Vatha Kulambu | Vatha Kuzhambu | Manathakkali Vathal Kulambu

Step by StepJump to Recipe

Vatha Kulambu is one of the simplest recipes that I often make at home, from the cuisine of Tamil Nadu. Also known as the Vatha Kuzhambu, this dish uses a unique ingredient called ‘manathakkali,’ about which I’ve mentioned more in this post. Do give it a read. Besides this, this tongue-tickling main course dish is quite simple to make and gets done too in about half an hourish. The recipe is vegan and quite nutritious as well because of the typical ingredient used in it, which has many health benefits.

vatha kulambu served in a fancy brassware with a spoon kept on the right side and text layover.

About Vatha Kulambu

‘Vathal’ is basically a Tamil word for sun-dried vegetables or berries. These veggies or berries are soaked in buttermilk for some hours or overnight, and later kept in the sun to be dried. In this recipe of Vatha Kuzhambu, I have used a typical Tamil ingredient, that is ‘manathakkali.’

In English, manathakkali is known as black nightshade berries. These are also called as ‘makoy’ in Hindi language and is a special type of herb. Just like other vathals, the unripe green berries of the black nightshade are also soaked in buttermilk and then sun dried.

These dried berries or manathakkali can then be fried with very little oil and served with Curd Rice or rasam-rice. A simple Vatha Kulambu like the one shared in this post, can also be made with these sun-dried berries of the black nightshade herb.

This Manathakkali Vathal Kulambu is a tangy curry in which tamarind is used to bring in the desired sourness. In addition to these primary ingredients, whole spices, dried red chilies, curry leaves, sambar powder are other ingredients that go in the preparation of this kuzhambu from Tamil Nadu cuisine.

This kulambu is quite wholesome and great for your health. It also improves appetite. This is because the black nightshade has many benefits – ranging from aiding digestion, improving the immune system, reducing body heat and stimulating kidney functions to getting rid of stomach infections, curing muscle and back pain, rheumatism and much more.

sun dried berries for vatha kuzhambu.

More on this recipe

The flavor profile of the Vatha Kuzhambu is quite complex. You get to have spicy, sour, bitter, salty and astringent tastes, all together in this curry. So, it is best served with some steamed rice where the flavors do get mellowed a bit.

Savoring Vatha Kulambu is an acquired taste and you may or may not like it in the first go. While having this black nightshade tamarind curry with steamed rice, you do get hints of saltiness, sourness and slight bitterness from biting onto the softened berries.

vatha kulambu served in a fancy brassware with a spoon kept in the background.

Sometimes, if I don’t have the manathakkali berries, then I also use the same recipe to make a similar curry with Turkey berries or ‘sundakkai.’ At times I also add pearl onions (sambar onions) and garlic to this preparation. However, in this post, I am sharing a no onion, no garlic Tam-Brahm version of the recipe.

As I mentioned earlier, Vatha Kuzhambu pairs best with steamed rice. Accompany a side vegetable dish/stir fry like Vazhakkai Poriyal, Beans Poriyal, potato fry or suran fry with it. With this kulambu, I would suggest to serve a side veggie dish with faint sweet notes, not spicy or bitter.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Vatha Kulambu

Soaking tamarind

1. In a bowl, take 1 lemon sized tamarind ball or 1 tablespoon tightly packed tamarind. Preferably use aged and dark tamarind.

tamarind added to a bowl for vatha kuzhambu.

2. Add 1 cup hot water. Cover and soak tamarind for 20 to 30 minutes.

soaking tamarind in hot water for vatha kuzhambu.

3. Squeeze the tamarind and extract the tamarind pulp in the water. Keep aside.

tamarind pulp for vatha kuzhambu.

Making Vatha Kulambu

4. Heat 3 tablespoons sesame oil (gingelly oil) in a pan. Keep flame to a low and add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds.

mustard seeds added to hot sesame oil in pan for vatha kuzhambu.

