Pagarkai Puli Kulambu

I remember so well, back in our college hostel this kulambu used to be served every Wednesday along with huge apalams and veg curries. We were a gang of eight friends and I was the only soul who used to enjoy it. The rest were not too fond of bitter-gourd. So this recipe goes to all who share my taste in food!




  • 3 pagarkai/bitter-gourds sliced and soaked in salt water
  • 10 chinna vengayam/shallots
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 4 dry red chilli
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • Few curry leaves
  • A small lemon size tamarind soaked in water
  • 3 tbsp gingelly oil
  • Salt to taste


  •  In a wok, pour oil and fry the pagarkai until it turn light golden brown. Move it to a side.
  • Add mustard, cumin, fenugreek seeds and dry chillies to the same oil. As it begins to splutter, add the shallots and garlic. Saute until the onions become transparent and slightly golden.
  • Now add the tomatoes and a little salt to the shallots. Saute including the pagarkai.
  • Once the tomatoes are cooked and the oil surfaces, add the curry leaves, chilli, coriander and turmeric powder. Give it a good mix.
  • Strain the tamarind and pour the concentrate.
  • Add two cups of water and salt. Let the kulambu boil and reduce to a consistency of your liking.

I prefer this Kulambu with apalams or vathal and an omelette. It also goes well with simple veggies like ladies finger or cabbage.


Poondu Kulambu

Those of you who have been reading my blog for sometime now would know how much I heart South Indian food, Tamil food in particular. This one is my all time favorite. Since dad was more of a Sambar fan, mum rarely used to prepare this, mostly when dad was out of station. On those days, I would savor this kulambu by having it for lunch and dinner. By chance if there is extra left I would even save it for the following day!
Since it includes tamarind, an excellent preservative, it lasts quite long (say a week) if stored in the refrigerator and tastes just as good as it did the day you prepared it. Also, it tastes great with the simplest side dishes. I love having this kulambu with cabbage poriyal, appalam/vathal or omelette. 
I learnt this recipe from my MIL who is an expert in puzhi kulambu and fish kulambu!


  • 1 lemon sized tamarind soaked in water for min. 30 mins
  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves
  • 1 cup shallots quartered
  • 2 tomatoes cut in cubes
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 3 tbsp gingelly oil
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 1/2 tbsp chilly powder
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2.5 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • In a vok, heat oil. Temper fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and dried red chillies.
  • Add chopped shallots and garlic cloves. Saute until it turns slightly brown and reduces to half of what it was at first.
  • Now add the chopped tomatoes with a pinch of salt. Cover the vok with a lid and allow it to cook on low flame. When the tomatoes are half cooked add the curry leaves. Cover it again and cook it for a few more minutes until the tomatoes are completely cooked and the oil surfaces.
  • Add the chilly, turmeric and coriander powder. Saute for a couple of minutes.
  • Squeeze the tamarind well and strain the tamarind juice onto the onion tomato mixture. Add the 2.5 cups of water.
  • Allow it to boil. When it reduces into a thick liquid, add salt and turn off stove.
  • Serve hot with rice and a side dish of your choice.
Note – You can try the same with either brinjals, ladies fingers or thatta payir/cowpea beans (soaked and steamed). The first two should be added along with the shallots (step 2) while thatta payir can be added soon after the tomatoes are cooked. This kulambu can also be converted into a very tasty fish kulambu. All you got to do is add pieces of sliced fish once you add the water (step 5), add 1/2 tbsp pepper powder, cover the vok with a lid and allow the pieces to cook on a low flame!

More Kulambu

When its lunch time, curd is a must-have for both DH and LO. So I always make sure I have fresh curd every afternoon. At the same time, I never carry over curd for the next day. Though I do not eat curd, I just don’t like sour curd sitting in my fridge. So on days when I end up with excess curd, I prepare more kulambu for lunch!

More Kulambu is one other dish my mom is an expert in. It hardly takes 10 to 15 minutes to prepare and requires very minimum ingredients. Its very light, but yet really yumm when eaten with hot, steaming rice and a spicy side dish like potato fry or brinjal fry!

Ingredients 1
  • 2.5 cups fresh or a day old thick curd
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • Salt to taste
Ingredients 2
  • 1 cup fresh coconut, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 green chilly
  • 1/2 cup pottukadalai (Channa dhaal)
  • 3/4 tbsp cumin seeds
Ingredients 3
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 3 stks curry leaves
  • 3 or 4 dry red chillies
  • Whisk together the curd, water, turmeric powder, asafoetida and salt. Make sure there are no lumps of curd. Keep aside.
  • Grind the second set of ingredients into a very fine paste.
  • Mix the first and the second ingredients together and keep it on the stove. Turn off the stove just before it begins to boil.
  • In a separate frying pan season the third set of ingredients and pour it over the more kulambu.