Karamani Kara Kuzhambu (Cow Peas Tangy Curry)

Kara kuzhambus are thick, tangy and often spicy gravy dishes, made in South India. Kuzhambu also has a broader meaning – signifying a gravy dish that can be mixed with rice. But kara kuzhambus are necessarily spicy and tangy. Most southern states have at least a couple of kara kuzhambus to their credit – like the ulli theeyal of Kerala. But it is Tamizhnadu that makes a fine art of it. There are hundreds of different types of kara kuzhambus in Tamizhnadu – with each region/district having it’s own unique style and recipe. Kara kuzhambus can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian. It is the consistency, tanginess and spice that distinguishes it. The most well-known kara kuzhambus are from the Chettinad region. Today, I will present a rather unusual kara kuzhambu, using cow peas.

Karamani Kara Kuzhambu

1/2 cup cow peas
1/2 cup peeled shallots (you can also use the large onion, but the shallots really enhance the taste)
8 garlic pods
1 big tomato, chopped
1 small lemon sized ball of tamarind, juice extracted
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi dhana, venthiyam)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 generous pinches of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
1/2 tsp split black gram (urad dal, ulutham parupu)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi powder, manjal podi)
1 1/2 tsp sambar powder (see the section on ‘Chutneys and Powders in this blog for recipe)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp date paste
Roast the cow peas for about 5 minutes on medium heat
Then soak them in water for 30 minutes
Extract tamarind juice using 2 cups of water (soak in warm water for about 15 minutes and then extract the juice)k g
Heat a pressure cooker and add mustard seeds and split black gram
When the mustard seeds begin to splutter, add fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves
Roast for a few seconds
Then add the garlic pods, turmeric powder, onions and continue to roast for another couple of minutes
Drain the water from the cow peas and add it to the masala above
Add tomatoes
Add sambar powder, salt, chilli powder and the tamarind extract
Add 1 cup of water
Close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 10 minutes
Let the steam release naturally and open the lid
Add date paste and cook for about 8 minutes on medium-low flame for the gravy to thicken
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve hot with red/brown rice

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