March 11, 2009

Vellarikkai Puli Pachadi (Cucumber In A Tamarind Coconut Gravy)

I have mentioned before that our traditional meals (lunch) consist of rice served with a main dish of vegetables in gravy, accompanied by a dry (or semi-dry) vegetable preparation. There are time tested combinations of gravy and dry (or semi-dry) vegetable preparations. One could try experimenting with new combinations but nothing comes anywhere near the old tried and tested combinations.
Rice served with mulagootal and a thogayal or a puli pachadi is one of these. I have already posted the first two preparations and it is the turn of the puli pachadi now.

A pachadi is a semi-dry (or semi-wet, with very little gravy) vegetable preparation. In Palakkad cuisine, we have two types of pachadis. One is a Puli Pachadi (which is the subject of this post) and the other is a Thayir Pachadi (made with yogurt) also referred to in some homes as Kichadi (not the rice and lentil preparation somewhat like Venn Pongal).

Puli pachadi, with its spicy and tangy overtones with just a hint of sweet, is the perfect accompaniment to the slightly bland mulagootal. This puli pachadi can be made with vegetables like okra (vendakkai) or eggplant (katharikkai) or pumpkin (mathan), but for this post, I've made it with a vegetable we call "vellarikkai' (or vellarikka in Malayalam).

I searched, a lot, for the English name for this vegetable and came up with Indian Cucumber, English Cucumber, Lemon Cucumber and Yellow Indian Cucumber! After looking at the various pictures, none of these seem to be the same as "vellarikkai" except perhaps the yellow Indian cucumber.
This link tells me that vellarikkai is a cucumber whose botanical name is Cucumis sativus L. and belongs to the CUCURBITACEAE family. My vegetable seller calls it "Sambhar Khakhdi" which basically means cucumber used in sambhar.

This vegetable is definitely a part of the cucumber family, and is has a green and yellow/ orange striated pattern on the outside which becomes less green as the cucumber matures. It is white on the inside with slightly larger seeds than the usual cucumber we use in salads. This cucumber is not eaten raw, but cooked.
Does anyone know the English name for this vegetable?

Here is the recipe I use to make this vellarikkai pachadi.


2 cups sliced vellarikkai (thin, about 3/4" by 3/4" pieces)

tamarind, the size of a big grape

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp powdered jaggery (or sugar)

salt to taste

For the coconut paste:

3 tbsp fresh grated coconut

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 or 3 green chillies

1 sprig curry leaves

For the tempering:

1 tsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 1/2 tsp black gram lentils (urad dal)


Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of warm water and keep aside for about 15 minutes. Then, using your fingers, rub and squeeze the softened tamarind to extract the pulp into the water. Remove the solid part of the tamarind and pour the tamarind water into a pan.

Add the vegetable pieces, salt and turmeric powder and stir a couple of times. Bring to a boil and then simmer till the vegetable is cooked. The whitish coloured vellarikkai pieces will turn translucent when cooked.

I usually do this part of the cooking in the microwave (about 7 to 8 minutes at 100%). I cook the vegetable in the tamarind water without the turmeric and salt as I find that turmeric discolours my microwave. So I add the seasoning after microwaving and on the stove-top.

In the meanwhile, grind all the ingredients for the coconut paste with a little water to a smooth paste (not watery, like you would for a chutney), and keep ready. You can leave out the curry leaves from this paste and add it to the vegetables while they cook. I add it to the paste as it lends a lot of flavour, and it doesn't have to be picked out from the pachadi while eating.

The amount of water in the cooked vegetable would have reduced to about 1/4 a cup. Now add the jaggery and the coconut paste. Mix well and let it come to a boil. Take the pachadi off the heat after a minute.
Pour the pachadi into a serving dish. Prepare the tempering by heating the oil and adding the mustard seeds. When they splutter add the lentils and stir till golden brown. Pour this into the pachadi. Stir the tempering into the pachadi just before serving.
Serve this pachadi warm, with rice and mulgootal or mulagushyam.

I am sending this across to Neha of Tasty Recipes who is hosting this month's AFAM featuring the Cucumber.


Happy cook said...

This is one of Shyama's favourite dish when we are in India from the time whe she was three years ( I have never made them at home)
So you can imagine when ever we are in my sis place in B'lore she ask for this and i think by the time we are gone i am sure my sis is fed up making these.
I too love them.
Yours look so yumm that it is making me homesick for all the dishes i am missing.

Asha said...

I don't think we get this in regular grocery store here at all but I have seen them in Indian stores. I bought it once and made a pachadi with coconut chutney masala, liked it. Puli Pachadi looks so good. May be I could use the same masala with regular cucumber or Ashgourd! :)

Asha said...

Oh, I didn't realize you are from Kerala too, always thought you are a Tamilian living in Goa for some reason! :D

That's why I asked "they, as in Keralites" for Boori info. After I read Palakkad here, quickly Googled to know where it is! Lo and behold, it's in Kerala. Man! I am so dumb sometimes! ;D

Ashwini said...

We use this to make curries and we also make pappu ..This curry looks different..Will give it a try next time I bring this..

