Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thiruvadarai Kali and Kootu

This was one meal that my sisters and I hated when we were kids. So, when my mother in law called to remind me of this festival, I wasn't all that excited! Neither was A who loves all kinds of food. So, we decided to make very little Kali and Kootu. Though the Internet calls this an important festival for Tamils, I'm not so sure since we did not do much celebration apart from eating Kali and Kootu. However, this time around, since I'm a responsible adult celebrating my first Thiruvadarai, I decided to research this time around and find out more what I'm doing! Read on to see what I learned.

Apparently, this festival celebrates Lord Shiva, a Hindu God venerated by a community called Shaivaites in Tamil Nadu. The story goes like this. Once Lord Vishnu who was thinking of Lord Shiva's 'tandav' nritya during his celestial sleep/nap, his seat(!) Adi Sesha which is in fact a large serpent felt that Lord Vishnu was really heavy that day. When he spoke to Lord Vishnu about this, He mentioned that He was dreaming of the celestial dance of Lord Shiva. Adi Sesha wanted to watch this celestial dance himself and sought Lord Vishnu's advice.

Lord Vishnu directed him to worship Lord Shiva and conduct penance at Chidambaram, a small temple town in Tamil Nadu. So, Adi Sesha came to Earth in the form of the sage Patanjali and performed a penance for Lord Shiva. In the same town, there was also another sage Vyagrahapada who prayed to Lord Shiva to obtain paws like the tiger, so he could climb trees and pluck flowers for Lord Shiva before the bees got to them. He also wanted to watch the Lord's celestial dance.

Lord Shiva was pleased with the prayers of both and performed the Ananda Tandavam– Blissful Dance. Since then, this event is celebrated in Tamil Nadu as Thiruvadarai. The image at Chidambaram of Lord Nataraja (King of dancers) owes it to this legend. In homes, the festival is celebrated by an early morning worship of Lord Siva and He is offered two special dishes prepared only on that day – kaLi (a sweet) and thaLakam (a kind of mixed vegetable “kootu”).

This festival is celebrated in the Margazhi month of the Tamil calendar. During this month is when the Lord Shiva's star - Arudra nakshatram - the star according to Hindu astrology occurs. Long story over! Here are the recipes :)

Thiruvadarai Kali


- 1/2 cup rice
- 1/8 cup Moong Dal
- 1/4 cup Chana Dal
- 1/2 cup Jaggery
- 1/2 cup coconut
- 1/8 cup ghee
- 1 tbsp powdered cardamom
- Roasted cashewnuts

1. Dry roast the rice and the lentils until they are reddish in colour

2. Pulse this mixture in a mixie to form a flour

3. Boil water in a large bottomed pan and add jaggery to it. let the jaggery melt and dissolve into the water. Let it simmer.

4. Add the grated coconut to this liquid and let it simmer for 3-4 mins.

5. Once it starts to boil, add half of the ghee and mix well. Immediately, add the flour and stir vigorously to prevent lumps. Break the lumps if any!

6. Keep it closed for 5-7 mins and let it cook. You may need to stir it in between to prevent charring of the flour.

7. Remove lid. Stir until the flour and water integrate to form a ball. It looks like a halwa at one stage. Cook with continous stirring for the another 10 mins. Finally, add the rest of the ghee and mix well and cook for 3-4 mins.

8. Garnish with cashewnuts and remove from gas. Once cooled, break the ball into lumps. Strangely enough, this Kali is usually lumpy and in between being dry and moist!

Thiruvadarai Kootu


1/2 cup each of all vegetables -
-quartered potatoes
- stringed and chopped lengthwise beans
- white pumpkin or Pooshnika (in Tamil) chopped into chunks
- yellow pumpkin or the calabaza chopped into chunks
- Brinjal or eggplant chopped
- carrots chopped lengthwise
- Peas - as much as you want

The idea behind this Kootu is that it should have an odd number of veggies. A'd have loved to make it one :), however, traditionally, it is called Ezhukari Kootu where Ezhu means 7 or seven in Tamil. So, I decided to use seven different vegetables to make this Kootu.

ingredients contd...

- 1/4 cup Tuvar Dal
- A fistful of Chana Dal
- 1 tbsp Turmeric
- Lemon-sized ball of Tamarind

For the paste:

- 10-12 pods Dried Red Chillies
- Coriander seeds - a fistful
- 1/4 cup grated coconut

For the Tadka:

- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds or Menthya
- 3-4 pods red chillies
- 1/2 tsp Asafoetida
- 1 sprig of Curry leaves

1. Cook all the veggies with turmeric in the pressure cooker until well-cooked but not mashable.
Similarly, cook the dal/lentils separately in the pressure cooker, until well-cooked and mashable.

