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Kerala Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes

Kerala Kadala Curry – A Break In The Climb

Starting early morning from Kannur – to get home to Bangalore before nightfall – after attending the naming ceremony of my niece, we left Kerala behind and climbed up the Western Ghats. The rays of the morning sun slowly cleared the thick mist that hung in the air. Turns are hidden and motoring is a hazard as you do not know what lies ahead.

Halfway through the Ghats, almost at the end of the climb, was a small thatched shop, with people crowding around and eating from plantain leaves. A few cars and a bus were parked nearby. There wasn’t even a customary name board – “Hotel & Tea Shop” – to show it as an eatery. The fresh morning air and the starting pangs of hunger drew us into the shop;  we were rewarded with steaming puttu and kadala curry, Kerala’s very own breakfast, the only item in the menu.

What set the dish apart was its perfection – the softness of the puttu married to the distinctive taste of grated coconut and the succulent kadala,  with the subtle spiciness of the masala.  A more perfect breakfast I cannot imagine!!

Kerala tops in having varied, tasty and nutritious breakfasts , puttu and kadala curry being one of them. Kadala curry is made with cooked Bengal gram, simmered in a brown creamy coconut sauce, with the distinctive aroma of  roasted, grated coconut.  It tastes great with appam too.


Preparation Time 20 min.         Serves 6                     Cook Time45min.


  1. Kadala  / bengal gram -1 cup (cleaned and soaked overnight )
  2. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  3. Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
  4. Tomato – 1 , cut small
  5. Onion -1.5 (sliced fine)
  6. Small onions -3 or 4 (cut small)
  7. Grated coconut -1 cup
  8. Chilli powder -1 tsp
  9. Coriander powder -1/2 tsp
  10. Coarse pepper powder -1 tsp
  11. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  12. Curry leaves -1 stalk
  13. Red chillies – 2
  14. Salt – to taste


  • Add 1/2 cut onion, a pinch of chilli powder and salt to the bengal gram in a pressure cooker .Add  two cups of water to it, close cooker and pressure cook  for 20 minutes or until the gram is tender.
  • Simultaneously fry  grated coconut, small onions and half the curry leaves in a thick bottomed pan till the color of the coconut turns brown and a distinctive aroma wafts from it. Take off the heat and add all the powders – chilly,coriander, pepper, and turmeric. Stir and allow to cool. Grind it to a fine paste with little water.(1)
  • In a heavy pan, heat 1.5 tbsps oil, add one onion, saute till light brown, add cut tomatoes and saute till cooked. Allow to cool and grind it to a smooth sauce.(2)
  • Now add both sauces (1) and (2) to the cooked kadala and allow to simmer for five to six  minutes.
  • Lastly, heat oil , season with mustard, red chillies and curry leaves. Add it to the kadala curry. Serve hot. Best with Puttu or Appam.

Sometimes I use Kabuli Chana (right) instead; the curry comes out as well as it does with Chickpeas.

Quick Snack – To make a quick kadala curry, soak Bengal gram overnight and pressure cook till done. Season oil with mustard, curry leaves and red chillies. Combine together  all the powders – turmeric,chilly and coriander and also Eastern chicken masala (optional) with a few drops of water and fry the paste. Put gram and simmer for 5 – 6 minutes.

Quick Tip – A substitute for tamarind is raw mango. Peel mango, slice it and use in fish curries or dals. It gives a nice, tangy taste to the curry.


About Paddy

When I married and came to Bangalore, it was a real ‘Pensioners’ Paradise.’ The climate was as today’s generation would say – ‘Awesome’. It was cool and pleasant throughout the year. My parents cautioned me to keep warm and have given me the loveliest Kashmir shawls, which I treasure to this day. Since I could not distinguish between rice and dal, cooking was an uphill task. I had a cook from Kerala, but the cold weather did not suit her and in a month’s time, she went back. Looking back, I have come a long way now… Cooking for me has metamorphosed from a daily routine of making edible and nutritious food for my family to an exciting journey of creativity by experimenting with different flavors and ingredients. To me, food is not only for nourishment and sustenance. Its taste and flavors take us back to our good times too. Food is nostalgia and comfort. It brings home our culture. Food is a treat and nourishment for the soul too. I dedicate this blog to my parents, who instilled in me a strong sense of ethics and discipline, and whose affection, love and support gives me strength in this journey of life. I feel the need of today’s generation, who come away from their homes and crave for home cooked food. To you too, I dedicate this blog, where I will share the recipes that I have learnt and grown to love over the years.


3 thoughts on “Kerala Kadala Curry – A Break In The Climb

  1. Padmini – thank you for sharing this recipe. I hope with this recipe I’ll be able to capture the authentic taste of the kerala kadala curry – have not been successful thus far. I enjoy reading the tit bits before each recipe. Thanks again. Kavita Pereira (Hema’s sister)

    Posted by Kavita | February 24, 2012, 2:17 PM
    • Very happy to hear from you, Kavita. Doesn’t our association go back a long way! I am sure you will be able to create the magical taste of the kadala curry. Any suggestions are welcome.
      With warm regards,

      Posted by Paddy | February 24, 2012, 7:30 PM
  2. I really like your writing style, great info , thankyou for posting : D.

    Posted by Doloris Dooling | March 20, 2012, 11:51 PM

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