Aparna said...

Its tough being homesick.:) Maybe you should start planning your next vacation.

Use the cucumber. Ash gourd in this preparation doesn't taste as good.
And I am a tamil speaking Keralite living in Goa! :D

sra said...

We have a Malayali mess here and this was one of my favourite things they used to make. Once the waiter told me he thought of me when this was made and hoped I would visit! Either I haven't visited on that day of the week or they've taken it off the menu, but it's been ages since I ate it. I loved that mustardy taste it had!

Curry Leaf said...

I too have heard it as Sambar Cucumber or simply 'not-salad' Cucumber.You get this here only,it seems.PP Looks lovely. I too was thinking Ashgourd may work instead,thanks for the comment to Asha.

Madhumathi said...

Its a different curry ,Aparna.Once upon a time i bought this cucumber and i didn't know what to do with it..Finally i ended up making soup with it..When i buy this next time,i will try this one..It looks tasty

Indhu said...

this is a very nice recipe :)
have tried molagootal... but not this puli pachadi... must try this :)

Priya said...

Delicious gravy..had this long ammama used to do so many delicious dishes with cucumber..we wont get these sort of cucumber:(just droolin here!!!

Superchef said...

sadly we dont get this cucumber here..i saw it once in the indian store just before onam and grabbed a couple!! :D:D your palakkad recipe list is going to be my go-to list whenever im in need of traditional recipes :)

A_and_N said...

I love puli pachadis! Not made them myself though :)

Your molagootal is on my to-do list!

Pavithra Kodical said...

I love this vegetable.We used to call this mangalore cucumber :)Delicious and perfect :)

Divya Kudua said...

Lovely you said,I make the other version with curd-vellarika kichadi.In fact am posting it soon for the AFAM event.Why dont you send this across too..this month's theme is Cucumber!!

rekhas kitchen said...

we call this vege in telugu as dosakaya and curry look s so delicious and new to mw will try

Raaga said...

Dosakkaya... magge in konkani :-) this is something I shall try in summer for sure.

jayasree said...

Agree with you regarding the old tried and tested combinations.
Vellarikkai puli pachadi & kichadi is common in my kitchen too.

Sharmila said...

I always thought pachadi was a kind of salad .. how wrong I was. :-)
I have seen this vegetable ... so am guessing this is the soft veggie in most white coloured southie dishes that we get when we eat at south indian places. I can safely try making it now thanks to you Aparna. :-)

Janaki Gopikrishna said...

after a long time a iyer dish!!!!

♥Rosie♥ said...

I have never seen this vegetable before but it does remind me of a marrow somewhat. Lovely looking curry - yum.

Rosie x

Simran said...

I always see this cucumber at the mall but never know what to do with it. Will buy it now.

By the way, I think AFAM's theme is cucumber too - just in case you want to send in an entry.

Soma said...

another new recipe for me:-) very different kinda preparation. we use coconut milk in bengal, but rarely ( or rather never ) to cook veggies in it. Looks like a cool soothing dish.

Le @HC said...

Love the texture. we get this in Indian stores.. Book Marked.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I just commented on someone's blog that I have been craving Indian food all day, and now I see this! How much more can I take? ;)

Thanks for the culinary lesson. This is so interesting.

Aparna said...

Yes Sra, it is the faint mustardy taste that makes this pachadi different.

Soup with this cucumber sounds most unusual, Madhumathi.

I guess I need to post more Palakkad recipes, Manju.:)

Do let me know how the mulagootal turns out, N.

Mangalore cucumber is one name I haven't heard, Pavithra.

Thanks Divya and Simran,
I shall send it in to AFAM.

Rekha and Raaga,
I came upon Dosakkaya and Magge while researching this.:)

Soma, many of our traditional preparations use coconut in some form or the other.

You're welcome, Susan.:)

A Thayir pachadi (with yogurt) is a sort of salad, not this one.

Yeah, Janaki. Long overdue!

Uj said...

We call this magge in konkani.. This happens to be one of my hubby's fav veggie.. We miss thsi veggie so much. Loved your recipe too.

Neha said...

Thanx Aprana for sending it, n Thanx to Simran n divya too for reminding her..
This curry is indeed interesting n new to me. Hope i find this veggie somewhere n can give it a try...

Miri said...

This looks like something which I will really enjoy - thanks for posting the recipe Aparna!

Oh btw, Could you increase the font size of the "post comments" link - invariably I end up clicking on the Subscribe to Post Comments because its so much larger...

Subhie Arun said...

something new to me..thx for sharing..will try soon

Anonymous said...

I am a Canadian living in Doha, Qatar. There is a large selection of Indian produce available in our local grocery stores. I bought this vegetable last time I was there not knowing what it was. In the store it was labeled "Vellery". Looking forward to trying out this recipe - once I get a tamarind! :)

Aparna said...

Anon, "vellery" is what this vegetable is called in the Indian state of Kerala, where it is a common vegetable.
As for tamarind, you can find this as a paste in any Indian store there. The paste is easier to use.