Monday, January 26, 2009

Recipe Blog Review: Vidhya's Recipes

Vidhya, thank you for sharing your recipes with us. The cultural, social and healing characteristics found in these posts: Paruppu urundai Rasam (spicy soup with vegetarian dhal-based vegetarian “meatballs”), Thippili Rasam (spicy pepper soup) and Angaaya Podi (lentil powder) intrigue me. What inspires you to share this information and in which ways has maintaining your blog changed your perception of cataloging recipes, food habits, emotional and cultural aspects of food?

Vidhya says: When I first started cooking 5 years back, I felt like I was in the middle of a big ocean without any help. Every time I used to call my grandma or my mother in law for help. When I thought about starting a blog, I just wanted to write everything I know and everything I tried so that it could help new comers in future...

Vidhya, home cooking unlike ready made foods in the grocery store vary based on subtle ingredient changes. I really appreciated you presenting this in your blog through offering series on different topics; such as different ways to make beans or eggplant curry, idli upma and varieties of podis (all links at end of interview). What inspired you to create these series? When creating these series, does it make you see your own preparation methods in a new way? Do you have plans of creating other such series in the future?

Vidhya says: Truly speaking, I have no future plans of creating a series in the future. The reason I tried various methods with one basic ingredient is my twin daughters who are very picky eaters and I wanted them to try all the Indian food even though we live in USA. If I follow the same methods every time, they may get bored....

photo right: Banana Blossom by Vidhya Iyer

Vidhya, your recipes also bring back some memories of my own stay in Tamil Nadu especially since some include regional ingredients and preparations that are not familiar to my friends from other parts of India. Some such recipes are: Paruppu urundai Rasam, Vaazhapoo Curry - Banana Flower Curry, Vaazhapoo vadai, Jack fruit seeds Curry, Sundakkavathal Vatha Kozhambu, Garbanzo Sundal (spicy garbanzo fried snack). Being in America, are you able to acquire the exotic ingredients required for some of these recipes? If not, are these recipes written simply from memory or calling home for details? What kinds of memories do these special dishes bring to your mind?

Vidhya says: If you see a picture in my blog post, it means I have prepared those dishes here in USA. Lucky for me, I get all the basic ingredients in the grocery stores here in bay area which helps me try all the traditional recipes. But you may not find jackfruit seeds curry in my post which I tried but forgot to take picture and now it’s not jack fruit season here, I couldn't do it again. But definitely do it again and add the pictures there...

Who are two or three recipe bloggers you are inspired by? What about their style is inspiring? Can you recommend any recipes from their blog that you have personally prepared and eaten?

Vidhya says: First person I would suggest is Jaishree ( Even though she started her recipe blog after couple of months, I like most of her recipes and have tried couple of her recipes. Another person is Jujubs ( and I love her lunch box special blog. I have tried many of her ideas with my kids and most of them were successful.

Vidhya, all the recipes on your blog are Indian inspired. Are there other cuisines you enjoy eating? Which foods outside the Indian menus have you tried and would like to learn to create on your own?

Vidhya says: I love to eat American vegetarian burgers, Pasta with lots of cheese. But I have not tried by myself. I think its time to try something new. I will try it soon.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jennifer for putting so much effort to encourage bloggers like me. Thanks Jennifer for inviting me to take this interview. I really enjoyed doing this...

Thank you for participating in this interview, Vidhya. Continue sharing your unique taste buds with us!!

Additional notes to share from Vidhya's blog:

Series to follow:

(a) Four different ways to make beans curry varities (1) (2) (3) (4)

I prefered the first variety and enjoy this once a month or so.

(b) Two ways to make eggplant curry (1) (2)

(c) Three ways to make Idli upma (1) (2) (3)

(d) Series on podi (podi means powder, eaten with rice, idli or dosa).

