The most painful part of baby onions (shallots) is to peel them. Once that is done, its like a battle won. Then, in a few mins you'll be victorious in making many amazing things, all it can do is make you happy. To me, the very thought of small onions always take me back to my growing up years in Salem. Mom always made small onion sambar with coconut chutney to go along with masala dosa - this was mostly our Sunday morning breakfast. We would just eat it all like gluttons and then in a couple of hrs while we catch up on episodes of Ramayana, HE-man, the master of the universe, and Siddharth Basu's quiz, mom and paati will be making lunch for us - which usually was ghee rice or pulav with vegetable Kurma. I can still just close my eyes and smell that gorgeous flavor of ghee fried cashews (you have to have a cashew garnish, of course!) wafting around the house. Man, all we did on Sundays was eat! And then like we were starving the whole day, we would be served a good tiffen - the meal that you eat in between actual meals and it usually falls at about 4 o clock in the afternoon! And usually the tiffen was pakodas or samosas or puffs...and then in a few hrs we would all go out and eat again! That was what I call a Sunday! Now I just order pizza for the night or we eat left overs. Sad.
And I was still very little when He-man was THE show - just in case you're counting how old I am. If you've never heard of it, well...never mind. Ignore me. But, he was the coolest superhero though. Really cute looking too!
Coming to this recipe, wash and peel all of the small onions. You can keep them soaked in water until you peel all - helps a little or really it might just be psychological. But, whatever it is, it helps.
Soak about a ping pong ball sized ball of tamarind in water for about 10 mins. Then, squeeze out as much tamarind pulp as you can and set aside.
Take about 5-6 cloves of garlic and peel and cut them vertically into long pieces.
In a small pan, dry roast these ingredients - 1 tsp of cumin seeds (jeera), 1/2 tsp of methi seeds (vendiyam) and one big tbsp of coriander seeds. Add 1-2 small bits of dry red chillies to this. Fry all of this for a min and when cooled down, grind it to a coarse powder.
In a wide pan, add 1 tbsp of your favorite cooking oil. When hot, add 1 tsp of mustard seeds and let splutter. Then, add about 7-8 curry leaves.
Then, add the cut garlic cloves in here and fry for a min.
Then, add the peeled small onions in here and mix well with the other ingredients.
Add 1 tsp of salt.
And then add 1 generous heaped tsp of sambar powder to this.
Immediately, add about 2 tbsp of oil to this again.
Let the onions and garlic fry well in the sambar powder - you can smell heaven almost here - but not yet.
And the very name Vetha Kuzhambu was derived from the word Varutha Kuzhambu - which means the veggies used in the kuzhambu was fried in the sambar powder first. Like we always blame them for everything, let's blame the Brits here too! Maybe they were the ones who changed it from Varutha Kuzhambu to Vetha Kuzhambu.
I've also heard and seen some people add Vethal (crisp rice fritters) directly to sambar and cook it and call that Vethal Kuzhambu - never tried that before. Anyone got a good recipe for that?
Add 1 tsp of fresh ghee to the pan. And just mix it well. Now, you'll smell heaven. Trust me.
Add the tamarind pulp water now to the pan. Let this cook for about 10 mins or until the raw smell of the tamarinds disappear.
In a small cup, take about 1 tsp of rice flour. Add a couple of spoons of water and make into a thin paste. You will be adding this to thicken up the kuzhambu towards the end.
Here's the fresh ground coriander seed powder.
Add the powder to the kuzhambu - and it smells like there is an aromatherapy session happening in heaven now! Aaahhh.. I can just keep smelling this forever!
Let this cook for a couple of mins.
When all the raw smell of the tamarind is gone, and you can start smelling the fresh flavors on the onions, garlic and the fresh powder we just added - add the rice flour paste at that time. And then let it cook too for about 5 mins until the smell of rice flour is gone. Many people just switch it off at this time - well, it might look ok and thickened up, but when you eat, you'll find the smell of the raw rice flour somewhere in there. So, let that just boil out of the kuzhambu.
You'll see that the kuzhambu is thickened up nice. Switch off the stove. Tasty Vetha Kuzhambu is ready to be served along with hot rice.
And I have to thank Shoba here from Anubhavati - who recently also blogged about Small Onion Vendaya Kuzhambu. Check out her wonderful recipe here. But, as I was reading her post and when she mentioned about having this with some 'Urulai Roast', I was drooling all over! And hence, when I made my kuzhambu, this is what I made to go along with it - some urulai roast indeed! And what a great combo it was. Thanks Shoba!
So, what are you waiting for? Go make yourself some spicy hot vetha kuzhambu. And don't forget the urulai roast! Rohini akka - hope you liked it. Let me know how it turns out.
Enjoy. Peace Out!