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Pulikyatchal (A Spicy Green Chilli-Ginger-Tamarind Chutney)

Posted Sep 15 2009 4:47pm

A t the beginning of this month, I had posted a picture of a festive meal (sadya) served on a plantain leaf. One of the items on that leaf was "Pulikyatchal". This is very spicy chutney that is served and eaten like a pickle (Indian style). In Kerala, this is also known as "puli-inji" or "inji-puli" bith meaning ginger-tamarind.

The name "pulikyatchal" comes from two words, "puli" meaning tamarind and "katchal" from "katcharadhu" meaning to cook. So as you would have figured out, this chutney is basically made by cooking finely chopped ginger and green chillies in tamarind pulp till it is quite thick in consistency.

This chutney is another one of those preparations which is daily fare yet our festive meals are incomplete without it.

You will, once again, find numerous variations of this recipe depending on who is making it. There are versions which include shallots/ onions and others which do not use ginger (or green chillies).

This particular version is how it is made in our family and it is very much Palakkad Iyer fare. The amount for each ingredient is indicative so feel free to adjust the amounts to your taste.
Make your adjustments such that your chutney is quite spicy (and salty) with a very strong sour note and the jaggery should just add a hint of sweetness while balancing out the spice and the tang.


a large lemon sized ball of tamarind

about 2 to 3 tbsp finely chopped ginger

3 to 4 green chillies, chopped

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 sprigs curry leaves

3 tbsp powdered jaggery (or more)

salt to taste

For tempering:

3 tbsp sesame seed oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp Bengal gram lentils (chana dal)

1/4 tsp asafetida powder


Soak the tamarind in about 3 cups warm water for about half an hour. Using your fingers, rub the tamarind well in the water and then squeeze out as much pulp as possible. Throw away whatever residue is left of the tamarind and keep the tamarind pulp aside.

In a deep pan (or wok), heat the sesame seed oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the lentils and sauté till they're golden in colour. Turn down the heat to medium and add the asafetida powder and the curry leaves. Stir a couple of times and add the chopped ginger, green chillies and turmeric powder.

Sauté for about 5 minutes till the ginger turns soft. Add the tamarind pulp, jaggery and salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat a bit further, and simmer till the mixture thickens to the consistency of a chutney and you can see a bit of oil on the surface.

Take off the heat, cool and bottle. This recipe makes a small jar of chutney and will keep for over a month.
Serve with rice and plain yogurt or dosas.

As Sra pointed out in the comments section, this chutney can be added to cooled, cooked rice along with peanuts pan fried and browned with a little oil and mixed well to make Tamarind Rice/ Puliyodharai.

Thanks for all those comments. Let me further clear up the confusion.
It is correct, as pointed out in the comments section, that "puliyodharai" (a kind of tamarind rice) does not have ginger in it, and this is not the tamarind chutney that is used to make it.
I just wanted to say that one could make a tamarind rice of sorts by mixing this chutney with rice.

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