Tag Archives: coconut gravy

Pongal in Cambodia with AVIAL!


my pongal platter


  • In the plate: Cooked Rice, left bowl – Mangai Sambar (Raw Mango Sambar) , next bowl – Thoothuvalai Rasam (SOLANYMTRILOBATUM Soup) , right corner – Sarkkarai Pongal (Jaggery Rice) ;
  • three of the side dishes – up left corner – Pappalikkai Poriyal (Raw Papaya Dry Vegetable Curry), middle – Keerai Kootu (Spinach Stew) and next – Avial (Mixed Vegetables in coconut and curd gravy)

Wishing you all a very happy and success filled NEW YEAR 2013! Thankyou for being such wonderful readers. For me.. each one of you have made this world a delightful arena to share my thoughts.

For those who would have wondered why there has been no news for quite some time.. I was busy planning, listing, shopping and packing my groceries, clothes and other necessary and unnecessary stuff to carry to my next destination!

Leaving some beautiful memories behind in Thoothukudi and Chennai (apart from those special moments I’ve brought with me..), here i am, in my new place, slowly trying to settle down.  New house, New school for my daughter, New shopping area, New vegetable market,  everything new, except for the same old cooking….. idlies, dosais, chutney, sambar, rice, kuzhambu and the normal list of courses that follow in line! But a new kitchen.. with bare minimal utensils, those of mine yet to arrive from the Netherlands.. I have managed a few clicks this time!!

It is was Pongal time! Sankaranthi to other states and Thai Pongal to Tamilnadu!! (https://dosaikal.com/2012/01/13/thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival/)

In this new new new life, number one – I mis-calculated the date of Pongal and thought it was on the 15th of January. When I called home to ask for the vegetables for AVIAL – a special down south vegetable dish to make on Pongal day, I had a shock that it was actually the festival Pongal the same day!! Number two – With some other programmes to attend, I decided I would celebrate Pongal on 15th… not to stop the rice boiling ritual that is exclusive part of Pongal celebration. The word ‘Pongal’ itself means ‘to boil’. Paal Pongiyaacha? means has the milk boiled? Here, the sweet jaggery rice made on the day of the festival Pongal is called Sarkkarai Pongal meaning sweet pongal.

There would be two Paanais/vessels. One with plain white rice and water and the other with plain white rice and when it boils, jaggery is added to make Sarkkarai Pongal – the sweet jaggery rice – the delicacy associated with the festival. When the new rice boils and spills over the paanai, women of the house say – ‘Pongalo Pongal’ in chorus. https://dosaikal.com/2012/01/13/thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival/

This time, instead of the pressure cooker pongal, I had brought a steel Paanai to make my Pongal celebration.

steel paanai and jaggery in the adjacent bowl


15th of January is the third day of the four day Pongal celebration. First day being Bhogi – cleaning of house and shedding away old unwanted things; the second day is the harvest festival or the thanksgiving to farmers – this Pongal day is the first day of the month of Thai; the third day is Maatu Pongal – thanksgiving to cattle that help in harvest; the fourth day is Kaanum Pongal – the Picnic Pongal!!

As such, when we were young, my mama (maternal uncle) would always ring us up early in the morning on Maatu Pongal day, to wish us Happy Maatu Pongal – a teaser for kids. So Mama, this time I go by your words… I truly celebrate Pongal on Maatu Pongal Day!

So now, in the capital of Cambodia – Phnom Penh, when I saw those sugarcane juice shops which extract fresh juice like those in chennai, I felt delighted… Now, i was in a country where I could buy sugarcane, which is an inseparable ingredient for the true taste of pongal festival. I bought two to keep on either sides of my house entrance.


and later, the transformation till it reached everyone’s taste buds…..


the way aachi cuts


Next, I had to hunt for those harvest vegetables … The traditional, indigenous ones grown inland! My grand plan was to make AVIAL – the humble yet classy dish of Tamilnadu and Kerala.

Avial is a sumptuous combination of all indigenous (ofcourse carrots and beans have become part of it) non-watery vegetables, harvested during the season… made to a semi gravy consistency with the addition of curds and coconut-chilli-cumin paste. Vegetables like ash guard, bottle guard are not used as they shed water while cooking and would hinder the consistency of the dish.

I went to the big kaaikari chandhai – vegetable market in Tamil.. which we had explored couple of days ago and got lost while searching a way to come out. Where all vegetables, fruits, unknown varieties of meat and fish (remember I am still a beginner especially a recently converted non-vegetarian!), freshly grated coconut and many small eateries serving various other unknown food varieties, which I need to explore in the near future!

the ones I could get


I found a few of those I needed … I could not get yam … wasn’t available. Even if they were, I have not yet learnt the differentiation! Others that I missed but can be added in Avial are Avarakkai – Hyacinth Beans, Murungaikkai-Drum sticks, Pudalangai-Snake Guard.

