Vatha Kuzhambu or Kulambu is a tasty curry dish authentic to Tamilnadu, a South Indian state. And this Vathal Kulambu is nothing but a curry made of Sundakkai(sundried turkey berries) and is also called Kara Kulambu in the same region. This curry is prepared with a special blend of spices called Vatha Kuzhambu Podi, along with Sundakkai which makes the dish unique in flavor and taste.
Vathal Kulambu can be also made with or without onion and garlic in a gravy or thokku form. This Tamilnadu-style Vatha Kuzhambu is a delicious vegan-friendly curry dish that tastes great with white rice and can be perfect for lunch and dinner meals.
What is Sundakkai Vathal?
Sundakkai/Sundaikkai is nothing but a Tamil name for Turkey berries. Usually, the fresh green turkey berries are hand-pounded to remove the seeds, and then it is soaked in buttermilk for hours or overnight. The soaked berries are then sundried for 2 to 3 days which is called vathal. Vathal can be also made of manathakkali(black nightshade berries) and different vegetables. This vathal stays good for months in an airtight container to make kuzhambu and thokku. And it tastes perfectly delicious with a hot bowl of white rice and vegetable stir fry.
About Vatha Kuzhambu
Vatha Kuzhambu is a delicious side dish prepared with Sundakkai vathal with freshly ground spice podi/powder in a tamarind-based gravy. Especially, the sesame oil, small onions, garlic, and jaggery used in the recipe give an exotic rich flavor and taste to this dish. You can also make this Sundakkai Vatha Kuzhambu recipe without onion and garlic if they are not on your preferred ingredient list.
Vathal kulambu recipe is one of the popular dishes and it is common in most restaurants and households of the state. And they serve this curry as a side dish with white rice, vegetable dal Kootu, and other similar dishes.
You can also find this Sundakkai vatha Kuzhambu in Tamilnadu weddings as part of their vegetarian lunch menu to serve the guests. People also call this recipe Kalyana Vatha Kuzhambu or Kara Kulambu in Tamil and they traditionally serve it in banana leaves on such occasions.
This Vatha Kuzhambu is easy to make curry if you have your spice podi/powder handy at home. The taste of this dish is typically a combination of sour, spice, bitter, and sweet which one should definitely give a try. Overall, this vatha kuzhambu makes a perfect vegan-friendly side dish for your lunch when you are really craving such unique and authentic dishes.
Variations in Vatha Kulambu
Vathal Kuzhambu recipe is one of the finger-licking dishes that have a lot of variations. Even though the traditional recipe requires roasting and grinding of spices but it can be also made without those processes. Yes, you can make this kuzhambu with sambar powder or store brought vatha kuzhambu podi as well. But if you want to enjoy an authentic taste and flavor, then I would suggest sticking with the traditional recipe.
There are also variations where people use coconuts while roasting the spices, so feel free to add them if you really want a taste of coconut flavor in your vatha kuzhambu recipe. The vatha kuzhambu podi without coconut can be stored for months which is not the case with coconut. But it is perfectly ok when you want to prepare it for immediate use.
You could also make this Sundakkai vatha kuzhambu without onion and garlic, and to make that just skip them, and the rest of the process remains the same as mentioned in the recipe card below.
There are also variations, where people use onion as the main ingredient to make vathal kulambu. On the other hand, people also use vegetables like brinjal, drumsticks, and okra for making this vatha kuzhambu. Adding vegetables not only makes the curry delicious but also healthier. After all, we all love our family to enjoy traditional yet delicious healthy dishes for their meal.
Even though vatha kuzhambu is popular for curry form, you can also make it as thokku. It is really simple to make and adding a generous amount of small onions, and tomatoes and simmer the gravy for a few extra minutes delivers a delicious vatha kuzhambu thokku. In fact, all these variations are definitely worth trying at home to enjoy a lip-smacking meal.
How to make Vatha Kuzhambu Podi?
Preparation of vatha kuzhambu podi is one of the main steps in making the traditional dish. It plays a major role that enhancing the taste and flavor of sundakkai or any vatha kuzhambu of your choice. So to make the podi, in a pan with medium heat add urad dal, chana dal, cumin seeds, dry red chilies, and coriander seeds. Roast all the ingredients until it turns aromatic and crisp. You could also use oil for roasting if you do not want to store the podi for later use.
