Pavakka Vathal Kozhumbhu | Dried Bitter Gourd Spicy Curry

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Vathal kozhumbhu is a traditional and authentic dish from Tamil Nadu. Vathal translates to ‘Sun-dried’ vegetables. Vegetables like sundakkai(‘turkey berry’), manathakali( ‘sunberry’ or ‘wonder cherry’), pavaka(bitter gourd), chillies are usually sun-dried and made into vathal. These are used in the preparation of vathal kozhumbhu. A simple tangy and spicy curry is made with shallots which are cooked in tamarind juice and other spices. The main hero of vathal kozhumbhu is the vathal that is used in the dish. Very commonly used ingredient in vathal kozhumbhu is manathakali and sundakkai. Since I could not get both of these in market I went with what was available – bitter gourd(pavakkai vathal). The method of preparatio is exactly the same with any of the vathal. Optionally you can use fresh vegetables such as Brinjal or Ladies finger if you cannot find vathal any where!

Vathal kozhumbhu is a integral part of any full meals that you would order in a Tamil Nadu hotel. They serve it in small quantity which is to eaten with white rice just before you start eating sambar rice. I love vathal kozhumbu so much that I always end up taking second or sometimes third servings, I dont mind skipping sambar rice when I have vathal kozhumbhu. :D A simple pair of vathal kozhumbhu and sutta appalam(roastes papad not fried) would make you go wow! Simple pleasures in life indeed! Some recipes uses sambar powder in preparing vathal kozhumbu, but the authentic taste is got with a fresh ground vathal kozhumbhu powder. Do not try to compromise on this. Try out the authentic way to appreciate the dish.

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Here’s pavaka vathal kozhumbhu recipe-

Pavakka vathal/Dried bitter gourd – 1/4 cup(Use any vathal of your choice)
Shallots – 15-20 nos
Garlic cloves – 10 nos
Tamarind extract – lemon sized ball soaked in 1/2 cup hot water
Red chillie powder – 2 tspn
Gingelly Oil – 3 tbspn
Mustard seeds – 1 tspn
Dried red chilies – 3 nos
Curry Leaves – 1 sprig
Jaggery – 1/4 tspn
Asafoetida – 1/4 tspn
Salt to taste

To make vatha kozhumbhu powder-
Dried Red Chilli – 3nos
Pepper corns – 1 tsson
Rice – 1 tbspn
Coriander seeds – 1 tspn
Thoor dhal – 2 tspn
Urad Dal – 2 tspn

Method of Preparation:-

1. Dry roast ingredients mentioned under ‘to make vathal kozhumbhu powder’ one by one in a pan. Let it cool and grind into a fine powder. keep aside. If you plan to make vathal kozhumbhu often you can make this powder in bigger quantity and store in air tight container. They will keep good at room temperature for months.

2. In a pan heat oil. Roast dried bitter groud(or any other vathal that you are using) until it begins to change color. Do not brown it. Remove from oil and keep aside.

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3. Into the same oil, add mustard seeds and let it crackel. Add dried red chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves and wait till curry leaves splutter.


4. Next add garlic cloves and shallots and saute till raw smell of the shallots vanishes..


5. Add red chilie powder and 2 tbspn vathal kozhumbhhu powder prepared in step 1 along with salt to taste. Mix well.


6. Extract the juice from taramind. It has to be a thick extract.


7. Pour tamarind juice into the pan and give a good mix. Bring it to boil. Then simmer and let it cook for 10 mins on low flame.


8. Once the curry is thickened a bit add roasted vathal and let it cook for 5 mins.


9. Finally add jaggery, stir well and swtich off the flame. Adding jaggery will supress the bitterness in the vathal to an extent.


10. Authentic vathal kozhumbhu tastes best when paired with sutta appalam and plain rice. You can even have this kozhumbhu as side for curd rice, BLISS!

My Notes-
1. Use any vathal/sun dried vegetable for preparing vathal kozhumbu. Best are sundakkai and manathakali.
2. Tamarind extract has to be thick. So do not add more water. This curry is a thick spicy tangy curry and it has to be made that way.
3. To make Vatha Kuzhambu thick add 1 tspn of rice flour mixed with 1 tspn of water and add it to the kozhumbu after adding vathal.
4. If you cannot find dried vegetable/vathal, you can use fresh vegetables like drumstick, brinjal, ladies finger..




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2 Responses

  1. This has some of my favorite spices in it. You’ve convinced me to try it Jyothi, thank you!

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