Paruppu Podi, Dhaniya Podi (coriander seeds Podi), Ellu Podi (sesame Seeds Podi), Angaaya Podi, Karuvepillai Podi (Curry Leaves podi), Kalathu Podi

(e) Series on pachadi (dish similar to chutney or salsa)

Boondhi Pachadi, Cucumber Pachadi, Tomato Pachadi (1) (2), Onion Pachadi, Okra Pachadi, Dangar pachadi (urad dhal/lentil), Banana Stem pachadi - Vaazhathandu pachadi, Gooseberry Pachadi

Some of Vidhya’s recipes I have prepared and devoured: Black Eyed Beans Sundal, Garbanzo Sundal, Masala Vadai (spicy fried lentil donuts), Omapodi (fried rice/besan flour sticks), Paruppu urundai Rasam, Polla Rice flour Vadai (spicy, crispy fried snacks).

Recipe Comparisons – You can study both, see the differences and decide which you like, or make your own recipe innovation!

Lemon Rasam: Vidhya Jennifer

Bitter Gourd Curry Vidhya Jennifer

Sundakkavathal Vatha Kozhambu Vidhya Jennifer

Mango Thokku Vidhya Jennifer

Tasty Tidbits: Rasam (Cultural Facts about this tasty broth!)

More South Indian Recipes - Samayal series of award winning Tamil/South Indian cookery guides by Viji Varadarajan.

Thank you for reading.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pongala Payasam/ Chakkara Pongal/ Sweet Rice and Dhal Pudding

I found this recipe posted by Indianadoc last year when searching for naivedyam or holy offering to eat on Attukal Pongala. I decided to make this for Pongal this year. Pongal is a porridge made of rice and dhal with a choice of spices, nuts, herbs, fruits or vegetables. If it is salty it is VenPongal (meaning white pongal), if it is sweet it is ChakkaraPongal (or sweet pongal). Usually chakkarapongal is a brownish color from the use of jaggery, a type of raw brown sugar.

The original recipe for pongalapayasam shared by Indianadoc has coconut, which I think would be definitely added for Attukal Pongala, being a Kerala festival and the love for coconut has no bounds in God’s Own Country!! If you like to add shredded coconut, that can also be done, though this recipe has omitted that ingredient.


3/4 cup Rice
3/4 cup Split moong dal
4 cubes Jaggery grated into 1 cup water (maybe ¼ cup powdered jaggery, if jaggery is not available use brown sugar or white sugar)
2 Bananas - small diced (1 to 1 ½ cup)
1/2 cup Cashew nut crushed
1/2 cup Raisins
1 cup Milk
3 tbspn Ghee (or butter)

1. Wash and rinse rice and moong dhal in water.

2. Slow cook the rice and dhal in 3 cups plain water, uncovered on medium heat.

3. While this is happening grate jaggery into one cup water. Stir this water and add to pot.

4. Cut the banana and add to pot.

5. In a separate frying pan, heat ghee and add the cashews and raisins to it, making it golden brown. Add this to pot.

6. Take ½ cup of the milk add to the pan to rinse ghee from frying pan. Add to pan.

7. Boil all items together until they are like a porridge. Dhal will appear to dissolve in the mix. Rice will soften and become mushy. During this process if too much water is boiling out, add ¼ cup at a time.

8. When it is done the mix should be pudding –like. It should not be a mass. It should not burn to the bottom of the pan. Take off flame and let sit so the flavors can mix. After ½ hour should be ready to eat. At this point, to moisten it add the remaining ½ cup milk- warmed.

**I have given this recipe label of low salt. I have not added any salt to this recipe. The salt would enter if the ghee/butter or nuts used have salt.

Total time to cook 30-45 minutes

Servings 10-12 (estimates – ½ cup servings)

Related Posts/Sites:
This recipe inspired by the one posted by Indianadoc in her blog post, Indian Potpourri-Recipes,Culture,Ethnicity: Naivedyam
Celebrating the Feminine Divine: Attukal Pongala in Kerala
Pongal Menu and Recipes list

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vatthal Kozhumbu

Vatthal Kozhumbu is a spicy south Indian vegan/vegetarian gravy

This is an updated version of the same recipe posted here.