Once the spices are aromatic, transfer them to the blender and grind them to a fine powder. That's it, our vatha kuzhambu podi is ready for making a delicious curry. You could also add a little water while grinding if you want it to be in paste consistency.
You can also double or triple the quantity of the ingredients to make vatha kuzhambu podi, which you can store for future use. But make sure not to add oil for roasting if you are planning to store it for months. And I hope this recipe helps in making a delicious vatha kuzhambu from scratch.
How to make Vatha Kuzhambu?
The recipe I have shared here is traditional Sundaikkai Vatha Kuzhambu with onion and garlic. And the quantity yields to 4 people. In this section, let us see how to make this appetizing curry with clear step-by-step instructions.
To give an overall idea, the following are the steps in making this vathal kulambu/Kara Kuzhambu recipe.
- Preparation of Vatha Kuzhambu Podi/Powder
- Preparation of Vatha Kuzhambu
To make vatha kuzhambu, first I prepared the spice podi/powder as mentioned in the above section and kept it ready for making the curry. Then in a pan with medium heat, I poured 1 tbsp of oil and fried the sundakkai vathal until it turned crisp. Then I reserved it for later use.
Following that, in the same pan, I poured the oil and sizzled the mustard, fenugreek, and cumin seeds. Then I sautéed the onions, garlic, and curry leaves until they turned soft. Once they are soft, I sauteed the tomatoes until it turns mushy. After that, I included salt, turmeric, chili, coriander, and vatha kuzhambu podi prepared in the before step.
After mixing it well, I poured water and gave a good stir. Then I closed the pan with the lid and boiled the seasoned water for 5 to 7 minutes. Once the time passed, opened the lid and added the tamarind sauce or water (1 tsp of tamarind paste diluted), fried berries(sundakkai), and jaggery powder, and gave a good mix.
After mixing, I simmered the heat and cooked the curry until it leaves oil on its sides. Then I switched off the heat and served it with steamed rice and fryums. But you could also serve it with rice and vegetable stir fry, kootu, or dishes of your choice.
The key to achieving an authentic flavor and taste of vatha kulambu is to dry roast the spices on medium heat until it turns aromatic and crisp. So make sure not to over-roast or burn the spices which will alter the taste of this curry.
This Sundakkai vathal Kulambu has a naturally mild bitter taste and adding tamarind water and jaggery powder will help to shallow down the same. So I suggest not skipping both the ingredients to enjoy the traditional taste and flavor of the curry.
Frying the sundaikkai in oil also plays a major role in deciding the final output of the Vatha kuzhambu. Hence it is important to fry the vathal until crisp to decrease the bitterness of the turkey berries(sundakkai).
I have used sesame oil in this recipe and you could also use other cooking oil like canola, vegetable, or sunflower oil. I have used a generous amount of oil to make this vatha kuzhambu and it helps the curry to stay good for weeks. But you could always feel free to adjust it according to your family's needs.
This Tamilnadu style sundakkai vatha/kara kuzhambu is an absolute treat for food lovers especially those who want to try authentic homestyle dishes. And I hope you will try and enjoy this dish with your family and loved ones.
This Sundakkai Vatha Kuzhambu tastes great the more it gets old. The tamarind juice and sesame oil used in the recipe help the curry to stay good for up to 4 days at room temperature. And it can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container.
You could also find similar recipes below and more at Veg Curries.
To make your life easy, I have also created a collection of Indian Vegetarian Lunch Recipes in one place and I believe it will help you to plan your meal and prepare and enjoy at home. Take a peek!
Vatha Kuzhambu Recipe video
I have also shared a detailed video of this Sundaikkai Vatha Kuzhambu recipe that I hope will help you to make this authentic dish easily at home. For a quick reference, you could also find this recipe in a story format.
