Urundai Kuzhambu: South Indian Style Chana Dal Balls In A Gravy
Image Credit: Archana's Kitchen

When a reference is made to kuzhambu (pronounced ko-lam-bu) in South Indian cooking, it often means a tangy, tamarind-based curry made with a blend of spices, garlic, curry leaves and aromatics. The brothy consistency of the kuzhambu, may or may not classify as a ‘curry’, so to speak because it isn’t thick enough to hold its own but also not runny enough to scoop up with a spoon. Hence, the kuzhambu is perfect to eat with rice or with dishes like idlis, dosas and appams.

The urundai kuzhambu, a spicy accompaniment common in most home-cooking in Tamil Nadu, is safe to classify as a breakfast or supper item, depending on what time of day you choose to make them. These lentil dumplings are steamed and then tossed in a curry lush with tomatoes garlic, tamarind and spices. The category of kuzhambu this dumpling curry would fall under would be the array of puli kuzhambu or tamarind-based condiments. Other South Indian variations include mor kuzhambu (buttermilk curry), poricha kuzhambu (black pepper and coconut curry) and seiva kuzhambu (meat or fish curry). The key to getting perfectly cooked-through, grainy-nutty chana dal dumplings is to avoid adding any water to grind the mixture. Steering away from over-mixing the dumplings into the curry would also help in not causing too much breakage.



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  • ¾ cup chana dal, soaked
  • ¼ cup toor dal, soaked
  • 1 + 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 dry red chillies
  • 10 baby shallots, whole
  • 2 tablespoons gingelly oil/vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 2 green chillies, slit
  • 2 large tomatoes, grated
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ¼ cup thick tamarind extract
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 15-20 baby shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 7-8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander
  • Salt to taste

Image Credits: Gayathri's Cook Spot


  • Soak both the lentil varieties for a couple of hours and rinse thoroughly. Add the drained lentils to a blender jar along with a teaspoon of fennel seeds, whole shallots and red chillies to grind to a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl and roll into lemon-sized dumplings. Steam for 8-10 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a kadhai and temper using curry leaves, mustard seeds, green chillies, a teaspoon of fennel seeds. Once they begin to splutter, add the garlic and sliced shallots and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the grated tomatoes and cook until the mixture turns mushy and begins to release some fat.
  • Add the spice powders and mix well. Add the tamarind extract along with a tablespoon of water to dilute it slightly. Cover and cook this mixture for 5 minutes before adding in the coconut milk. Season according to taste and add in the dumplings. Cook for 2-3 minutes and garnish with plenty of chopped coriander. Serve hot.