Photo right: Vatthal Kozhumbu as a side dish with yogurt rice.

1/5 block Imli (tamarind) soaked in 1 cup water
30-40 sundakkai vathals (or as per your taste)***
Pinch uncooked chenna (or toor) dhal (about 35 pieces)
2 red dried crushed chilies
2 green chilies cut lengthwise
Pinch ING (Asafetida)
10 curry leaves (or more as per your taste)

2 tbspn oil
pinch mustard seeds
Pinch vendhyam (
Fenugreek seeds) (about 10 seeds)
2 tsp sambar powder
Pinch turmeric
Salt to taste (I used about ¼ tsp)

2 cups water
1 to 4 tsp rice flour


  1. Take a golf ball size of dried block imli (tamarind) and soak in warm/hot water while doing other steps.
  2. Take a saucepan that can fit 3-4 cups water, make sure it is totally dry. Heat on stovetop, put in vatthals and dry fry alone until a nice aroma comes. They may turn brown, but do not blacken. Take out of pan and set aside.
  3. While the pan is heating, if able to multi-task, collect ingredients 3,4,5,6,7 in a small bowl.
  4. After removing vatthals from dry pan onto a plate, put the pan back on the stove. Add 2 tsp oil. The pan would be very hot, so when putting in the mustard seeds, the probably will immediately pop. Add the ingredients from the bowl and stir immediately.
  5. Before adding imli water at this point, make sure the imli has been properly soaked and squeezed so that the juice has come from imli and the water is brown. If not practiced at this, it is necessary to soak imli for 15 minutes or so before starting recipe so this water is available to pour in at this moment. (After doing several times, it is not necessary to use a strainer. It is possible to take the bowl with imli and pour over pot itself leaving the pieces in the bowl.)
  6. While the water is boiling, add the sambar power, turmeric and salt. Mix.
  7. While it is boiling take the additional two cups water, in this water place two heaping spoons of rice flour. Mix vigorously to remove clumps. The water will be a milky white. Add this water to the pot. (Or, place water and flour in a small blender and blend it into a puree this way. Sometimes I prefer this as it usually removes clumps.)
  8. Mix and leave to boil. As it boils, keep stirring it. As it heats up the rice flour should thicken the consistency of this soupy mixture into a thicker gravy consistency. This is the tedious part. Boiling it down to a thicker consistency takes time. If you want to speed it up, you can add 1-2 teaspoons more rice flour little by little. The tricky part is to make sure the rice flour doesn’t clump. Usually when put in hot water in teaspoons full, the rice flour tends to clump up. Take a spoon and bring these clumps along side of pan to ‘burst’ them. This should thicken up the gravy.
  9. When I was done, I measured the amount, it boiled down to 1 cup. It is not very thick, but it can be used as gravy. If you prefer thicker consistency, add more flour per your requirement.

This can be eaten on top of plain rice or as a side with curd rice.

If eaten as a main dish on rice, you may get 2-3 servings. If as a side dish double this. This will be a spicier fare than sambar because the thicker consistency power-packs the spices, this is why I prefer it with curd rice. If eaten as a main dish, adding chips or ghee to this may tone down the spices a bit.

If you can wait before devouring, the longer you let it set, the thicker it can become. After few hours it can be a thicker gravy, like a pudding consistency! Enjoy!

***If you can not get vatthal seeds, you can make this gravy without the seeds or you can substitute a vegetable of your choice (for instance, 10-15 pearl onions, 3 tomatoes diced into big cubes, eggplant/brinjal cubed, etc) or you can add extra curry leaves or peppercorns to make spicier, peppery gravy.

Here is a mango variety kozhumbu, Vidhya makes Mango Vatha Kozhambu, Pumpkin Vatha Kozhumbu, and drumstick vatha kozhumbu.