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Stews of South India

Mallika is a content writer and a foodie who loves her native Indian cuisine. She enjoys exploring the cuisine and sharing it with others.

A vegetable stew

A vegetable stew

Indian stews are one of the main course dishes of a south Indian meal. The general definition of a stew is that it is a dish of meat and vegetables cooked slowly in liquid in a closed dish or pan but an Indian stew rarely contains the combination of meat with vegetables whereas a non-veg curry has the combination of meat cooked with vegetables. Generally, the Indian stews have vegetables. A stew is different from a curry.

  • The consistency of a stew is thinner than curry but thicker than soup. It has a flowing consistency.
  • A stew has fewer spices than a curry and it has more liquid than a curry.
  • The tempering technique is used in a stew whereas all curries do not have tempering.

South Indian tempering ingredients:

Oil or ghee, Cumin, black mustard seeds, split urad dal or black gram, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, dry red chillies, garlic and asafoetida.

In this article, let's see the different varieties of stews in South Indian cuisine.

A lentil based stew

A lentil based stew

a. Lentil based stews

In these type of stews, lentils and vegetables are cooked together with some spices. The selection of vegetables is one's choice ranging from a single vegetable to mixed vegetables.

1. Sambhar

Cuisine: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Lentils: Split pigeon peas or toor dal.

Vegetables: Onion, shallot, tomato, potato, ladies finger, brinjal, drum stick, radish, ash gourd and carrot.

Spice powder: Sambhar powder

Tempering: Oil, dry red chillies, split urad dal, black mustard, cumin, curry leaves and asafoetida.

Ingredients: Toor dal, vegetables, turmeric powder, tamarind extract, sambhar powder, salt, water and tempering.

  • It is popular comfort food in South Indian cuisine and a side dish for South Indian breakfasts and rice.

2. Pappu Charu

Cuisine: Andhra Pradesh

Lentils: Split pigeon peas or Toor dal

Vegetables: Onion, tomato, brinjal, ladies finger, drumsticks and yellow cucumber

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Tempering: Oil, dry red chillies, split urad dal, black mustard, cumin, curry leaves, chopped onions and garlic pods.

Ingredients: Toor dal, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, tamarind, vegetables, water, salt and tempering.

  • Pappu charu is a stew that is similar to sambhar without any spice powder. The steamed rice, Pappu charu and fish fry are a popular combination in Andhra cuisine.

3. Veg-Dalcha

Cuisine: Hyderabadi; Telangana

Lentils: Split Bengal gram or Channa dal, toor dal(optional)

Vegetables: Onion, tomato, brinjal, bottle gourd, drum sticks, raw plantain and raw mango.

Spice paste: Freshly grated coconut, ginger, garlic, green chillies and garam masala powder.

Tempering: Oil, cumin, slit green chillies and fresh coriander leaves.

Ingredients: Split Bengal gram, tamarind extract, turmeric powder, vegetables, spice paste, salt, water and tempering.

  • In, authentic dalcha recipe, mutton is also used but it can be avoided in the vegetarian version.

4. Poricha or Poritha Kuzhambu

Cuisine: Tamil Nadu

Lentils: Toor dal

Vegetables: Brinjal, chow- chow or chayote, pumpkin, snake gourd, broad beans, drumsticks and elephant foot yam.

Spice paste: 1 teaspoon of oil, split black gram or urad dal, cumin, dry red chillies, black pepper, grated coconut, fennel(optional), raw rice(optional)

  • Roast all the ingredients in a teaspoon of oil and let them cool. Blend them in a mixer jar to a fine paste. If raw rice is used, soak the rice in water for a few minutes and drain the water. You can use the soaked rice water for the paste.

Tempering: Oil, split urad dal, black mustard, curry leaves and asafoetida

Ingredients: Toor dal, turmeric powder, salt, vegetables, spice paste, water and tempering.

  • Poricha Kuzhambu is a traditional Tamil Brahmin dish in which onions and garlic are not used in the recipe. It is a common dish consumed daily.

Note: If moong dal or split green gram is used instead of toor dal in the above recipe, the dish is called Poricha Kootu.

5. Thirunelveli Sodhi

Cuisine: Tirunelveli District; Tamil Nadu

Lentils: Split green gram or moong dal

Vegetables: Shallots, potato, green peas, carrot, drum sticks, beans, yellow pumpkin and broad beans.

Spice paste: Ginger, green chillies and cumin.

Tempering: Oil, black mustard, curry leaves, cashew nuts and garlic.

Ingredients: Moong dal, turmeric powder, vegetables, spice paste, thin consistency coconut milk, salt, thick consistency coconut milk, lemon juice and tempering.

  • Sodhi is a popular vegetable stew in the Tirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. It is a wedding dish and also known as Mappilai Sodhi Kuzhambu or Bridegroom stew.
  • This flavorful stew is prepared by the bride’s family as a treat for their son-in-law on the first visit to the bride’s place after marriage.
  • The coconut milk extracted by fresh coconut is an important ingredient in this dish. Two types of coconut milk, one with a thick consistency and another thin consistency are used in the recipe.
  • This dish goes well with rice and appam.

6. Ulundhu Kuzhambu or Black gram stew

Cuisine: Tamil Nadu

Lentils: Whole black gram or urad dal

Vegetables: Shallots or onions, brinjal and drumsticks

Spice paste: Fresh coconut, shallots, cumin and garlic

Tempering: Sesame oil, dry red chillies, split urad dal, black mustard, curry leaves and asafoetida.

