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Tamarind Sauce From Thanjavur – Arappuli Kuzhambhu July 4, 2008

Posted by live2cook in Sauces and Gravies.

There are few recipes that can be certified as a pure Thanjorean Recipe. Milagai Thokku (a Condiment made with Green chili), Arappuli Kuzhambhu (Tamarind sauce), Asoga (a Dessert), Kathrikkai Gothsu (Eggplant sauce) are some of those signature recipes. If you don’t hear Arappuli Kuzhambhu to be the sauce of the day in your neighborhood at least 5-10 times a month, then you can safely consider that you are not in Thanjavur. Our neighbor, “Bhuvana Maami” was a specialist of this sauce. I got to know the ins and outs of this recipe from her. Sambar vadaam (Karamaithvada) is an ingredient in this sauce. My dad’s disliking for these fritters excluded this sauce preperations from our meals.

Bhuvana maami’s husband was a business man and he left for work early than other neighbors. So maami’s household chores started very early than others. With all the orthodoxy and religious beliefs she had, maami’s daily routine was a never ending deed. Once in a while Maami visited the neighbors for a small chat. Whenever she came to our house for a chat, she would start it with an enquiry about that day’s meal. When we reciprocated the same for courtesy, most of the time her reply would be “Arappuli Kuzhambhu”. Her reply left me wonder whether she liked the recipe so much or she knew to cook only this tamarind sauce. After a while, if I saw her coming to our house for a chat, I would whisper to my Mom and sisters, “It is the efficacy of Arappuli Kuzhambhu” (“Arappuli Kuzhambhu Mahathmium”). 🙂 .

After being a daughter-in-law in a perfect Thanjavur family, I got my hand on this recipe. Only after that, I understood why this sauce was frequented in maami’s household. We lived in the outskirts of Thanjavur and depended mostly on the street vendors for produce. Only those who work near the downtown had the access to the evening market. Maami is a stay-at-home mom and frequent travel to the downtown for the produce alone was impossible for her. By the time her husband headed back home from business, the evening market would have been closed. So, whenever maami ran out of veggies or the street vendors brought the same produce that she had in hand, maami made this sauce to go with rice and accompanied a simple stir fry of available veggies, for lunch.

Now-a-days, Arappuli Kuzhambhu is one among those recipes that I prepare whenever I didn’t feel like cooking elaborate recipes or if it was a fridge cleaning day. Arappuli Kuzhambhu is almost similar to “Vaththal Kuzhambhu”. But the method of preperation gives it a different flavor. Since the cooking time and the amount of spice mixes and tamarind used is halved than other similar sauces, it might have gotten the name, Arappuli kuzhambhu. “Arai” in Tamil has a meaning of “Half”.

Note: If you couldn’t make the Sambar vadam, you can skip that or use other fritters. Or, you can make the mixture for sambar vadam and deep fry the mixture as dumplings and add to the sauce.

(Recipe Adapted from Meenakshi Ammal’s “Samaiththu paar” (Cook and see) Book)


Tamarind – Lime sized ball
Yam (Diced) – 1/2 cup (While in Thanjavur, we used a yam variety called “Karunai Kizhangu”. It is not available in US. So, I use the sweet yam. We can also use the Indian yam, “Suran”. We can find “Suran” in Indian groceries. Most of them has it as Frozen produce)
Sambar Vadaam – 5-6 pieces
Papad (broken into pieces) – 1
Dried red chilli – 2 or 3
Curry leaves – 4 or 5
Slivered Coconut – 1 Tbsp (Fresh or Dried)
Oil – 8 tsp
Sambar powder – 2 tsp
Chana dhal – 2 tsp
Rice flour – 1 tsp
Urad dhal – 3/4 tsp
Black mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Asafetida – 1 pinch
Salt – 1 1/2 tsp


1. Soak the Tamarind in 2 1/2 Cups water. When it turns soft, mash the pulp with hands and extract the tamarind juice. Discard the pulpy residue.
2. Boil the yam, Drain and set aside.
3. Heat 4 tsp oil in a sauce pan and add the sambar vadaam and papad pieces. Fry till the fritters turn dark brown. Set aside.
4. In a large sauce pan, heat remaining 4 tsp oil. Add mustard seeds and dhals. When the mustard seeds splutter, add asafetida and curry leaves.
5. When the curry leaves turn color, add the coconut pieces and fry until slightly browned.
6. Add the sambar powder and fry for a minute.
7. Add the tamarind water, salt and boiled yam.
8. Boil for 10 minutes. Mix the rice flour with 2 tsp water and add to the sauce to thicken.
9. Mix in the fried papad and fritters.
10. Serve with cooked Rice.




1. Asha - July 4, 2008

Mouthwatering stuff! Great for picnics and vacation huh? Got the idea, might take this to mountains next week! ;D

2. jayasree - July 4, 2008

I love tamarind based sauces. Thanks for sharing this Tanjore speciality.

3. easycrafts - July 6, 2008

Nice tangy dish…

4. Suganya - July 8, 2008

This is true pantry cooking, without opening cans. I have heard a lot about this kuzambhu, but never tasted it. What is red chori (an ing in the vadam) called in Tamil, Priya?

5. live2cook - July 8, 2008

Hi Asha,Jayasree,Easy Crafts,

Thank you.

Hi Suganya,

Red chori tastes similar to “Thattai payaru” or “Karaamani”. But it is smaller than the red colored thattai payaru.

6. vidyamali - October 28, 2010

Thanks for your recipe.very tasty!

live2cook - December 4, 2010

you are most welcome. I am happy that you tried the recipe.

7. vidhya - February 24, 2012

very nice !very authentic recipe !my mo m used to make this .she is no more now and i was searching for this recipe. this one is same like my moms thanks a lot !

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