Ullipaya pulusu - South Indian Onion stew

December 29, 2016

I like to think of this dish as a distant cousin of French onion soup. Onions are cooked in a sour, spicy and sweet gravy till they are soft and have a mellow onion flavor laced with spices. Pulusu refers to a category of stews that have vegetables flavored with tamarind, Jaggery and spices. Pulusu, kolambu , kozhambu and gojju all belong to  the same family of dishes.

 

Traditional Andhra vegetarian meal will have a lentil dish eaten with ghee, a vegetable curry, pulusu/rasam , pacchadi (chutney) , yoghurt and rice. Together all these dishes contribute to a complete balanced meal with proteins, fats,  carbohydrates, vitamins, fiber and yoghurt cultures that are essential for digesting a meal. We try to consume five different vegetables a day. Lentils are sometimes cooked with a vegetable, the curry is of course a vegetable preparation, chutneys are made with vegetables/lentils as well and pulusu is used as a carrier to make up for the rest of the vegetables. Some vegetables that are not very tender like old okra with seeds, nubs and ends of vegetables left over get dumped into pulusus. People thought of food in terms of dishes rather than proteins and carbs and the pre set combinations of food worked well together in terms of taste and health. As, you read further you will realize I am saying this with first hand experience!

I made ullipaya pulusu, tomato pappu (lentils) and beans curry this morning and I was feeling pretty happy. My mother in law is usually generous with her compliments but remained silent today. I could not hold my curiosity anymore and asked her what she thought of the pulusu. She mentioned that they usually had it with kandi pacchadi (pigeon lentil chutney) or kandi podi or fried dal. I knew about this. I was just not well organized today, I put the dal in the cooker and then planned to make onion pulusu. As much as my pride was hurt, I knew in my heart that the lady was right. I am a bit of a perfectionist and made kandi pacchadi that evening (not conventional , it is hard to digest and is usually eaten with lunch). Curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see if it really made a difference and boy it did. Onion pulusu on its own is awesome but eating it with kandi pacchadi is divine!

 Yes! cooking a traditional meal is a pain in the you know where and honestly I don't know how my mom and other women in her generation did it on a daily basis, that too without complaining. On the days that I make such a meal, I feel such a sense of accomplishment. I guess their lifestyle was better suited to pamper their families with such delicious healthy meals day after day. I worry about the number of dishes I have to clean after cooking! Phew....Living the Indian lifestyle while ideal especially for vegetarians is difficult in the west.

 

 This is my mom's  recipe and as with any dish, every family will have it's own variation. Pearl onions are quite a popular choice for this dish. My mom always made these with regular sliced onions (yellow onions).

 

Here are the ingredients required for onion pulusu.

 Take 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add channa dal, udad dal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds, after they roast and the mustard starts spluttering add red chillies and curry leaves. My camera died on me right before I could take a shot of the beautifully roasted seasoning.

After the red chillies and curry leaves are fried, add thinly sliced onions and sauté. Roast it till translucent.

 

 

Add enough water to submerge the onions and let it come to a rolling boil. Add tamarind, rasam powder (it is not conventional to add rasam powder, I do not make pulusus regularly, so I did not have pulusu powder, rasam powder worked just fine), salt, turmeric and simmer till onions are soft and not crunchy.

 Besan (chickpea flour) is used as a thickener for this pulusu. Mix besan with some water thoroughly so that there are no lumps in the mixture. Pour it into the boiled onions and add Jaggery and cook till it thickens and there is no raw flavor of besan.

 

 

 I am not one of those cooks that does not taste along the way. That would be disastrous. I discipline myself to do that only when making prasadam ( holy offering). So go ahead, taste it, it should taste, sour, spicy and sweet. In our home, we like it more spicy than sweet, so I add less Jaggery. Mine tasted tad spicy, so I removed the red chillies that were boiling and contributing to the heat. They had served their purpose and it was time to say goo bye to them.

 

 

The pulusu is ready. Pour it into a nice serving dish and enjoy it with steaming hot rice.

 

Or as per my mother in laws suggestion enjoy it with steaming hot rice and kandi pacchadi!

Recipe for ullipaya pulusu:

 

Ingredients :

Onions  2 medium yellow onions thinly sliced

Tamarind pulp  1/3rd cup

Jaggery 1/4 cup

Besan ( Chickpea flour) 1/4 cup

Turmeric 1/4 tsp

Rasam powder 1 tbsp.

Curry leaves 4-5

Dry red chillies 2-3

Channa dal 1 tbsp.

Udad dal 1 tbsp.

Methi (Fenugreek) seeds  1/2 tsp

Mustard seeds 1 tsp

Cumin seeds 1 tsp

Salt to taste

 

Procedure:

  1. Take 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add channa dal, udad dal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds, after they roast and the mustard starts spluttering add red chillies and curry leaves.

  2. After the red chillies and curry leaves are fried, add thinly sliced onions and sauté. Roast it till translucent.

  3. Add enough water to submerge the onions and let it come to a rolling boil.

  4. Add tamarind, rasam powder, salt, turmeric and simmer till onions are soft and not crunchy.

  5. Mix besan with some water thoroughly so that there are no lumps in the mixture. Pour it into the boiled onions and add Jaggery and cook till it thickens and there is no raw flavor of besan.

  6. Taste it, it should taste, sour, spicy and sweet. Adjust seasoning as per taste.

  7. The pulusu is ready.Enjoy it with steaming hot rice.

  8. Or as per my mother in laws suggestion enjoy it with steaming hot rice and kandi pacchadi!

Here is the link to kandi pacchadi.

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Hi There

I'm Sirisha. I cook simple vegetarian food. You will find Indian vegetarian family recipes and will be privy to my experiments. Happy cooking!

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