I was so happy to also find more and more of the tropical fruits that I used to love in Tamilnadu…


(bananas, guavas, sugarcane, papaya, tender coconut and jackfruit…  and Oh!! I missed those beautiful yellow mangoes kept in the fridge).

Now, before coming to the recipe of Avial… festive sweet of the day – my Sarkkarai Pongal- this time the authentic pacharisi (raw rice) and vellam (jaggery) in the pongal paanai, without the addition of split green gram. https://dosaikal.com/2012/01/13/thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival/

on the way


the special festive food –  mangai sambar and thoothuvalai rasam


Though delayed by a day, I tried making a simple feast meal with mangai -raw mango sambar (https://dosaikal.com/sambar/) and thoothuvalai rasam ( SOLANYMTRILOBATUM) a herb found in many kitchen gardens.. I got the dry powder from my naatu marundhu kadai- traditional tamil medicine shop.  (Rasam is a thin soup not used as an appetiser as popularized outside the south of India and abroad, but is a digestive soup. https://dosaikal.com/2011/10/14/thamizhar-virundhu-feast-of-the-tamils/). For the side dishes, Keerai/Spinach Kootu  (a stew of vegetables) and pappali kai/raw papaya poriyal (dry vegetable curry) and AVIAL.



  • mixed vegetables – carrots, beans, egg plant, chow chow\chayote squash, pumpkin, raw banana and potato – 2 to 2 1/2 cups – cut into long pieces
  • shallots – 6 no.s
  • yoghurt – 1 cup
  • grated coconut – 1 cup
  • green chillies – 3 no.s
  • cumin seeds – 2 tsp
  • oil (preferably gingelly oil) – 2 tsp
  • mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • dehusked black gram – 1 tsp
  • curry leaves – a few
  • turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • salt – to taste

vegetables cut long

coconut paste and yoghurt


Method of Preparation

  1. Wash and cut the vegetables into long pieces
  2. Steam the vegetables till done. I do it in a microwave steamer for about 8 minutes. Vegetables should not be mushy, but just right to stir well with the gravy
  3. Make a paste of grated coconut, cumin seeds and green chillies and keep aside
  4. Heat oil in a wide bottomed vessel; Let mustard seeds splutter, then add dehusked black gram and curry leaves
  5. Add the shallots and stir fry for a minute till they become opaque
  6. Now add the steamed vegetables and turmeric powder
  7. Usually turmeric powder can be added while the vegetables are cooked in pressure cooker. This helps the raw smell of turmeric powder go away faster. Since I steamed in microwave, I added the turmeric powder while stirring in the vegetables
  8. Stir for a while and add yoghurt and stir
  9. When yoghurt has blended well with the vegetable, add the ground paste and salt
  10. Let this cook till the vegetables are cooked well and absorbed  in the coconut and yoghurt gravy
  11. When a semi thick consistency is reached and the raw smell of turmeric and coconut has gone off, Avial is ready.



  1. Vegetables like egg plant or pumpkin might become mushy very quickly. It is better to cook them just right. When they cook again in the gravy, soft texture would arrive.
  2. Cooking the vegetables in coconut paste and yoghurt gravy and adding thaalippu/thadka/seasoning in the end can also be done. By this method, mustard seeds and oil would glow on top of Avial and the dish is better presented.
  3. Vadagam – sun dried onion balls (which contain mustard seeds, curry leaves and other seasoning imgredients) is added in the end instead of seasoning which gives Avial a remarkable flavour.  In the absence of vadagam, coarsely chopped shallots are fried dark brown in oil and added for nearly the same flavour.

Mor Kuzhambu/Buttermilk Curry


easy to digest – Tirunelveli Mor Kuzhambu


Mor Kuzhambu is a simple yoghurt curry. Mor means buttermilk and kuzhambu means gravy or curry in tamil language. In the north of India, the gravy made with yoghurt is called ‘Kadi’. Mor Kuzhambu looks like the north Indian ‘Kadi’, but the flavour of mor kuzhambu is enhanced by the ground coconut mixture and it is thinner in consistency. It is a really light gravy and very less or nil in pungent spices, which makes it easily digestible.

Vegetables like okra, long squash (lauki) or ash guard (white pumpkin or petha) are generally used in making this kuzhambu. Vadai (vada or deep-fried lentil balls) made fresh with soaked and ground kadalai paruppu/channa dal/bengal gram can also be used instead of vegetables to make mor kuzhambu.

