Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Vadouvan/Thalippu Vadakam (Tamil Nadu (South India) Spice Mix W/Assorted Spices, Shallots & Garlic)

Vadouvan/Vadakam, a traditional spice mix from Tamil Nadu area of South India, is prized as the crowning finale of fragrant Thalippu for finishing the tangy, spicy, local curries. Vadakam is a sundried mixture of shallots, garlic, legumes and spices. Sho introduced me to vadakam when she lived in Chennai and I have been a fan ever since!

Vadakams and other sundried goodies are made during the summertime and stored to use all year long. Since it is a summer activity, usually all the children participate too; their job is to keep birds and other opportunists away from the drying food. Large quantities are made to share with daughters and sons near and far. 

Since sundrying is not always an option, the oven can be put to use in drying vadakams. Traditionally they are formed into balls but I dry them without making balls - they are going to be broken up anyway to use in the curries; so why go through so much trouble when one can save time and effort!

Every family has their own formula for these; so add or subtract the different spices and adjust their quantities especially the amount of chiles according to your preference. For example, if you aren't a garlic fan, use less or omit them altogether.  

The Vadakams need to be cooked in a little oil to release their fragrance. I love to add these in the thalippu (final finish with a little oil) when making dals, vegetable sautes, as well as tamarind or tomato-laced kuzhambus and curries. Once you try it, you'll have your own favorite way to use Vadakam.


1 cups Shallots, chopped
1/2 cup Garlic cloves, chopped
5 Stems Curry leaves, chopped
1/4 cup White urad dal ( soak in water for 30 minutes)
1 tbsp Mustard seeds
1 tbsp Cumin seeds
1 tbsp Methi seeds
1 tbsp Fennel seeds
10 - 12 Red chiles
1/2 tsp Asafetida (optional)
1 tspTurmeric powder
1 tsp Salt 


Wash and soak the urad dal for 30 minutes.

Peel, wash, and chop the shallots and garlic cloves coarsely. 

Wash and drain curry leaves; remove from the stems and discard the stems. 

Pinch/chop the red chiles into small pieces.

Drain and rinse the soaked dal; place in a food processor with the chiles and process until coarsely ground without adding any water. 

Next, add the curry leaves, and the rest of the spices, and process with a few pulses until combined.

Tip in the shallots and garlic and pulse a few times just until well mixed. 

Prepare a large baking sheet with rims: 

Spread the mixture on a parchment lined baking pan and dry them at the lowest heat setting. Ovens vary but it is important not to dry in a too hot one. I usually preheat the oven, place the pan in the middle of the oven and let dry for a half an hour. Turn off the heat and let dry for a couple of hours in the warm oven. I repeat this process a couple of times until the vadakam is dry. The vadakam pan should not be in the oven while the oven is heating, as it has a tendency to burn.

When completely dry, let cool, and place in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid.

For adding this to a curry, take one teaspoon of the vadakam and fry in a small amount of oil just until golden brown and fragrant. Add to recipes where you would like garlic and onion flavors.

Enjoy!! Happy cooking!

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