Paruppu Usili: Know The Different Types Of Vegetable Preparation
Image Credit: South Indian Recipes

Paruppu usili, a dry vegetable preparation in Tamil Brahmin cuisine, is a side dish made with coarsely grinding soaked lentils and cooking it until it develops a nubbly texture before adding all kinds of vegetables to it, depending on what’s available. Most often, a paruppu usili uses one vegetable as the key ingredient, surrounding which the concept is pretty much constant. This lentil mixture is often ground with red chillies, curry leaves and a few other whole spices, to give it complex flavour as well as enhance the savouriness of the lentils, without having it taste raw or metallic.

This vegetarian preparation is a common feature on wedding menus in the Iyengar community and has a nutty flavour with a combination of crunchy and soft textures, making it perfect to enjoy with sambar, ghee and rice. Due to its versatility and easy adaptability, swapping the vegetable element in a paruppu usili allows you to play with flavours as well as use what is locally available and in season. Here are some of the different varieties of paruppu usili you can make and enjoy with dal-rice or even parathas.

Beans Usili

Perhaps the most common type of paruppu usili preparation, this beans usuli made with green beans or cluster beans is a popular favourite and is the one variety found most often in restaurants and canteens. Beans usili tastes amazing when eaten with sambar-rice or even as an accompaniment to curd-rice, with its mellow vegetal undertones.

Cabbage Usili

With the sweetness of cooked cabbage juxtaposed by the salty-nutty roasted lentil mixture, this cabbage paruppu usili is perfect to eat with rasam-rice. The lightness of the rasam perfectly complements the heaviness of this cabbage usili, thanks to how bulky the leafy vegetable turns once cooked. Since cooked cabbage also tends to be a bit gassy, it is best eaten with a dish that is easy on the stomach.

Methi Usili

A common winter preparation, this methi usili is slightly different from most other varieties, due to its slightly bitter aftertaste. Since fresh fenugreek leaves are available in plenty during the winters, using it in preparations like such or a thogayal (a thick, chutney-like condiment) are commonplace. Pair methi usili with a spicy tomato rice or even lemon rice, as the tart and tangy flavours offset the bitterness beautifully.

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Vazhapoo Usili

This unique preparation made with finely chopped banana flower tossed with the roasted lentil mixture, is one of the most underrated types of paruppu usili made in Tam-Brahm kitchens. Eaten with similar dishes like the beans usili, making this banana flower usili is a longer process than its counterparts, due to the time it takes to clean and process the banana flower.

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Mullangi Usili

Also exclusive to the winters, using fresh radish in a paruppu usili preparation also incorporates its crisp greens, making this preparation a nutrition-packed one. Radish usili has a similar flavour profile to the cabbage usili and has a crunchier texture from both, the lentils and chopped radish. Enjoy with curd-rice, tamarind rice or even with a slow-cooked sambar.