Recipes: Spicy Vermicelli Upma

This is another staple dish in Tamil households which I tweaked slightly this week to make it different.

Spicy Vermicelli Upma


  • 1 cup vermicelli, dry roasted
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp pav bhaji (or garam) masala
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Coriander leaves to garnish
  • 1 tbsp ghee (optional)


  • Heat oil in a pan and when it warms up, add the mustard seeds and let it pop.
  • When the mustard pops, add the curry leaves, asafoetida and turmeric powder and stir for a couple of seconds.
  • Add the onions and saute till translucent. Then add the remaining vegetables and saute for 1 minute.
  • Season with salt, chilli powder and pav bhaji masala and let the vegetables cook completely.
  • When the vegetables are done, add the roasted vermicelli and stir well.
  • Add enough boiling water to the vermicelli and cook it well.
  • When the vermicelli is cooked completely, check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  • Add the optional ghee to the dish and switch off the gas.
  • Drizzle the lemon juice over the dish and garnish with coriander leaves.
  • Serve hot.


  • Instead of pav bhaji masala, you can also use garam masala or any other masala lying around.
  • To make a Jain version of this dish, omit the onions and garlic and cook as above.


Recipes: Raw Mango Thokku

A thokku is a pickle which is cooked down to a paste. In normal pickles, you don’t cook them (or barely cook them) allowing the vegetables (or fruits) to absorb the spices from the spice paste that coats them. In a thokku, you cook it down until there is no moisture left in the vegetable (or fruit) and this can also be made with herbs like coriander (or cilantro as it is called in North America) or curry leaves.

A thokku can be eaten not only with rice or flatbreads, but you can eat it as a stuffing in a sandwich. The raw mango thokku is an all-time favourite pickle and I have been known for eating it as it is, that’s how much I love it!

Last year in December, when my mum was with me, one day when I was wondering if I should make my instant mango pickle with the raw mangoes that S brought home, she asked me if I wanted to make this raw mango thokku. Me being me, I instantly said yes and learnt it from her. Since then I’ve made it at least once a month, fine-tuning my recipe. I am now confident of this recipe enough to share with everyone.

This is an easy recipe, just a little tedious. For around 4 largish mangoes, it usually takes me an hour from start to finish. If you are making more, perhaps for the whole year, then yes it can even take the whole day!

Raw Mango Thokku


  • 4 large raw mangoes
  • 4-6 tbsps gingelly oil
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 tbsp red chilli powder (approximately)
  • ½ cup jaggery
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seed powder
  • Salt to taste


  • Wash and dry the mangoes thoroughly.
  • Peel the skin and chop the flesh into small pieces, the smaller the better. Discard the seed.
  • In a large pan, heat the gingelly oil and when it starts smoking, add in the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, pour in the chopped mangoes and stir well to cover all the pieces with the oil.
  • Stir well and cover and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then add turmeric powder and salt and stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Now add the chilli powder and continue to cook. You can do a taste test at this point to check for seasoning and the level of chillies in the thokku. When you feel it is slightly spicier than you can handle, that’s what you are looking for.
  • Add the jaggery (optional, you can omit this completely or even add some brown sugar) and let it cook till the oil starts leaving the sides of the pan. Add more oil if your thokku starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Just when it is ready, add the fenugreek powder and remove from the gas.
  • When the thokku is cool, remove it to a jar and enjoy!


  • I have found that the best way to cut the mangoes is to peel them with the peeler (after you have removed the skin).
  • Peel the flesh until you come to the seed, and then chop the remaining flesh finely. This way, the flesh breaks down fast and you get a smooth paste like thokku.
  • In the photo below, (I made this version about a month back), I have chopped the flesh and you can still see the slightly grainy cubes which have not melted into a paste.
  • You can also grate the mango flesh.

Recipes: Vegetable Upma

This is another typical South Indian recipe which is made across the four southern states. Different families use slightly different ingredients to make it theirs and you can too play around with the basic recipe.

Since S’ uncle’s death ceremony rituals are not yet done, we, because we belong to the same family/clan, are also bound by the rules that govern his own family. This includes eating ‘Satvik‘ food which means that we don’t add onions or garlic to our meals till everything is done. So I made this Upma a Jain version without adding any onions or garlic. I’ve put notes after the recipe should you wish to add them when you make this dish.

