Puli Molaga (Hot chillies in tamarind sauce)


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These beautiful red chillies came from my neighbor’s garden (She generously supplies her garden veggies throughout summer).  So gorgeous….so hot 🙂 I love adding them in all my cooking from upma to fried rice.  A few days back my neighbor’s son walked in with the handful of these and said ” I want you to have this, they are special because these are the last chillies in the plant”. Thank God for these beautiful children filled up with so much love 🙂 I promised him I will make something special with his special chillies.

Puli Molaga is a simple side made by cooking the chillies in  tamarind sauce. You can think of it as the south Indian salsa and it is a multi purpose side that can be served with rice, rotis, idli/dosa or as a spread for breads and wraps.

  • You will need a cup of pearl onions. If they are smaller in size , you can add them as whole. The pearl onions I had were bigger in size, so I quartered them. Cut the chillies in half inch pieces. You will also need some curry leaves.

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  • For seasoning , you will need :
  1. Mustard seeds
  2. Urad dal
  3. fenugreek seeds
  4. turmeric powder
  5. jaggery / vellam / brown sugar
  6. Asafoetida / hing

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  • Soak tamarind in water. The longer you soak , the more you can get out of the tamarind. Ideally, you soak it for a couple of hours before you need it. I almost always forget to do that, so I just soak the tamarind in water and heat in the microwave for 45 seconds. This softens the tamarind and makes it easier to get the juice out.

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  • Dilute the tamarind juice with water. It is hard to correctly predict how much “puli” (tamarind) you will need. I always try to make more than enough and store the rest in the fridge and try to use it within a couple of days.

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  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan.  Fry the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add the urad dal. When the dal turns to golden brown, add the fenugreek. Then fry the curry leaves and the chillies.

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  • Saute the pearl onions.  You can use shallots instead of pearl onions too.

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  • When the onions soften , pour in the tamarind juice.

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  • Add salt, turmeric, asafoetida and jaggery (brown sugar) to the curry. Adjust salt and brown sugar accordingly so that there is a perfect balance of heat, sweet, sour and salt.

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  • Allow the curry to boil and reduce. Do not cover with lid. Any time you need to boil tamarind solution (for any recipe) you should not cover the pan with lid.

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  • Cook until the curry thickens and the oil separates.

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As I mentioned earlier, this can be served with steamed rice, breads, rotis and wraps. My favorite part of this dish is the onions, soft and juicy soaked in all the spices…..I just keep digging for them 🙂

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