When I was young, Mor Kuzhambu used to be our Sunday Lunch Special. Mostly, amma used to make ‘vadai potta mor kuzhambu’ or buttermilk curry with deep-fried lentil balls soaked in it. Sometimes, with vegetables.

 A few years ago, I had the splendid privilege of having aachi – my paternal grandmother and thatha – my grandfather come and stay with us for a while. When I wanted to cook something special for thatha, aachi suggested mor kuzhambu – one of his favourites and very easily digestible at any age.

Now, destiny had knocked my kitchen door to make me realise what I had missed so long.

I asked her to guide me. The step by step process of making mor kuzhambu…  the exotic aroma of grinding coconut with many more ingredients… the blended colour of buttermilk/beaten yoghurt with turmeric and the ground ingredients… the flavour of the vegetable cooked in this kuzhambu/gravy…. all made me relish the art of making mor kuzhambu and love tasting it too!

This is traditional tirunelveli style mor kuzhambu… thoothukudi mor kuzhambu might be different.

(Note: Amma’s mor kuzhambu is equally tasty… she always makes this mor kuzhambu she learnt from her mother-in-law – the same grand old lady of the household! I recollected this exact recipe from amma)

Mor Kuzhambu tastes best with ash gourd – vellai poosanikkai in tamil and petha in hindi.


vellai poosani/ash gourd


A few nutritional aspects of ash gourd –


Ash-gourd is loaded with nutrients. It’s an excellent source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin), and vitamin C. It is also rich in many minerals like calcium. Its high potassium content makes this a good vegetable for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Ash-gourd is alkaline in nature and hence has a cooling and neutralizing effect on stomach acids and as such used effectively for treating digestive ailments like hyperacidity, dyspepsia, and ulcers. Ash-gourd juice is a popular home remedy for peptic ulcers. Ash-gourd juice is also used to treat diabetes.

Ash-gourd is also useful in treating respiratory disorders like asthma, blood-related diseases, and urinary diseases like kidney stones




Mor Kuzhambu/Buttermilk Curry

 Ingredients (serves approximately 4)

  • cubed vellai poosani/ash guard – 2 cups
  • water – 1/4 cup to cook the vegetable
  • butter milk – beat 3 cups curds with 1/2 cup water together
  • turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp
  • salt – to taste
  • coriander leaves – for garnish
  • asafoetida powder – 1/4 tsp


cubed vegetable


Grind to Paste

  • freshly grated coconut (do not use desiccated or dried coconut) – 1/2 cup
  • pottukadalai/roasted channa dal (chutney dal) – 2 tbsp
  • minced ginger – 1 tsp
  • cumin Seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Green Chillies – 3 no.s (according to spice level of chillies)




 grind to paste


 mix with buttermilk



  • cooking oil – 2 tsp
  • mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • red chillies – 1 broken into two halves
  • curry leaves – a few


add yoghurt mixture into cooked vegetable



beautiful yellow colour


Method of Preparation

  1. Peel the skin, remove seeds and cube vellai poosani/ash gourd
  2. Heat oil in an iruppu chatti/ kadai and add mustard seeds
  3. When mustard seeds splutter, add red chilly and curry leaves
  4. Then add the cubed vegetable and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  5. Pour in 1/4 cup water and a pinch of salt; Cover and cook the vegetable in medium heat till done
  6. Beat the curds and water to make buttermilk
  7. In a wide bowl, add the ground paste, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, asafoetida and salt to buttermilk and mix well
  8. Pour this buttermilk mixture to the cooked vegetable in the iruppu chatti/kadai
  9. Stir gently in low heat till everything blends well
  10. While getting cooked, the raw yoghurt gravy transforms into a beautiful light yellow colour kuzhambu
  11. Keep stirring till the kuzhambu comes to boil
  12. Kuzhambu is done
  13. Do not increase heat or boil the gravy too much as the buttermilk will lose its consistency or curdle
  14. Add very little water if kuzhambu is too thick
  15. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves
  16. Serve hot with rice.


mor kuzhambu done



  1. Never add desiccated or frozen coconut – freshly grated coconut tastes best
  2. Yoghurt should be beaten well – this avoids quick curdling while cooked
  3. Always cook in sim or medium heat to avoid curdling
  4. Kuzhambu should be stirred gently
  5. Other vegetables like vendaikkai/okra, suraikkai/bottle gourd, vellarikkai/cucumber or poosanikkai/pumpkin taste good in mor kuzhambu.