Mixed Vegetable Upma


  • 1 cup semolina
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables (I used french beans, carrots, frozen green peas and frozen corn), chopped into small pieces
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp split urad dal
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tbsp ghee (optional)
  • 1-litre water


  • In a deepish pan, dry roast the semolina till it starts to emit an aroma. Make sure you stir constantly so it does not brown. Remove into a plate and keep aside.
  • Boil around a litre of water and keep it hot.
  • In the same pan, heat the oil and when it warms, add in the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add the urad dal and let it brown. Then add the green chillies and ginger and stir for a couple of seconds.
  • Now add the mixed vegetables and season with salt accordingly and let the vegetables cook.
  • When the vegetables are 80% cooked, add the roasted semolina and stir well to mix. Now add the hot water, a little at a time let the semolina cook well.
  • When the semolina and vegetables are completely cooked, add a little bit more water and check for seasoning. Add a dollop of ghee (if using) and remove from the fire.
  • Serve hot with any chutney of your choice.


  • As I  mentioned earlier, this was made without any onions, so if you want to add onions to your recipe, add finely chopped onions after you add the mustard seeds, urad dal, green chillies and ginger and let it become translucent.
  • In addition to the vegetables I have used, you can also use potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli etc.

Recipes: Thalagam Kozambu

Earlier this week was the festival of Thiruvathirai which is mostly celebrated in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. I decided, for the first time, to make this dish which is only made for this festival.

This dish is a traditional dish of the brahmins who come from the Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu (of which I am also a part of from my parents) and is something I’ve always grown up with, but never actually made.

It is traditionally eaten with a sweet rice dish called kali, but I decided to pair with Ven Pongal. I also didn’t have all the vegetables traditionally used for this dish, so I improvised!

Talaga Kozambu


  • 1 small lime-sized ball of tamarind, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and the juice squeezed out
  • 1 carrot, chopped into big pieces
  • 1 radish, chopped into big pieces
  • 2 large potatoes, chopped into big pieces
  • 2 raw bananas, chopped into large pieces
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste

To be ground into a paste

  • 6 dried red chillies
  • 2 tsp toor dal
  • 2 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tbsp oil

To temper

  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder


  • Heat oil in a pan and put in the red chillies, toor dal and sesame seeds and stir.
  • When the dal turns light brown, add the grated coconut and continuously stir until the coconut is crisp and brown. Ensure the coconut does not burn.
  • Let it cool completely and blend this into a fine paste with water.
  • Wash the vegetables and put them in the same pan. Add just enough water to cover and then the turmeric powder and some salt. Cover and cook until the vegetables are half cooked.
  • When the vegetables are half cooked, pour in the tamarind juice and cover and cook for approximately 5 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.
  • Next, add the blended masala and stir well. Check and add salt if needed. Remove from the flame around five minutes after it comes to a rolling boil.
  • In a smaller pan, heat the ghee and put in the mustard seeds, fenugreek/methi seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida. When the curry leaves become crisp, remove from the flame and pour over the Kozambu.
  • Enjoy with any rice of your choice through the traditional accompaniment is kali


The traditional vegetables used are raw banana, ash gourd, yellow/orange pumpkin, yam, brinjal/aubergine, broad beans, sweet potato, potatoes, radish, etc.

Recipes: Ginger Coconut Chutney

This Chutney came about completely serendipitously! I started off making something else, felt it was not going to be enough, added some coconut and the end result was this yummy Chutney.

Ginger Coconut Chutney


  • 1 cup coconut, grated
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • A small lime-sized ball of tamarind
  • 3-4 dried red chillies
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste


  • In a pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, red chillies, ginger and tamarind and stir for a few minutes.
  • Now add the onions and sauté till the onions turn translucent.
  • Switch off the flame and let this cool down.
  • Once cool, blend it together with the coconut, adding water as necessary and make it into a fine paste.
  • Season with salt and serve with any Indian bread like dosas, idlis, rotis. It even goes well with breads.