pickle
Nelikkai Urugai| Spicy Gooseberry Pickle
Nelikkai Sadam| Gooseberry Rice
Nelikkai Sweet Urugai| Sweet Gooseberry Pickle
Gajar Amla Salad| Tangy Carrot Salad With Gooseberry
I’m hugely intrigued by this Nellikai (gooseberry) Chutney Pudi from my friend Preethi’s recipe blog too – can’t wait to try it out!
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!