Monday, June 11, 2018

Poondu Mandi Kuzhambu - Spicy Garlic Gravy

On our recent visit to our daughter, we chanced to have lunch in an Indian restaurant that listed many Chettinad type of dishes in their menu. While we all ordered, the staff who served tried to detail to us about their dishes. I had then wanted to try their Poondu Kuzhambu that he suggested to have with steamed rice. That tasted very good and they willingly adjusted the spice level to our liking. Their serving portion was quite large and we packed the same with us.
This was a unique preparation that uses charred tomatoes as base and the water we usually discard after rinsing rice, the 'mandi' or 'kazhuneer' (as in rinsed starchy residue from cleaning rice) to tcook the gravy.
We liked it so much that we wanted to try making the same at home. I checked with a few friends who are from Chettinad, for the recipe. One of them guided me to a blog that had authentic Chettinad style poondu kuzhambu, but it was not the same. I found a video of the preparation, which was nearly the same; it had shallots in the recipe, which was not in the dish we had tasted. I then formulated my own recipe for the kuzhambu and tried to replicate the dish that we had tasted in the restaurant. I share that here today. This may not be an authentic recipe from the region, but a delicious dish, nonetheless.

Mandi is the residual water while rinsing and cleaning rice. Give one brisk rinse in the first round, not removing much starch away. Wash your second and third rinses thoroughly getting as much starch residue as possible. You need to collect this rinse in a bowl. The residue of rice starch will settle on the bottom of the bowl. You may not need all of the water. Carefully, strain some liquid without pouring away the 'mandi’. I will refer to this liquid (kazhuneer) as mandi in the recipe.

Poondu Mandi Kuzhambu

(makes 400 ml medium thick kuzhambu/ served us 4 good servings)

15 cloves of garlic
3  medium tomatoes
(if possible, char the tomatoes over a low flame and remove the charred skin. Not compulsory, but the taste is enhanced. I used the roti jali as mine had small perforations) (otherwise sauté the tomatoes in a pan to a coarse pulp)
1 medium red onion sliced finely
1 &1/2 cup +1/4 cup mandi (divided)*
2 tablespoons gingelley oil / nallennai
1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons raw peanuts (optional and you may replace by cooked chick peas)
Salt to taste

Grinding spices:
Soak in the *1/4 cup mandi the following for 10 minutes and then grind to a paste using the mandi (you may use some more from the 1&1/2 cups, if needed)
4 cloves garlic
4-5 dry red chillis (depending on heat of the chillis) (the kuzhambu is a slightly spicy dish)
1 small gooseberry size tamarind ( if the tomatoes are too sweet, up this a little)

While grinding, half way through, add the coriander powder and the tomatoes. Grind them to a smooth, thick liquid pulp. Keep aside.

 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds and curry leaves ; no mustard seeds are added
(since the cumin seeds are added in the beginning, it does not require extra oil)
Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add the cumin seeds. Toss a bit and add the cloves of garlic and sliced red onion. Sauté until onions are  transparent.
Add the peanuts (or chick peas)
Stir the mandi to mix the sedimented rice starch to a uniform liquid.
Add salt , turmeric powder and 1 cup of the mandi, cover and cook until the garlic are soft.
Add the ground pulpy mixture, adjust the liquid by adding some more mandi.
Simmer the kuzhambu for about 15 minutes so the raw taste of garlic, tamarind and red chillis in the liquid subside. 
Add the rest of the mandi and cook further  until the kuzhambu has thickened.

Add the curry leaves and chopped fresh coriander leaves to garnish.
Serve with hot steamed rice or as a side dish for Dosais and Idlis. This kuzhambu can be kept over and had for another day also. If refrigerated it can be kept for up to three days. To reheat, you may add some more of the rice rinsed water or plain water which will thin the consistency a bit.

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