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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Tri-color Mini Peppers, Onions, Black Nightshade Berries (Manathakkali) Kaara Kuzhambu

Tri-color Mini Peppers, Onions, Black Nightshade Berries (Manathakkali) Kaara Kozhambu

Chettinad Kaara Kuzhambu is absolutely mouth-watering. I've only had it in restaurants in India, so, I am not sure if that was authentic or not. But, I memorized the taste. Or rather, the taste imprinted itself in my memory, making me salivate if I consciously think about this particular dish.

My recipe here is arrived at by trial-and-error, based on the recipe my mom sent across and other recipes sampled around the web. As my mom jokingly says, much like there are only a handful of plots but infinite number of stories, there are a handful of recipes with infinite styles of cooking the same. So, the recipe here is just what suits my tastes at this time, not authentic Chettinad cuisine.

Sometimes, I find packaged dried manathakkali aka Black Nightshade or Sunberry (Solanum nigrum) at Indian stores and I stock up. These packaged berries are usually soaked in brine and buttermilk and then dried so they have a mild salty spicy flavor infused. I love the way they taste once reconstituted in sauces like kuzhambu. This is certainly an optional ingredient, but, sometimes, this is the sole ingredient I add to this kuzhambu.

6 to 8 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped
½ medium red onion, diced or sliced
¼ cup chopped broccoli stems
¼ cup celery, chopped
A small wedge of red cabbage, chopped
4 to 6 tricolor mini peppers, chopped
1 Tbsp dried Black Nightshade berries aka Manathakkali
6 to 10 curry leaves (Murraya Koenigii)
5 cups water

2 Tbsp Sambar Powder - either homemade or storebought (I like MTR™ brand)
1 tsp red chili powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar
4 Tbsp nước me chua Tamarind cooking sauce (aka Sour Soup Mix)
salt to taste

1 tsp ghee or gingelly oil
¼ tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp urad dal


  1. Heat oil in a pot, add the garlic and onions and sautee till aromatic; then add the curry leaves and Black Nightshade berries and stir well; then add the rest of the veggies
  2. Stir in all the spices, add 5 cups of water, cover and allow to simmer at medium low heat till flavors develop and veggies are cooked; turn off heat and add the tempering
  3. In a small pan, do the tempering: hear the oil, when shimmering, add the urad dal, when it turns brown add the cumin seeds and the mustard seeds; when mustard seeds pop remove from heat and garnish the kuzhambu with the tempering
  4. Serve warm with basmati rice

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