Gravy, Sizzling Tastebuds

Chinna Vengaya Kara Kuzhambu | Pearl Onion in Spicy Tamarind Gravy | Side dish for Rice

Kuzhambu has its special place in Tamilnadu cuisine. Different
from Sambhar in the sense that there are fewer veggies used and no use of
cooked dal, Kuzhambus prepared in the traditional way last for 3-4 days or even
a week under refrigeration due to its high tamarind content (acidic base). Vetha
Kuzhambu (made with sun dried veggies), Khara Kuzhambu (Spicy gravies with
tamarind base), Poricha Kuzhambu (dried spices ground with coconut)…are some
varieties of Kuzhambu. 

These are best had with hot steamed rice and a dry curry
and / or roasted papad. Rice (and its varieties) being the mainstay of
Tamilnadu cuisine, kuzhambus are rather popular as both filling and also
cooling (tamarind curries with less oil cool the body in severe tropical
climates). Today’s dish is Chinna
Vengaya Khara Kuzhambu
 – Pearl
onions in Spicy Tamarind Gravy – from the heartland of Tamilnadu.

Pearl onions or Sambhar Onions as they are called are difficult to
peel and clean ? No ! 

(Tip : Soak them in hot water for 20 mins, and you can
peel them off very easily). 

Yet, the flavour that these small pearl onions is
so much different than the normal red onions. This gravy keeps for 5-6 days
under refrigeration and in fact tastes better the next day with curd Rice(Yoghurt rice). Off to the recipe under Alphabet “C” for Alphabet BM
# 32.

Prep time : 15 mins | Cook time : 15 mins | Serves : 4

Pearl Onions in Spicy Tamarind Gravy



  • Small sambar onions/shallots- 2 cups- peeled and
  • Sesame oil- 2 TBSP
  • Asafoetida- a generous pinch
  • Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Tamarind – medium lemon sized roundel or 3-4 TBSP
    of Tamarind extract / paste
  • Jaggery – 1 TBSP (optional)

To Grind:

  • Sambar powder -2 tsp
  • Coconut grated – 2 TBSP
  • Dried red chillies- 3-4 pieces
  • Dry fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic – 2 nos (optional but recommended)

For Tempering:

  • Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • Channa Dal – 1/2 TBSP
  • Curry leaves – few


If you have run out of Sambhar Powder or Kuzhambu pudi, use 2 tsp
of Madras Curry Masala.

Addition of Garlic is optional, but it enhances the taste.

Alternate veggies you can add in place of or along with onions are
drumstick, Yam, brinjal .


Soak Tamarind in warm water for 15 mins. Squeeze the extract and
keep aside : you should have about 1/4 cup of medium thick extract.

Roast all the ingredients except coconut & Sambhar Powder
under the “To grind” table. Cool. Grind with 4-8 TBSP of water and
coconut to a thickish paste.

In a deep bottomed pan, add the oil. Splutter mustard seeds, curry
leaves, channa Dal, hing, turmeric, onions and saute till the pearl onions turn
pinkish and translucent. Add the ground paste and saute for 4 -8 mins till the
raw smell disappears. 

Now add 1/2 cup of water, salt and cover and cook 6-8 mins till
the onions turn soft but not mushy . 

Now add the tamarind gravy and cook again for 4-6 mins till the
gravy leaves oil on the sides. If using jaggery add now. 

Simmer on low-medium heat till the desired consistency is
obtained. Drizzle 3-4 tsp more sesame oil once done. 

Serve with hot steamed rice or even yoghurt rice. Tastes best when
made ahead of any meal and rested for few hours.



Logo courtesy : Preeti

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 32



  1. am drooling here!!! love kaara kuzhambu.. so tongue tickling..


  2. virunthu unna vaanga

    wow drooling dear… my favorite…

  3. Gravy look delicious and tasty

  4. We can have this curry on a regular basis and still long for it. Delicious and spot on for rice or as dipping for bread.

  5. cookingwithsapana

    Onion curry looks tasty , we too prepare this curry with slightly different spices!!

  6. Sandhya Karandikar

    YUM YUM YUM is the only thing I can think of.

  7. My h loved chinna vengayam sambhar 🙂 this kozhambu looks super delicious i might give this try 🙂

  8. Looks very inviting..I love such gravies…

  9. Chef Mireille

    love the rich color of this curry – must be so flavorful

  10. The Pumpkin Farm

    what a lovely click, this looks yummy, i love the pearl onions in sambhars, but never had it in this form

  11. I cant imagine curries without small onion they r so flavorful and so yum.

  12. Priya Suresh

    Fingerlicking gravy, love to enjoy with a bowl of rice,love it to the core.

  13. Perfect combo woth appam…love this

  14. Such a flavorful dish.. Lovely clicks.

  15. Gayathri Kumar

    I love this kulambu so much. Can have it any day with papad or appalam. Looks so nice…

  16. vaishali sabnani

    The tamarind sauce sounds so yummy and I always go out of my way to get these pearl onions…I know they taste wonderful.

  17. Sounds very flavorful!

  18. One of my favs and perfect with steamed rice and a small dollop of ghee 🙂

  19. Flavorful dish..Looks yummy.

  20. Sandhya Ramakrishnan

    Chinna vangayam is my favorite and it makes the kara kuzhambu so flavorful…

  21. Suma Gandlur

    Full of flavor. I am guessing that it can be done with sambhar powder alone since it contains the other items you mentioned under grind, right?

  22. Foodiliciousnan

    You have my mouth watering! I love kara kuzhambu and i love sambhar onions. Somehow, I never made these together! And great tip about peeling theese by soaking in hot water. Did not know it

  23. I can have this idli, dosa any thing mouthwatering.

  24. I love this. I love sour and spicy so will the girls. Thanks a lot this will feature in my kitchen soon. 🙂

  25. Saraswathi Ganeshan

    Yummyilicious and fingerlicking gravy, love to enjoy with a bowl of rice.

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