I loved this dish as a child and no one could make it as well as our eldest aunt. It was not a recipe that one would undertake lightly as the lentil dumplings/kofte often had a tendency of falling apart and dissolving without leaving the faintest trace! Since my aunt always graciously offered to prepare it, everybody was happy to entrust it to her. The urundais/dumplings/kofte were served nestled on top of hot steamed rice - absolutely delicious with the spicy tamarind flavored sauce!
Here is Hema's foolproof recipe; her secret is to add a little rice flour to keep the urundais intact. Without the rice flour the urundais may fall apart; but too much will result in little cannon balls! If eight red chilies seem daunting, you may want to use less - try one or two chilies and/or break them and discard the seeds for a milder dish. Both toor and chana dal are yellow, split and skinless. Although you won't get the delicate taste of the dals, yellow split peas are excellent substitutes.
4 - 6 Servings
1 cup Split pigeon peas (Toor/arhar dal)
1/4 cup Split Bengal gram (Chana dal)
8 Whole red chillies
2 tbsp Oil
1 pinch Asafetida
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 medium sized Onion (chopped) (optional)
2 Green chillies (finely minced)
1/4 cup Coconut (grated)
Salt to taste
20 fresh Curry leaves
1/4 cup Fresh Coriander leaves (Cilantro), chopped
1 tbsp Rice flour
1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds (methi)
1½ tsp Sambar powder
1½ tbsp Instant Tamarind paste
Soak toor dal and chana dal in four cups of water for half an hour. Drain completely and crush with six (I used two) dry red chillies into a coarse paste using a food processor.
Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a pan. Add asafetida, half the mustard seeds, onion, green chillies and sauté.
Add the crushed dal and salt. Cook and stir for five to eight minutes until it comes together in a ball. Cool.
Stir in half the curry leaves finely chopped, half the coriander leaves, coconut, and rice flour. Mix well and shape into small balls (kofte).
Heat remaining oil in a pan. Break the remaining dry red chillies into two and add along with remaining mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds stop popping, add remaining curry leaves, sambar powder, salt, tamarind and one and a half cups of water. Mix well.
When the above mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat so that the curry is gently simmering and add the koftas.
Cover and simmer over medium heat for about ten minutes. Cook till the sauce is thickened and the koftas are cooked. Turn off the heat and allow the kuzhambu to rest for 10 minutes.
Add remaining coriander leaves and mix.