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Recipe |Tamarind based recipes aka Kara Kuzhambu and Puli Kaichal – When technology gets the better of you

14 December 2015 One Comment

puli kaichal and kara kuzhuambu recipes

Always take a picture for everywhere you go; if you don’t, then all you just lost was the precious memories and moments” ―Inspiracreatiflife.

It wasn’t too long ago that the only time I would pick up my phone was to just receive calls or send messages.

I am not a tech-savvy person, given a choice I would rather grind my spices old-fashioned way using mortal and pestle than switching on my blender.

I do operate my microwave occasionally and slide in a CD to listen to songs sometimes. But then, if I can get my children to do the task for me, all the better 🙂

To me, my dslr (which took years to get used to) is irreplaceable as far as food photography is concerned. But there are places I cannot carry my slr to shoot and miss capturing many memorable moments.

From the time I started taking up commercial food styling projects, I have been writing bout my experiences and happenings during the shoots on Lite Bite. And it used to be so cumbersome to lug around the much bulkier dslr along with bags of props and other stuff required for the shoot.

Finally technology got the better of me and I slowly shifted to carrying my cell phone to click candid shots on the sets.

This small, portable and easy-to-use device did save me a lot of embarrassing moments when I wanted to cheekily squeeze in, pushing hundreds of co-workers on the sets to click a few candid shots of celebrities showing off the food I styled. I am slowly learning to harness the power of my phone’s camera to record memories.

I was really surprised when I received a mail from well known brand ‘ASUS’ asking me to try their latest smartphone.

We at ASUS have been following your work for some time now and we believe this product will further add value to your blogging experiences. With the 0.3 seconds, Auto focus laser capabilities, we believe it is a great device for blog photography.” The mail read.

Me, trying out a gadget…sounds weird. But, then if the device is good for food photography…why not.” I was thinking aloud, reading & replying to their mail.

Recipe |Kara Kuzhambu and Puli Kaichal

I received this beautiful smartphone Zenfone 2 Laser from ASUS the other day. I opened the box, checked the product and kept it over the newspaper where a picture of mine (styled for The Park) was published.

As expected, I did not touch the phone till my children arrived from school and started to explore it.

Mom, this is so pretty, I liked the bright cherry red colour. It is sleek and light-weight, you can conveniently carry this to your next shoot.” daughter smiled and told to me, inspecting the features of the smartphone.

Now you should open an Instagram account too, mom. Sharing pictures from smartphone to various social media networks is more streamlined and easy.” my gadget savvy son informed, tweaking the settings and features on the new Zenfone.

Well, I was holding back the temptation of opening one another social media account for long…but failed to do so.

Here is my Instagram Handle …do hop over and join.

The same evening, I was sitting in my balcony sipping black tea and checking my food photographs published in the magazine I work for.

I placed the book on a plank and clicked this picture with the phone…Hmm…I liked the colours and clarity of image.

Recipe |Kara Kuzhambu and Puli Kaichal

My food pictures published in magazine.

I came to know that the 13-megapixel rear camera in this smartphone is best when shooting over short distances. It captures plenty of information from the subject and focuses quickly within a reasonable close shooting distance. Quick focusing and the ability to capture natural colour of food without flash in closed environment is spot on.

Not bad…a little knowledge about composition, a bit of post processing and you have a great picture to share from your smartphone. I can keep the precious moments from running away with this small hero!

I am yet to explore the inbuilt post processing options in the phone, which surely will help perk up my photographs.

Kara kuzhuambu and Puli Kaichal was on menu for lunch and I started clicking the food with my smartphone.

Here are the two recipes and the pictures clicked with Zenfone…

1. Spicy-Tangy Curry aka Kara Kuzhambu

Recipe |Kara Kuzhambu and Puli Kaichal

Phone click

Kara Kulambu, Puli kulumbu or Vathal Kulumbu is a spicy and tangy tamarind based curry. Dried or fresh vegetables are simmer in tamarind sauce spiked up with a blend of various Indian spices.

Brinjal, drumsticks, shallots (small onions), garlic or dried herbs and vegetables are normally preferred to make this Kara Kulambu.


(serve 3)

  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 4-5 garlic pearls
  • 1 tbsp dried sunberries (manatakkali)
  • 1 tsp red chilly powder
  • 1 tsp. jaggery
  • 1 tsp. rice flour
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste

To grind;

  • 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp Bengal gram
  • 1 tsp black gram
  • 1/4 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 3-4 black peppercorn


  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 dried red chilly
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • Few curry leaves


Dry roast Bengal gram (channa dal), black gram (dhuli urad dal), coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and black peppercorns in a pan for 5-6 minutes on medium heat.

Grind the roasted spices into fine powder.

Dissolve tamarind paste in 3 cups of water and add salt, red chilly powder, turmeric powder in it.

Heat a wok or kadai and splutter mustard seeds in it.

Add sun berries and fry it till they turn dark brown in colour. Remove the fried sun berries from oil.

Add dried broken red chilly, curry leaves and garlic pearls in the remaining oil and sauté for a minute.

Pour tamarind water and boil it for 10 minutes on medium heat.

Take 3 tbsp water in a small bowl and add rice flour in it and mix well.

Add ground spice powder, jaggery, rice water and simmer it for another 4-5 minutes.

Take the Kara kuzhambu off the heat and serve it with plain rice or Idlies.

2. Spicy Tamarind preserve aka Puli Kaichal

Recipe |Kara Kuzhambu and Puli Kaichal

Phone click

Puli Kaichal is a ready-mix spicy tamarind persevere used to make the most popular South Indian recipe called Puliodharai or Puliyogare.

The preserve has a long shelf life and is often preferred as travel food. The preserve stays good for more than 2 months when cooked and stored in refrigerator. Puliodharia is my t0-go food when I am hard pressed for time.


(15-20 servings)

  • 500 gms Tamarind
  • 1/2 cup Sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup roasted groundnuts
  • 2 tsp. Red chilly powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste


  • 8-10 Red chilly
  • 1 tbsp Bengal gram
  • 1 tbsp. Black gram
  • 1 tsp. Mustard seeds
  • A few Curry leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. Asafoetida powder
  • Salt to taste

To grind;

  • 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp. Bengal gram
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds

Method; Soak tamarind in 2 cups of water for 1-2 hours. Blend soaked tamarind to get a thick paste.

Dry roast coriander seeds, Bengal gram and fenugreek seeds till they turn brown in colour and grind into fine powder.

Take a large vessel and add tamarind paste, salt, red chilly powder, turmeric powder and combine well.

Heat a wok or kadai and splutter mustard seeds in it.

Add roasted groundnuts, Bengal gram, black gram, curry leaves, asafoetida powder and broken dried red chilies in the kadai and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Pour spice mixed tamarind extract in the kadai and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes or till it gets thickened.

Add ground coriander-Bengal gram-fenugreek powder in the cooked tamarind paste and take the kadai off heat.

Let the Puli Kaichal cool before storing it into a gas or ceramic jar. Mix a teaspoon of this puli kaichal in hot rice and serve.

This tamarind preserve stays good for many days and is a great travel food.

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One Comment »

  • Raammurti narasimhan said:

    I love these too especially on chilly days or in monsoon…..thank you.

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