Vathal Kulambu by Sharmila Venkat Print

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Veg, spicy, main dish, Tamilian


Sharmila Venkat

I was born and brought up in a traditional Telugu Brahmin family in Tamilnadu. I did my Masters in IT, and am currently settled in USA.  Cooking and entertaining are my passions. I want to share my recipes, so I have created Husband Venkat is a busy IT person and my best critic. I am a busy mom of two adorable kids, but do find time for my other hobbies: music, photography, travelling, gardening and cookbooks.

My memories still wander around my Nanamma's (father's mother in Telugu) lovely home, where her kitchen opened into a beautiful wide backyard with Tulasi madam (place where Tulasi plant is worshiped), hibiscus plants, and coconut trees. In 1990's I spent most of my childhood at my grandmother's.


My Nanamma's home was always busy with guests and relatives. She never used to get tired cooking for a large crowd. She was filled with energy and her kitchen was a lovely place to sit and have long chats. I come from a Telugu Brahmin family settled in Tamilnadu, so my Nanamma was an expert in both Telugu and Tamilian cuisine. Being a very strict and principled person, my Nanamma never allowed anyone inside her kitchen without completing the morning rituals such as bathing, praying, etc.  Early in the morning, my cousins and I used to wait for her famous filter coffee, which would mesmerize the whole house with its aroma.

I learnt this authentic Tamilian recipe by watching my Nanamma in her kitchen. Nobody could make it as tasty as her.

Vathal cooked


Not many people make this traditional, medicinal curry these days.

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes




  • Sundakkai (Turkey berry) or manathakali vathal (black nightshade) - 0.5 cup

Sundakkai's scientific name is Canthium inerme; Manathakkali vathal is Solanum nigrum.

Veggies used
They are prepared by soaking them in sour yoghurt and salt. Later they are sun dried till crisp and dry. Manathakkali is high in vitamins and has many medicinal properties. It is used as a cardiac tonic. It corrects disorders of nutrition. The fruit of the plant serves as an effective laxative and improves appetite. Sundakkai is good for skin ailments and liver disorders. It has the medicinal values for increasing the appetite and relieves colds. Root and leaves are used for waist cramp, traumatic injury and gastric pain, and as antitussive, amenorrhea and analgesic. It is also good for chronic coughs.


If you don't have manathakkali vathal, you can use fried bitter gourd or okra.

  • Medium sliced onions - 1 cup
  • Tomato puree - 1 cup
  • Thick Tamarind puree - 1 cup (from a big lemon size tamarind)
  • Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  • Jaggery or cane sugar- 2 tbsp
  • Water - 0.5 cup
  • Oil - 3-4 tbsp
  • Vathal kulambu powder - 2 tsp
  • Salt to taste


For Tempering

  • Mustard seeds - 0.33 tsp
  • Fenugreek Seeds 0.33 tsp
  • Red chillies- 3-4
  • Curry leaves- a handful
  • Asafoetida- 0.33 tsp


To make vathal kulambu powder, if needed.

  • Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
  • Red gram dal (thoor dal) - 2 tsp
  • Gram dal (chana dal) - 2 tsp
  • Cumin seed - 1 tsp
  • Sesame seed - 1tsp
  • Roasted gram dal (pottu kadalai in Tamil) - 2 tsp
  • Red dry chillies - 4-5
  • Asafoetida - 0.5 tsp



Vathal kulambu powder

Roast each ingredient separately in medium heat.  When you roast the dals, make sure that you roast them until they give out their distinctive aroma.

After cooling, grind them all together into a powder.

You can increase the amount you make, maintaining the proportions, and store the power.

Vathal kulambu

In a deep bottom frying pan, add 2-3 tbsp oil and fry the manathakali vathal till aroma rises.  Remove it from the pan and keep separately.

In the same pan fry onions and add tamarind puree, tomato puree, vathal kulambu powder, salt, turmeric, and water, and bring to boil.

Once it has come to a good boil, add the vathal you had set aside, also add jaggery and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Temper this curry with mustard, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, red chillies and asafoetida.

© Sharmila Venkat 2009

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Pratibha   |2009-01-14
Hi Sharmila,that was a lovely post to read. I like the old photograph - has such
The recipe looks mouth watering. Am going to try it for sure. Will
be visiting your site from here too.
Sai   |2009-10-03
Appreciate the affection you have towards your family. Well, the vathal
kuzhambu is filled in with the same affection, great dish!!!
sajni   |2010-03-03
hi there i made the vathal khozhambu powder as per ur recipie it was awesome.
this is the first time i am making this curry and everyone loved it.
Deepa Sivakumar   |2010-09-07
Hi Sharmila, Thanks for the recipe. I have been searching for an authentice
recipe.. YOu have not mentioned for how long we have to boil the tamarind, I
mean do we need to boil till the oil leaves the tamarind. Can you please give me
more details..
Sharmila   |2010-09-07
Dear Deepa, once the onions are fried, bring the tamarind to boil and add tomato
puree and other items. Again boil till they mixture blends well. not necessary
that it should leave oil.If you wait till the gravy leaves oil, the gravy would
become very thick.
Deepa Sivakumar   |2010-09-08
Thanks for the response. Let me try
JK   |2011-02-25
Scientific name of Turkey Berry is Solanum torvum
Canthium inerm is a tree
which is native to Southern Africa
Karthica   |2011-06-10
Cant thank you enough for this recipe, Sharmila. Only change I made is, to
double the Red Dry Chillies quantity just to suit our taste buds. Awesome!!!
Balasubramanian   |2012-04-15
Hi Sharmila,
Many thanks for the recipe. I have made it and turn out to be one
of my best dishes!
Bala, KL-Malaysia
shanthi   |2012-04-16
Post your comments here.
Hi, thanks, I was looking for this recipe. I
get vattal from shops in packets. It is soaked in curd and dreid, but it is full
of salt! so what do I do? Do I wash it off?
Sharmi   |2012-04-16
@ Shanthi, No do not wash off the salt, It is sun dried and if you wash it
off the effort of making a vattal will be wasted, when you fry and add it to
the curry the saltyness will reduce.
Anonymous   |2012-07-10
Nice, THanks
kanimozhi   |2012-10-18
Don't give cup measurement.Say 2 tomatoes 1 onion etc.I am a beginner and my try
became a disaster.
Dr.P.G.RAJESWARI   |2012-10-31
how to prepare it with raw sundakkai?   |2012-12-25
Hi Sharmila..
I was searching for a good vathakulambu recipe..I think I must
try urs ..The pic is so tempting ..
But I dont have manathakkali vathal,so
going to try with okra..Hope it will turn good..Will put a link on my blog if u
dont have any objection .. will write to u soon ...
Sundar   |2013-03-13
Hi Sharmila,

I made this for my wife and kids
My wife said it reminded her
(mom's mom) who icidentaly used to live in chennai. It even brought some
In her eyes.

Thanks for posting this

god bless

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comments here.
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