Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ulli Theeyal - Kerala Style Vetha Kuzhambu!

I had been to Nala's appa kadai last year with a few colleagues for a friday afternoon lunch. One of my friend is a mallu and she was soooo thrilled to order this Ulli Theeyal to go along with the appam and some rice. I had no idea then of what it really meant and thought it was some kind of a non-vegetarian dish;-)! Then, after it arrived I discovered it was made purely of small onions in a spicy gravy....oooooohhhh such a mouth watering taste it had.

On eating it I felt a slight connect of it to our very own vetha kuzhambu. Sometimes, when we go on a huge family outing and pack lunch, we do the vetha kuzhambu with some ground spices and it tastes close to this dish. Ever since I tasted it in that restaurant I have been wanting to make it myself and I finally did it:-) So, here goes the recipe altered a bit to suite our taste buds:-)


- 15 to 20 small onions or pearl onions
- 1 medium tomato (optional)
- 7 or 8 red chillies, divided
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/2 cup grated coconut
- 1/2 cup or 1/4 cup tamarind puree
-1/4 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)
- a pinch of jaggery (optional)
- mustard seeds and curry leaves for tempering
- Salt to taste

Prep time: 30 mins                      Cook time: 20 mins


- Peel the onions and chop them into thin slices. This takes the maximum time.
- Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

- In a pan, add 1 tsp oil and roast the coriander seeds, 4 red chillies, methi seeds and the coconut. This is the important step. You need to roast the coconuts till such time they turn reddish brown! This roasted coconut gives the taste to the dish as well as the name! Theeyal in Malayalam as in Tamil means something that has been burnt.

- Set the roasted spices aside for them to cool and grind them with little water on cooling.

- In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a deep pan and add the mustard seeds, remaining 3 or 4 red chillies and curry leaves and let them splutter. Now add the onions and fry them till they turn golden.
- Add the tomatoes and fry them until they get soft. To this add the tamarind puree and bring it to a boil before adding the ground spices.
- Now add the ground coconut paste and a pinch of jaggery and simmer the entire mix for 4 or 5 mins on medium and your Ulli Theeyal is ready!

- This goes very well with rice, dosa, idli and ofcourse appam:-)

Foot note:

- Add tamarind puree as per your liking for sourness
- Addition of tomato is optional. I prefer to use less tamarind, so added tomato as a substitute.


  1. ya.. this is also called as kutta kuzhambhu.. u can see in my blog, except for coriander seeds.. anyways good presentation as always!!

  2. oh yeah...:-)jus chkd...seems more or less similar except the sambar powder & coconut oil! Ulli(small onions) theeyal is typical Kerala dish and is done only with small onions though!

  3. first time here - and you've already won me over with this mouth watering vethakozhamu recipe - So yum!
    Following you dear - love to see you on my blog too :) cheers, Priya

  4. This looks good.....something new for me.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi!
    I love ullitheeyal!Its taste is the one which i cannot forget. Good photos!!