Karuvepilai/Thenga (Curry Leaf/Coconut) Chutney and Idli

Coconut chutney and its several hundred variations are probably the most common and quintessentially Tamilian breakfast accompaniment that exists! Needless to say it’s delicious. This below version I make very often, is a 5 minute quick recipe that packs so much flavor, you’d make it everyday and keep in a jar and put it on everything. (That’s what I do!)

Typically served with all types of Idli, Dosa, Pongal or Upma, all savory breakfast South Indian dishes that are all other worldly delicious; I also use and adapt this chutney as salad dressing, or top it with my avocado toasts! Truly versatile.

Our epic breakfast this morning was idli and this coconut curry leaf chutney. Idli is a super nutritious dish (kind of a cross between a dumpling and a savory pancake) made from a fermented batter of par boiled rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds. The complexity of this seemingly simple and humble idli is inexplicable. Getting soft, fluffy and spongy melt in your mouth idlis are a thing of pride. And the technique mastered makes you a master cook. My idli batter will be a post for another day, today is all about the chutney.

Serves 4

For the chutney:
3/4 cup fresh grated coconut. I use frozen from my indian grocery store, and thaw it to room temperature. (dried coconut will not work)
1/2 cup roasted channa dal (or pottu kadalai as we call it)
It has to be the roasted kind not the raw channa dal used for cooking dal.
1 indian or thai green chilli
2 cloves garlic (optional, if you don’t enjoy the garlic flavor)
2″ piece ginger
Fresh curry leaves, about 3-4 sprigs. Should yield at-least 20 leaves.
Fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup
1 tsp coarse kosher salt (adjust according to the kind of salt you use)

For the topping:
2 tsp gingely oil (sesame oil’s equally delicious nutty cousin)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp urad dal
2 dried red chillies

In a blender throw in all the measured chutney ingredients, and blend together until smooth. I add in 3 tablespoons of water to get the blending started. And then maybe another 2-3 tablespoons more if necessary. It’s best to keep it a bit on the thick side and thin it out later if necessary depending on what you use it for. For south indian breakfasts, a thicker chutney is better.

In a small pan, heat the gingely oil over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds start spluttering, add asafoetida, urad dal and dried red chilli. Keep frying for a few seconds until the urad dal is golden, delicious and toasted. Turn off heat, top the blended chutney with this crispy nutty crunchy mixture and it’s ready to devour.

The roasted channa dal is the key to making the chutney really light, fluffy and creamy!


The other star of this chutney idli combination is gingely oil. It really does make the entire dish with a few drizzles. Much like olive oil to Italian cooking, gingely oil is so characteristic in what it brings out of authentic tamilian/southern indian cooking. It can be used to cook with, and can be eaten raw drizzled over food. Also ayurvedicly known as one of the most healthier oils to eat. Don’t miss trying it out!

Now on to some pretty pictures, of my soul food, the Idlis. Typically they’re made in an idli mold, greased with gingely oil, and steamed in a pressure cooker. Once you have the batter right, they’re quite simple to make.

And on our table this morning was this epic-ness! And did I mention – completely vegan? Yup! Also, always…always drizzle more gingely oil over the top of the idlis and the entire plate.



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