Ingredients: Dry roasted urad dal, vegetables, spice paste, tamarind extract, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, salt, water and tempering.

  • Ulundhu Kuzhambu is a Tamil style black gram and vegetable stew.


b. Rasam, the soupy stew

Cuisine: South Indian

  • The word "Rasam" is derived from the Sanskrit word "rasa", meaning juice.
  • According to some historical sources, the origin of rasam is in Madurai that dates back to the 16th century when the land was ruled by the Saurashtra rulers.
  • Also known as chaaru, saaru, chaaru pani, rasam is a soupy stew with fewer vegetables like onion, tomato, brinjal, drumsticks, raw mango etc.
  • It has a spicy-sour-sweet combination taste due to the usage of tamarind or kokum or raw or dry mango extract, jaggery, red chilli powder and black pepper.
  • It is usually eaten with rice but not as a soup though it can be taken as a soup as well. It has broth-like consistency, thinner than sambhar and has fewer spices. In some recipes, a spice powder called Rasam powder and a few tablespoons of steamed lentils is also used.
  • The rasam in Tamil Nadu is different in taste, texture and flavour from the saaru in Karnataka or the chaaru in Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is known for its medicinal effects as an appetizer and a digestive beverage due to the use of tamarind as its base. It is a good antidote for common cough and cold, lack of appetite, headache and tastelessness in the mouth due to fever or digestive problems.

Ingredients of rasam: Steamed lentils(optional), tempering spices, vegetables, tamarind extract, black pepper, red chilli powder, garlic, coriander leaves, turmeric, asafoetida, rock salt, rasam powder, water and curry leaves.

Rasam varieties: Rasam with rasam powder, Mysore rasam, Black pepper-cumin rasam, Tomato rasam, Fruit rasam-pine apple, apple and orange, Tamarind rasam, drumstick rasam, Ginger-garlic rasam, Ulava chaaru or horse gram rasam, majjiga charu or buttermilk rasam, gottu or instant rasam etc.

Shallots Kuzhambu

Shallots Kuzhambu

c. Kuzhambu or Kulambu

Cuisine: Tamil Nadu

  • Kuzhambu is a stew of vegetables and tamarind extract without lentils as a base. Tamarind and fenugreek seeds are the distinct ingredients in a Kuzhambu as they pair well.
  • The consistency lies between lentil based stews and rasam that means thinner than lentil based stews and thicker than rasam.
  • The name of a Kuzhambu dish is as per the main ingredient that is used in that dish and there are more than 20 varieties of Kuzhambus in Tamil cuisine.


  • Milagu or Black pepper Kuzhambu
  • Kara Kuzhambu or vegetables-shallots, ladies finger, brinjal, drum sticks Kuzhambu
  • Mor or buttermilk Kuzhambu
  • Poondu or garlic Kuzhambu
  • Thakkali or tomato Kuzhambu
  • Mambazha or mango Kuzhambu
  • Paruppu undrai or lentil balls Kuzhambu
  • Varutha or dried turkey berry Kuzhambu
Bendaka/ladies finger pulusu

Bendaka/ladies finger pulusu

d. Pulusu

Cuisine: Andhra Pradesh

  • Pulusu is also a vegetable stew that has tamarind extract as a distinct ingredient.
  • It is similar to Kuzhambu but varies slightly in the cooking process and ingredients.
  • The consistency is thin like rasam.
  • There are vegetarian and non-vegetarian pulusu in Andhra cuisine.

Ingredients: Tamarind extract, tomatoes, mangoes, chillies, onions, vegetables like ladies finger, brinjal, colocasia, yam, etc., jaggery, tempering spices, fish, chicken, and eggs.


  • Bendakaya or ladies finger pulusu
  • Dappalam or pumpkin, ash gourd pulusu
  • Kalagura or mukkala pulusu or mixed vegetable pulusu
  • Vatti pulusu or onion pulusu
  • Vankaya or brinjal pulusu
  • Pachi pulusu or uncooked pulusu
  • Kodi guddu or egg pulusu
  • Kodi or chicken pulusu
  • Chepala or fish pulusu
Ishtu, Kerala stew

Ishtu, Kerala stew

e. Coconut based stews

Cuisine: Kerala

  • Kerala stews are mainly coconut-based, using freshly grated coconut and coconut milk. They are the best side dish for appam and rice.
  • Non-vegetarian and vegetable stews are present in Kerala cuisine.

Ingredients: Vegetables like drum sticks, raw banana, beans, carrot, pumpkin, ash gourd, potato, ivy gourd, yam and snake gourd, shallots, green chillis, ginger, curry leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, coconut oil and coconut milk.


  • Avial
  • Malabar Ishtu or potato stew
  • Kappa or tapioca or cassava stew
  • Chicken Ishtu
  • Mutton Ishtu
  • Mappas or chicken stew
  • Meen molee or fish stew
  • Nadan beef stew or Kerala beef stew

Enjoy your breakfast and meals with different South Indian stews.

Happy cooking!

© 2021 Mallika Lotus


Mallika Lotus (author) from Hyderabad, India on May 25, 2021:

Thank you @Rozlin and Mr Bhatt.

Rozlin from UAE on May 24, 2021:

What a wonderful compilation of stews, Mallika. My favorite stew is sambhar. Thanks for sharing a hub on delicious South Indian stews. Have a good day

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on May 24, 2021:

Well presented.

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