5. Let the mustard seeds crackle.

mustard seeds crackling in hot sesame oil for vatha kuzhambu.

6. Keep heat to a low and then add ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds, 1 to 2 dried red chilies, halved and seeds removed, 8 to 10 curry leaves and 1 pinch asafoetida (hing).

fenugreek seeds, dried red chilies, curry leaves and asafoetida added to hot oil for vatha kuzhambu.

7. Fry and stir till the red chilies change color.

frying red chilies till it changes color.

8. Keeping the heat to low, now add 3 tablespoons Manathakkali vathal (sun dried black nightshade).

manathakkali vathal added to pan for vatha kuzhambu.

9. Stirring continuously, fry for some seconds till the color of vathal changes. Make sure to not burn them.

frying vathal for vatha kuzhambu.

10. Now, switch off the heat and add 1.5 to 2 tablespoons sambar powder.

sambar powder added to the pan.

11. Fry for 1 minute on heat switched off. You can even fry at low heat. Make sure that the sambar powder does not get burnt.

frying vathal.

12. Add the tamarind pulp.

tamarind pulp added to the pan.

13. Pour 2 cups water.

adding water to the pan.

14. Give a stir.

stirring vatha kulambu.

15. Add salt as per taste.

adding salt to vatha kulambu.

16. Mix well and let this Vatha Kuzhambu boil on medium-low heat for about 25 to 30 minutes.

boiling vatha kulambu.

17. Continue to simmer till the gravy thickens slightly. You will see some oil specks on the top.

simmering vatha kulambu.

18. Then, add 1 teaspoon rice flour. Adding rice flour is optional and can be skipped.

rice flour added to the gravy.

19. Add ½ teaspoon jaggery. Adding jaggery is also optional.

adding jaggery to the gravy.

20. Mix well and continue to simmer Vatha Kulambu for 4 to 5 minutes more. After you switch off the heat, you should clearly see a layer of oil once the kuzhambu has rested for 1 to 2 minutes. Check the taste and add more salt, if required.

simmering gravy.

21. Serve Vatha Kulambu with steamed rice. Accompany a side vegetable dish like a carrot or vendakkai poriyal or a stir fry like vazhakkai fry or baby potato fry.

vatha kulambu served in a fancy brassware with a spoon kept on the right side and text layovers.

Expert Tips

  1. While using tamarind for this recipe, use aged and dark tamarind preferably. This gives a lovely deep sourness to the kuzhambu.
  2. Be generous with oil. There should be a thin layer of oil on top of the kulambu. This helps in keeping the dish good for about a week in the refrigerator and also gives a good taste.
  3. For the best authentic taste, use sesame oil (gingelly oil) which is cold pressed oil made from raw sesame seeds.
  4. After adding sambar powder, it should be fried in oil so that it releases its flavors.
  5. For slight thickening of the gravy, you can add some rice flour. A bit of jaggery can also be added to balance the sourness and bitterness. However, both these are optional.  

More Kulambu Recipes To Try!

Please be sure to rate the recipe in the recipe card or leave a comment below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

vatha kulambu recipe, vatha kuzhambu recipe, manathakkali vathal kulambu recipe

Vatha Kulambu | Vatha Kuzhambu

Black nightshade tamarind curry recipe – South Indian recipe of tasty and tongue-tickling kuzhambu made with sun dried black nightshade berries. These berries are also known as manathakkali in tamil language. 
4.96 from 21 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine South Indian, Tamil Nadu
Course Main Course
Diet Vegan
Difficulty Level Easy
Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

for soaking tamarind

  • 1 lemon sized tamarind ball or 1 tablespoon tightly packed tamarind
  • 1 cup hot water

for making vatha kulambu

  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil (gingelly oil)
  • 3 tablespoons sundried black nightshade berries (manathakkali vathal)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 to 2 dry red chilies, broken and seeds removed
  • 8 to 10 curry leaves
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
  • 1.5 to 2 tablespoons Sambar Powder
  • 2 cups water
  • salt as required
  • 1 teaspoon Rice Flour – optional
  • ½ teaspoon jaggery – optional