Vatha Kuzhambu (Vathal Kulambu)
For Vatha Kuzhambu Podi/Powder
- 1 tsp Urad Dal
- 2 tsp Chana Dal
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 7 Dry Red Chili
- 2 tsp Coriander Seeds
For Vatha Kuzhambu
- ¼ cup Sundaikkai Vathal, dried turkey berries
- ¼ cup Oil
- 0.55 lb Pearl Onion, sliced
- 5 Garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 Tomato, chopped
- 1 sprig Curry Leaves
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- ¼ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tsp Chili Powder
- ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
- 2 tsp Coriander Powder
- ¼ cup Tamarind Water, diluted from 1 tsp tamarind paste or Tamarind Sauce
- 2 cups Water
- ½ tsp Jaggery Powder
To prepare Vatha Kuzhambu Podi
- In a pan with medium heat, add chana dal, urad dal, cumin seeds, dry red chili, coriander seeds, and roast until it turns aromatic and crisp. Make sure not to burn them which alters the taste and flavor of the curry
- Transfer it to the blender and grind it to a fine powder. Reserve the powder for later use
To prepare Sundaikkai Vatha Kuzhambu
- In a pan with medium heat, pour 1 tbsp of oil and add sundakkai vathal( dried turkey berries). Roast the vathal until it turns crispy and reserve for later use(you could also deep fry the vathal in oil)
- In the same pan add ¼ cup of oil and sizzle the mustard, fenugreek, and cumin seeds
- Add onions, garlic, curry leaves and saute until the onion turns soft
- Now add the tomatoes and saute until it turns mushy
- Add turmeric, chili, coriander powder, vatha kuzhambu podi, and give a good mix
- Now pour the water and mix well
- Close the pan with the lid and allow it to boil for 5 to 7 minutes
- Now open the lid and add the diluted tamarind water, ot tamarind sauce fried Sundaikkai vathal, jaggery powder, and give a good mix
- Simmer the heat and cook the curry until it leaves oil on its sides. Now the delicious Sundaikkai Vathal Kuzhambu is ready for you to taste and enjoy
- Serve this delicious Sundakkai Vatha Kuzhambu with hot white rice, appalam, and fryums
Chef's Notes and Tips
- Preparation of vatha kuzhambu podi is one of the main steps to achieve a tasty and flavorful curry. So make sure to roast the spices in medium heat to achieve the best results
- Frying the sundakkai vathal until crisp will shallow down its bitterness and I suggest you follow the same to enjoy the authentic taste and flavor
- Tamarind water and jaggery helps to reduce the naturally bitter taste of sundaikkai and make sure to stick with the same for the best results of the vatha kuzhambu
- I have used sesame oil in this recipe, you could also use cooking oil like canola, vegetable, or sunflower oil
- This Sundakkai Vathal Kuzhambu tastes great with white rice along with vegetable sides of your choice
Disclaimer: We’re not nutrition experts. Nutritional info is estimated and should be used as a guide. For precise details, consult a professional.
Sundakkai is the Tamil name for Turkey berries and vathal is nothing but sundried vegetables or berries. So sundakkai vathal is nothing but sun-dried berries. This vathal is used in making curries, thokku, or simply fried in oil to accompany curd, rasam, or sambar rice.
Vatha Kuzhambu is a tasty Tamilnadu-style dish made with special spice podi/powder, sun-dried turkey berries, or nightshade berries, in a tangy onion gravy. It is a perfect side dish for rice and is typically served for lunch and dinner. And it is also one of the common dishes served in Tamilnadu weddings as part of the vegetarian lunch menu.
To make Vatha Kuzhambu podi, in medium heat dry roast the urad dal, Chana dal, cumin seeds, dry red chilies, coriander seeds until it turns aromatic. Then blend the roasted ingredients into a fine powder. If you want it as a paste then add little water while grinding the spices.
Yes, you can make the sundaikkai vathal kulambu recipe without onion and garlic. To make that, just temper with basic seasoning and skip the onion and garlic mentioned in the recipe card above and the rest of the process remains the same as mentioned in the recipe card above.
Vatha Kuzhambu stays good for up to 4 days at room temperature. And it stays good in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container.
I really hope you enjoyed the recipe that I have shared here and I would love to hear from you on how it turned out for you. Please let me know.
If you have any other questions, feel free to post them in the comment section below and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.