• Dr. Mohan Dewan assisted by Adv. Shubham Borkar

When it comes to food, the name of a dish holds meaning beyond just identification. The name of a dish can give insight into the history behind it, the ingredients used, or even the cultural significance it holds. In this series of blogs, we will explore the history behind famous Indian dishes.

Ganesh Chaturthi, an auspicious Hindu festival, is one of the widely celebrated festivals with utmost devotion to Lord Ganesh in many states in India and even outside the country. The festival, although having similar connotations across India, has slight variations in rituals and traditions as per each region; however, the festive feasting is a common thread that binds devotees together.

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In Tamil Nadu, one dish that takes center stage during Ganesh Chaturthi is Puli Kozhambu, (‘Puli’ meaning tamarind) a tangy and flavorful tamarind-based curry known for its complex flavors and aromatic spices that is not only a gastronomic delight but also a symbol of the rich culinary heritage of South India.

Referred to as "Puli Kozhambu" or "Tamarind Curry," this curry dish, which can also be found in Sri Lankan cuisine, is a blend of tangy, spicy, and savoury notes, achieved through the use of ingredients like tamarind, spices, and fresh herbs.

Preparation of Puli Kozhambu:
  1. Preparing the Tamarind Paste:
    • Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 15 minutes, ensuring it softens.
    • Squeeze and extract the tamarind juice, discarding the pulp and seeds. Set the tamarind extract aside.
  2. Cooking the Dal and Vegetables:
    • Pressure cook the tuvar dal (pigeon peas) until it becomes soft and mushy. Set it aside.
    • In a separate pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds. Allow them to splutter.
    • Add fenugreek seeds, asafoetida, dried red chilies, and curry leaves and sauté for few minutes.
    • Add chopped onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions turn translucent.
    • Add the chopped eggplant, drumstick pieces, and green chilies and sauté for few minutes.
    • Add the chopped tomato and cook until it becomes soft and mushy.
    • Add turmeric powder and sambar powder, and sauté for another minute.
  3. Preparing the Tamarind Curry:
    • Add the tamarind extract to the pan and bring it to a boil.
    • Let it simmer until the raw smell of tamarind disappears and the mixture thickens.
    • Add the cooked and mashed tuvar dal to the curry. Mix well.
    • Add salt and chickpeas (if using) and let it simmer for a few more minutes.
  4. Tempering the Curry:
    • In a separate small pan, heat a teaspoon of oil and add mustard seeds.
    • Once the mustard seeds splutter, pour the tempering over the curry.
    • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
Puli Kozhambu is typically served hot with steamed rice, accompanied by a dollop of ghee, which elevates the combined taste of tamarind with the nutty flavor of ghee. Dishes like papad or fried vegetables are common accompaniments for added texture and flavor.

Puli Kozhambu is more than just a culinary delight; it's a cultural treasure that has been passed down through generations, embodying the essence of South Indian cuisine and the spirit of celebration.


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