Paruppu Urundai Kulambu (Red Gram Dhal Ball Curry)

Tamil Nadu is famous for the Paruppu Urundai Kulambu, which is steamed dhal balls cooked in a savoury curry. My mother had a recipe using Bengal gram dhal for the balls, but the curry she had suggested was very vague. When I prepared her recipe at home, it was not popular and we also had attacks of flatulence. In my eternal search for recipes, I found many using either red gram dhal or a combination of the two dhals. I chose to use only red gram dhal because it is the least digestively offensive. The curry that I have used is a combination of ideas taken from several recipes.


Paruppu Urundai Kulambu (Red Gram Dhal Ball Curry)

This curry has a typical South Indian flavour and therefore goes well with typical South Indian dishes like idli, dosai, plain rice, or with a variety of South Indian rice dishes such as pulav and mixed rices (lime rice and tamarind rice).

Nutritive Value

The red gram dhal in the curry gives 22 g of protein per 100 g of dhal used. This is a high protein and moderate energy vegetarian dish, and can become high energy as well depending on the food it is combined with.


For the Urundai (Balls)

  • 1 C Red Gram Dhal
  • 2 T Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tsp Sombu (Aniseed) Powder
  • ½ C Sambar Onion (Shallots), diced
  • 2 sprigs Curry Leaves, diced
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, diced
  • ¼ C Coconut scrapings
  • 1 tsp Salt, or to taste

For the Kulambu (Curry)

  • 1 large Onion, diced
  • 2 Tomatoes, pulsed for 10 seconds
  • 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
  • 1 T Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • 1 T Coriander Powder
  • ½ tsp Cumin Powder
  • ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
  • ½ tsp Mustard
  • 1 small lime sized ball of Tamarind (juice extracted)
  • 3 T Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tsp Salt, or to taste
  • 2 C Water
  • Grind together
    • ½ C Coconut scrapings
    • 8-10 Sambar Onions (Shallots)


To prepare the Urundai (Balls)

  1. Soak the red gram dhal for 2 hours. Drain.
  2. Grind in a mixie or a blender along with turmeric, chilli, and sombu powders and salt, to a coarse paste.
  3. Mix with the dhal paste, diced onion, garlic and curry leaves, and coconut scrapings. Adjust salt.
  4. Divide the dhal paste into lime sized balls.
  5. Steam in an idli steamer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Steamed paruppu urundai in the idli steamer rack

To prepare the Kulambu (Curry)

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan.
  2. Add the mustard. When it crackles, add the onion and fry.
  3. Add the tomatoes after the onion has become translucent. Fry the mixture till the oil separates.
  4. Add the chilli, turmeric, coriander, and cumin powders and blend. Add a little water to prevent scorching.
  5. Add the tamarind juice and 1 cup of water, salt, and the ground coconut, and stir.
  6. Bring to boil. Add the steamed balls.
  7. Boil gently without stirring till the balls begin to float.
  8. Add the curry leaves and remove.


  1. The paruppu urundais should be steamed only for 10 minutes. Steam any longer and they will become hard.
  2. If you don’t have an idli steamer, use any other steamer available. Take care that the balls do not touch the water or they will disintegrate.
  3. To prepare the tamarind extract, soak the tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for half an hour. Squeeze the soaked pulp and send the extract through a strainer. Add water again to the pulp and extract more juice. If you are using commercially available tamarind extract, use 2-3 teaspoons to suit your taste.
  4. I use Kashmiri Chilli powder for its mild flavour and punchy colour.

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