2. Roast the ingredients for the masala paste and grind them to a smooth paste using little water

2. Meanwhile, soak tamarind in hot water and squeeze all the juice out of the tamarind. Once the veggies are done, boil the tamarind and add all the cooked vegetables once the tamarind juice is simmering

3. Once the vegetables have simmered for about 7-10 mins in the tamarind juice, add the dal/lentil along with the masala paste.

4. Stir well. Let it stay on the gas and simmer for around 7-10 mins. Once all the flavours are well-integrated, make the Tadka and add it to the Kootu.

I found this recipe from the cookbook 'Samaithu Par' by S. Meenakshi Ammal. This is probably one thing that every modern Tamil mother gives her daughter on her marriage and I received my 3 volumes filled with anything and everything that my granny makes from my aunt as a gift for agreeing to marry :D And the recipes here are usually for large families, so I adjusted the measurements and made it just enough for the both of us.

I hope you guys had a great Sankranthi/Pongal!


Raaga said...

Thanks for a lovely story, since my amil side is Iyengar, I'd no idea there was a festival like this or why it was celebrated.

I have these books too :-) And I hope you enjoyed the meal at least this time. It looks delish to me.

Cham said...

My town is just 2 hours from Chidambaram. Well Chidambaram will be floating of people on this day!Nice post! The kootu and kali look divine :)

viji said...

Nice post and thanks for the receipe book reference. I was searching for some good receipe book. Pls add your post in www.newspaanai.com and share with others.

Asha said...

I am a Shaiva/Lingayat but I never knew about this combo.(I am not very religious, that may be the reason!:D) Looks delicious.I made Kali once, loved the taste, I will try these once! :))

Suma Rajesh said...

wooo its a nice thali..looks divine and delicious..

maxdavinci said...

who cares what the occasion is, as long as there is yummy food!

the kali looks simple ya, may try it..

sra said...

I ate this sweet just the other day, but the person who brought it seems to have pronounced Tirvadarai as something slightly different.

Nags said...

Its nice you "celebrated", atleast food wise :) And I want those books too!!! Maybe next time when I go to Chennai!

Madhuram said...

Kali is my favorite too. But I don't like the combination of sweet and spicy. So I eat only the kali. The kali looks very delicious, it's long time since I have made it.

Jayashree said...

I've seen this Cook & See series and have always wondered if it is any good. Maybe I'll now go out and buy one of those books.

DEESHA said...

I didnt even know that there is a festival like this, Being a Kannadiga, I dont think we celebrate this Got to knw this only through various blogs. Havent heard abt this festival from my Iyer friends too. so is this like a big festival for you guys?

A_and_N said...

@ Raaga: Oh, I thought it was celebrated by Tamils alike! And we did enjoy it this time individually again :)

@ Cham: Thanks Cham! Oh, I'd have never guessed you were Tam :)

@ Viji: Thanks! Done, Ma'am!

@ Asha: I think its celebrated by Tamils. I'm hardly religious too :P

@ Suma: Thanks :)

@ Max: Yay! You commented on my food blog! tengyoo tengyoo. Try and let me know.

@ Sra: I did not know anything about this until I celebrated it myself, Sra!

@ Nags: :D ya, that is the only way I celebrate any festival ;)

@ Madhuram: Same pinch! :)

@ Jayashree: It does have some very authentic Tamil recipes, Jayshree. Worth it, I'd say.

@ Deesha: Ooooooh, neevu Kannadiga na? I was born and brought up in Bangalore :) So, my house has lots of Kannada influence in cooking :) It is not a big festival at all. Just one of those things that we do every year just before Pongal/Sankranthi. I thought all Tamils celebrate it, but now am not sure.

Kitchen Flavours said...

Wow this is something new to me. Looks yummylicious...

DEESHA said...

hey yu from Bangalore?? thatz cool. Iam also from Bangalore But I was in Mumbai for a looong time due to Dad's transfer, But now my family is settled in Bangalore, once I finished Schooling I came down to Bangalore for college. My parents live in Jayanagar & my in-laws are from girinagar. how abt yr family? Go to meet a fello Bangalorean :)

Just call me 'A' said...

hey, this looks wholesome. can it be eaten just like that as a rice substitute? or doe sit go well with Roti?

A_and_N said...

@ Kitchen Flavours: Thanks :)

@ Deesha: Yay! My parents may know your parents (some hopes!)

@ A - Am sure you can eat the Kootu with Rotis or Rice. It is very much like Sambar!

Aparna said...

We celebrate Tiruvathirai (though it is celebrated in the rest of Kerala a bit differently) too and make this Kali and Kaavathu (our equivalent of Kootu). And the the Kaavathu is made with root vegetables and avarakkai (hyacinth beans).
I still don't like either very much.:( I can manage the first but dislike the second!

Malar Gandhi said...

Interesting thiruvadhirai kali and kootu, great combo right...Nice clicks...