July 12, 2012

Poondu Kulumbhu (Garlic Curry)

   Garlic or Poondu as it is known in South India, is a very strong smelling, pungent root. Peeling garlic in the kitchen is despised by most women, thanks to the smell that lingers in the fingers. But everyone will agree when it comes to the health benefits of the garlic clove, that it is one ingredient they would love to include in all their cooking. Garlic pearls are known to purify blood, improve blood circulation and serve as an anti-oxidant, promoting the well being of the heart and immune system. Mom used to use garlic in all her dishes in one form or the other. Sometimes it was garlic paste, garlic powder, chopped garlic, whole garlic..... the garlic pod was a staple in our kitchen and together with ginger, it was essential to create many a gastronomic delight ! Mom used to make poondu kulumbhu a lot, especially in garlic season. This was my Dad's favorite and together with plain dal, he used to have a feast. I never liked poondu kulumbhu in my younger years, but developed a taste for this once I learned to cook. Like my dad, now I love the combo of having hot rice with  plain dal, a dollop of ghee on top and the poondu kulumbhu as an accompaniment or mixed with the dal rice. Absolutely delightful !

Poondu Kulumbhu (Garlic Curry)


Garlic cloves or poondu - 1 and 1/2 handfuls
Onion - 1 and 1/2 (finely chopped)
Tamarind - a small pellet (1/4 size of a lemon)
Tomatoes - 2 (pureed or finely chopped)
Fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) - 1/4 tsp
Sambar powder - 1 1/2 to 2 tsps
Grated fresh coconut - this is optional
Salt - to taste
Cooking Oil - 2 tbsps (use sesame/ gingelly oil as it is tastier)
Mustard - 1/2  tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3


1) Soak the tamarind in water for 20 minutes and extract juice by squeezing the pulp and straining. You can increase the quantity of tamarind in case you prefer a very sour flavor (pulipu flavor). You can also microwave the soaked tamarind in water for about 1 minute, cool it and extract the juice.
2) Heat some oil in a kadai or skillet. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds, urad dal, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves to season the oil. Take care not to add too much of fenugreek seeds, else the curry will turn bitter. These seeds are only added to enhance the flavor of the kulumbhu. Now add chopped onions, a little salt and stir fry till onions are slightly translucent.
3) Add the peeled garlic cloves. An easy way to peel garlic would be to microwave the garlic with the skin for about 30 seconds. Or else roast the garlic with the skin in a hot kadai/ saucepan for about a minute. The skin will loosen up and the garlic will become soft, making it easier to remove the skin. An advantage of this is the fact that the garlic cloves will fry faster and absorb the liquid curry better, making the kulumbhu tastier. If peeling garlic is not for you, then use the peeled garlic readily available in the freezer section in the Indian store or Costco. I am sure you get peeled garlic in India too, only I don't know the store names.
4) Now add the pureed tomatoes, the tamarind extract and the sambar powder to the fried onions and garlic cloves. Fry them for few minutes till the tomatoes are cooked. You can add chopped tomatoes too, but I feel adding ground/ pureed tomatoes increases the quantity of the curry and the garlic cloves blend well into the curry. You may need to add red chilli powder in case your sambar powder does not contain chilli powder in it. Since I use home made sambar powder already containing chilli powder in it, I have not added the same here. Add salt to taste. Add only required quantity of water to the mixture, making sure you do not thin down the consistency. This curry is usually an accompaniment to rice and dal, so should have a slightly thicker consistency. It can be eaten with rice as such too, not necessarily as an accompaniment. Watering down the curry would essentially ruin the taste. 
5) Bring the curry to a rolling boil till the raw smell of the sambar powder is all gone. You can add grated coconut before the curry starts to boil, in case you wish to tone down the sourness of the kulumbhu. I have had this kulumbhu with and without the coconut. I like the one without the coconut better as you get the actual sour flavor of the curry and the pungent but yummy taste of the garlic cloves.


  Try to use gingelly oil (sesame oil ) while doing seasoning as it enhances the flavor of the kulumbhu. You can also use regular canola, sunflower or vegetable oil. My mom says you should try grinding the tomatoes with 1/4 onion. Add a small pellet of jaggery to the kulumbhu before bringing it to a boil. This way you will sample a delightful combination of sweet, sour and spicy kulumbhu.

Serving size: Will serve 2 people for a single meal.

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