Pulikachal (A Tamarind Dip)

For years, this was one of my favourite dishes. It’s a sour dip that is fantastic with steamed rice. It is also made into a puliyodharai (tamarind rice) and as an accompaniment with rice when the wet dish does not contain tamarind (like mor kootan, mulakootal…) I have always been fond of sour food ever since I can remember. When I was a kid, my mother used to keep a separate portion of yogurt in the sun for it to become extremely sour. This was reserved for me. It is therefore natural that I would love pulikachal.
In its traditional form, pulikachal is made with tamarind and jaggery as the main ingredients. I have, long ago, perfected this dish with date paste instead of jaggery – with a amazingly similar tasting result. Without further ado, let me get into the recipe.


A large lemon sized ball of tamarind (soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and juice extracted)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1 1/2 tsp date paste
Unrefined salt to taste
To Grind
2 tsp coriander seeds (sabut dhania, kothamalli varai)
2 tsp split black lentils (urad dal, ulutham parupu)
6 dried red chilis
1 sprig curry leaves
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
To Temper
1 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1 tsp split Bengal gram (chana dal, kadalai parupu)
1 tsp split black lentil
1 tbsp roasted peanuts
1 sprig curry leaves
2 dried red chilis
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
Heat a wok and add all the ingredients mentioned under “To Grind”
Add the red chilis last as it tends to burn quickly
Remove from flame and cool
Transfer to a blender and grind to a fine powder
Set aside
Heat a wok again
Add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the split Bengal gram, split black lentils and peanuts
Roast till the Bengal gram turns golden brown
Add asafoetida and curry leaves
Mix well
Remove from flame after 15 seconds
Add the tamarind juice, turmeric powder and salt
Mix well
Let this cook on medium flame for about 8 minutes till the raw smell of the tamarind has evaporated
Add the powder and continue to cook, on low flame, till the consistency becomes thick
Add the date paste and switch off the flame
Serve with bland wet dishes like mulakootal, mor kootan and steamed red/brown/millet rice
Alternatively, mix a portion of this pulikachal with steamed and cooled rice and you have the lovely tamarind flavoured rice ready – you can serve this with chips/papadoms of any sort and/or with stir fried vegetables

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