Omavalli Kuzhambu (Ajwain, Carom Leaves Curry)

Kuzhambus are normally tamarind based thick, spicy curries. But it is not always so. For example, mor kuzhambu is a yogurt based curry that is neither thick nor spicy. There are hundreds of tamarind based kuzhambus – each one with a distinctly different taste. Since these preparations are spicy, I do not prefer them in the hot summers of India. They suit me better during the winters.
This is the first time that I am making (or even hearing) about omavalli kuzhambu – but I decided that I must try it. And what a decision! It was literally finger licking good. And super healthy too given that quite a bit of the carom leaves were used in the preparation. But I must hasten to add that the kuzhambu was not fiery – but an avalanche of spices that literally sent my taste buds soaring. Many friends and relatives have asked me for the recipe. So, here goes!

For The Gravy
I small ball of tamarind, soaked and juice extracted
1 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1 tsp carom seeds (ajwain, omam)
3/4 cup large carom leaves, cleaned and chopped
2 tbsp grated coconut
8 small carom leaves
4 small garlic cloves
1 tsp chili powder
Unrefined salt to taste
For The Masala
2 tsp split black gram (urad dal, ulutham parupu)
2 tsp pigeon peas (tur dal, thuvaram parupu)
1 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
1 tsp black pepper corns (sabut kali mirch, kuru milagu)
5-6 byadgi chilis (adjust according to taste)
Wash and chop the large carom leaves
Pat dry and set aside
Grind the coconut into a smooth paste, adding a wee bit of water
Set aside
Heat a wok and add the split black gram, pigeon peas, cumin seeds, pepper corns and byadgi chilis
Roast till aromatic
Cool and grind into a coarse powder
Heat another wok and add mustard seeds and carom seeds
When the mustard begins to splutter, add the garlic and roast till golden
Add the chopped carom leaves and roast till aromatic
Add tamarind paste, salt, turmeric powder and chili powder
Add 1 cup water, cover and boil for 8-10 minutes on medium flame
Open the lid and add the ground powder
Boil for about 5-6 minutes
Add the ground coconut and boil for 2 minutes
Remove from flame and set aside
Heat a wok and add the small carom leaves
Roast till crisp and add to the curry just before serving
Serve hot with steamed red/brown/millet rice

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