January 29, 2009

Hotel-style vathakozhambu

Ever had vathakozhambu at a Tamil restaurant, like Sangeetha in Chennai? It's absolutely divine and nothing they make at home comes close to that. There's something different. Introducing, hotel-style vathakozhambu - the thicker, tangier and infinitely more delectable dish than it's pale counterpart, the home-style vathakozhambu. Today for some reason when I was day dreaming food, I got reminded of this vathakozhambu that we got when we had the Meals at Sangeetha. And I had to make it for dinner. Usually, I make the normal one that our moms teach us to make... the one that all you chefs have attempted at least once. But here's how to do it hotel-style. It's almost like a kootu consistency. And with no real recipe online, I pride myself as the first one that I know of attempting this novel approach, and having success with it whilst sharing it. Yo!
Ingredients -(If you are familiar with normal vathakozhambu, skip this)
1. Something vathhal (this is the dried veggie bit that you fry to add taste to the whole concoction like sundakka, manathakali keerai, etc.) - I didn't have any, so I skipped this.
2. Onions (if you have the small bulb ones, they are the best) - 4 if they are medium sized, finely chopped.
3. Tomatoes - 1 large, finely chopped
4. Tamarind - small lemon-sized
5. For seasoning and cooking - oil (preferably sesame oil (yellu yennai/til ka tel), mustard seeds curry leaves, 2 dried red chilis, 2 tablespoons of channa dal a pinch of asfoetida and vathakozhambu powder/sambar powder.
6. Salt to taste
1. On a saucepan, add 1 spoon of sesame oil and fry half the onions whilst adding salt so that the onions release their juices.
2. Once the onions become translucent, add the chopped tomatoes and about 1/4th the raw tamarind to it and fry for sometime more till you are sure that the raw flavour of the onions/tomatoes is gone. This usually takes 4-5 minutes on medium-high flame and you can see that the tomatoes have lost all firmness and have released their juices into the mixture as well.
3. Add 1 spoon of vathakozhambu/sambar powder and fry for 1 more minute. Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, on a separate saucepan (or the same one, once you empty it), add another spoon of sesame oil. Allow mustard seeds to crackle, add the asfoetida, the red chilis whilst crushing them with your fingers, the channa dal and the curry leaves.
5. Once the chilis turn semi-dark and the curry leaves lose their sprightly green, add the remaining onions to be cooked thoroughly. Add salt and give it a stir or two.
6. Meanwhile, make pulp off the remaining tamarind upto about 1 cup and add this tamarind pulp to the onions and allow to boil.
7. The mixture that you had set aside should've cooled considerably. Give it a quick run in the mixer to make a coarse paste.
8. Add this paste to the boiling stuff in the saucepan and set to boil having ensured that the entire paste is mixed in.
9. Taste to see if the salt/tanginess and the spice are as per taste. Add condiments as desired.
10. Season with washed curry leaves. And voila!

While it may not look as thick as it is, I assure you that it is kootu consistency and absolutely yummy. So, what does that go with? My trademark paruppu usili, of course! If you want the recipe to that, check the comments of this post.
Give them a try n report back! Bon appetit!


Bala said...

hey jaya,

I guess this wud be my 1st comment in ur blog. Nice work!

I have 2 q's (one related to this and a general one)

1) Though I get the procedural differences (compared to what I would have usually made), what makes it a "hotel-style"... understandably I am lacking style quotient here ;)

2) I can imagine the effects (aroma to texture to consistency..) of all we do in regular South Indian cooking...I never got what is "mustard crackling" achieving... I hardly find a difference in overall taste even without mustards. As a religious South Indian cook, I have been sub-consciously opening a dish with mustard decoration, more like "pillaiyar suzhi"!

btw, I read your blog on slumdog millionaire and I had different take on it. Though there were a lot of individual prowess displayed (Rahman, the cinematographer...), I found the film, overall, hard to digest. Calling it an "Indian film", despite lacking authenticity (Dev Patel's Brit accent, mumbai gunda eating sandwich,...) is hard to relate to! I found a review at rediff that mirrored my thoughts( http://www.rediff.com/movies/2009/jan/29is-slumdog-worth-it.htm).

Not to mention, the acts that Anil Kapoor managed to put during Golden globe's...I mean he hardly acted... the slum kids were way better! For the role he played, a wax model of Anil Kapoor would have generated the same level of interest in me ;)

In any case, though the "Indian-heart" in me roots for "Best-picture" for it at Oscars, somehow I think it doesn't deserve it! If it wins (which I think it will, due to the extraordinary hype that it has managed to generate), it can only be because of the weakness of this year's other competing films! Mumbai empathy (with all due respects) can also play a role!

Jaya said...

Bala -> Thank you for the long, thoughtful first comment. I appreciate it. Lemme try and answer this in sequence --

1. Its "hotel-style" to compare it to what the hotels in Chennai serve as Vathakozhambu. It's very very different from what Amma/Patti make at home. That's why the name...
2. Mustard does add a subtle flavour to the whole dish that makes it very Tamil... But if you don't notice any taste difference, then you can skip it.. except it looks incomplete without it!
3. Slumdog -> I hadn't heard of the movie till I saw it... so I knew practically nothing about it. Plus everyone's entitled to their opinions. Many people believe that the West has acclaimed the movie only because it shows India in a derogatory poor light. I disagree. The movie just shows what is pertinent to the context. However, like I said each one's entitled to his/her opinion... it's a movie after all. However the music was sensational (not like any of ARR's greats), but in the whole niche of Hollywood, it's something that they've never heard before. So let them pile on the acclaim!

And lastly, keep visiting and certainly keep commenting!

Anonymous said...

Hey jaya - Bowled over by the picture and the color of the vetakozhambu. Run in the mixer is certainly unheard off for the kozhambu. Should try it out osmetime. I have never been able to get the rich red color - all my kozhambu's and sambars come out the dull brown color :( maybe the sambar powder does the trick ?

--Kavitha (Do you know who I am ? Look for me in your orkut friends list)

Jaya said...

Kavitha -> Surely your the XII-B Kavitha? Or the HCE one... Coz the other Kavitha is my best friend from HCE. Hehehe. Sure, the vathakozhambu tastes as good as it looks. The brown colour is usually a result of tamarind paste rather than actual tamarind juice. And I am sure that the podi doesn't make too much of a difference. The one Ammas thirichify at home are the same as the store-bought ones colour-swise (not taste-wise for sure). Anyhow, please do try this recipe and the others and give me a success holler. Keep visiting!

Ram said...

sounds delicious!

Jaya said...

Ram -> Give it a shot and lemme know :)

Anonymous said...

Anusha tried the vathakozhambu and it came out awesome. Had it with kathrikai, vendakai and plain ol' thair sadam. A superhit.

Jaya said...

Anantha -> Thanks for reporting back n thank Anusha for trying! :)

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