Thursday, November 14, 2013

Soul Food / Comfort food - Vethakoyambu with a side of cluster beans and green gram

Authentic "vethal" koyambu is made with vethal's, sun dried vegetables and berries like Cluster beans, bitter gourd, bitter variety of wild berries called shundakai & marthangalikkai in Tamil, I have no idea what their botanical names are. 

During harvest, they are cleaned, cut, salted, dried and stored away to be used on a rainy day.

Vethakoyambu can also be made with broken pieces of pappadam or with fenugreek seeds (Mendhiyam).

When we don't find an ingredient we need, we look for an alternative ingredient available to us.  So here goes my dysfunctional cooking with vethakoyambu made using with fresh vegetables.

Vethakoyambu with onions, capsicum and tomatoes

- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 or 2 capsicum(green pepper) diced
- 1 large tomato diced.
- 1/4 cup precooked tur dal(skinned and halfed lentils)
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste or pulp diluted in 2-3 cups of water
- 1 or 2 tbsp Vethakoyambu powder from grand sweets (or any brand of sambhar powder or home made) depends on the spice level you want.
- 1/4 tsp Asafetida
- Turmeric powder and salt to taste

To Sauté:
- 1-2 tbsp sesame oil(or any cooking oil),
- 1 tsp mustard seeds,
- 2 tbsp chana dal(black gram dal),
- 2 tbsp tur dal(skinned and split Pigeon peas),
- 6-8 curry leaves

For thickening:
- 1 tbsp rice flour (can substitute with besan/chick peas flour) and dilute in 1/4 cup of water. I use a whisk to avoid lumps from forming.
(Double the quantity of thickening mixture if you don't have precooked dal.  Never used dal pre- grand sweets Vethakoyambu powder days.  Its very spicy but tasty and the dal helps.)
  1. Take oil in a deep wok, or vessel, add the dals and fry until the oil starts to froth, add mustard seeds and allow them pop. then add the curry leaves and stir well.  They will sizzle..
  2. Add vethakoyambu powder, turmeric, and asafetida and stir well.
  3. Add onions, stir; add capsicum, stir. 
  4. Let it cook for a 4-5 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally
  5. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 additional minutes.
  6. Then add the diluted tamarind and bring to a rolling boil.  Lower heat and let boil for an additional 5-8 minutes until the raw taste of tamarind is completely gone.
  7. Add the precooked tur dal softened in 2-4 tbsp of water and bring back to a rolling boil
  8. Finally add the diluted rice flour, stirring continuously, allow it to thicken for 2-4 minutes
  9. Let it boil for a few more (5-6 minutes) in medium heat. 
  10. The more you boil and thicken the koyambu the tastier it gets and the longer it will keep.
  11. Take a few tablespoons of koyambu and mix with steamed rice, add a few drops of sesame oil to elevate the flavors.  .

Cluster beans and green gram vegetable side dish

- 1 lb fresh cluster beans, with the edges removed and cut to inch long pieces OR 1 bag of frozen cluster beans(Guvar, available at Indian stores in the US)
- 1 lb Fresh green Bengal gram in pod(remove from pod) OR 1/2 bag of frozen green chana(available in Indian stores) OR 1/4 cup green or brown dry chana soaked overnight
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- salt to taste

 For tadka(sauté):
- 2-3 tsp oil
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp udid dal

  1. In a wok, heat the oil, add mustard seeds and udid dal, let the mustard splutters and dal is brown.
  2. Reduce heat, add the cluster beans and whole green chana, stir well
  3. Add turmeric and salt, sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of water cover and cook until the vegetable is cooked but still crunchy, the raw taste gone.  It should take ~10-12 mins to be done, 
  4. Remove cover, stir well and continue to cook until the oil starts to glisten.
  5. It tastes good as a side dish for sambhar and rasam, too.
My dysfunctional cooking improvised mom's ultimate comfort food of pappadam vethakoyambu and parappu thogayal (lentil chutney) to another great combination of mixed vegetable vethakoyambu with cluster beans curry. The compliment each other beautifully and have become our comfort food.

Cluster beans are slightly bitter and the green chana is slightly bland, together they make a tasty dish.  We love it & our girls love it, too.  It makes a great side with more(buttermilk) koyambu, too.