Instructions
 

soaking tamarind

  • In a bowl take 1 lemon sized tamarind ball or 1 tablespoon tightly packed tamarind. Preferably use aged and dark tamarind.
  • Add 1 cup hot water. Cover and soak tamarind for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Squeeze the tamarind and extract the tamarind pulp in the water. Keep tamarind pulp aside.

making vatha kuzhambu

  • Heat 3 tablespoons sesame oil (gingelly oil) in a pan. Keep flame to a low and add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds.
  • Let the mustard seeds crackle.
  • Keep the flame to a low and then add ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds, 1 to 2 dry red chilies, 8 to 10 curry leaves and 1 pinch asafoetida (hing).
  • Fry and stir till the red chilies change color.
  • Keeping the flame to a low, now add 3 tablespoons manathakkali vathal (sun dried black nightshade).
  • Stirring continuously, fry for some seconds till the color of manathakkali changes. Make sure you do not burn them.
  • Now switch off the flame and add 1.5 to 2 tablespoons sambar powder.
  • Fry for 1 minute switching off the flame. You can even fry at a low flame. But do make sure that the sambar powder does not get burnt.
  • Add the tamarind pulp and 2 cups water. give a stir.
  • Add salt as per taste. mix well and let this vatha kuzhambu come to a boil on medium-low flame for about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Continue to simmer till the curry or gravy thickens slightly. You will see some oil specks on the top.
  • Then add 1 teaspoon rice flour. Adding rice flour is optional and can be skipped.
  • Add ½ teaspoon jaggery. Adding jaggery is also optional.
  • Mix well and continue to simmer vatha kulambu for 4 to 5 minutes more. After you switch off the flame you should clearly see a layer of oil after allowing the kuzhambu to rest for 1 to 2 minutes. Check the taste and add more salt if required.
  • Serve vatha kuzhambu with steamed rice.

Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)

Nutrition Facts
Vatha Kulambu | Vatha Kuzhambu
Amount Per Serving
Calories 119 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Sodium 301mg13%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 109IU2%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 23mg115%
Vitamin C 41mg50%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 1µg1%
Calcium 58mg6%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 235µg59%
Iron 2mg11%
Magnesium 3mg1%
Phosphorus 11mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Like what you see?

Stay up to date with new recipes and ideas.

This Vatha Kulambu recipe from the archives was first published in May 2018. It has been updated and republished in April 2024.

Share This Recipe:

WhatsAppPinShares106

Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

Get My Secrets to Great Indian Food
Sign up for my FREE Beginners Guide to Delicious Indian Cooking

Comments are closed.

8 Comments

  1. I tried this recipe exactly today, turned out super awesome. Thank you for putting together such recipes in a very simple format.5 stars

    1. Wonderful and thanks for letting me know. Thanks also for the feedback on the rating.

  2. Are these the berries of the ‘Solanum Nigrum’ that grows in Europe too? I’ve always been told they are poisonous but as they pop up unasked and abundatly in our vegetable garden, it would be nice te be able to eat them.

    1. these are the berries of solanum nigrum. there is another plant in europe which is a poisonous one and is called as deadly nightshade. the ones found in india is safe to consume. in southern parts of india, black night shade plants grow in the courtyards and gardens. so the leaves are also used in cooking. ripe berries are also consumed. leaves should be always be cooked before eating and berries must be ripe before having them.

      you can check this linked in link which is helpful – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/from-nutritionists-diary-the-wonder-greens-chandra/
      and the below link tells about the difference between deadly nightshade and black nightshade – https://www.rootsimple.com/2011/11/deadly-nightshade-vs-black-nightshade/