Friday, March 16, 2018

Vegetable Salna (Vegetable Stew With Vadouvan/Vadakam)

Vegetable Salna is a popular soupy stew that accompanies parotta, a South Indian version of the paratha, a  wholewheat flatbread. It is also quite delicious served with other Indian breads, Idli, Dosa, Upma, rice or other grains. I make a big batch as the flavors meld and taste better the next day.


1. Vadakam/Vadouvan is not widely available even in Indian markets outside India; here is the recipe for making vadakam. Until you can make/purchase vadouvan/vadakam, this Substitute will work quite satisfactorily: coarsely crush and combine - 1/4 tsp Fennel seeds, 1/8 tsp Fenugreek, 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds, and 1 tsp Urad dal + 1/2 tsp Mustard seeds + 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes + 1 small shallot and 1 clove garlic, minced finely. Add this to the hot oil and proceed as called for in the recipe.

2. It is tasty to have a mixture of veggies rather than just one or two; I usually end up using about five or more. Carrot, green beans, peas, cauliflower, regular potato, sweet potato, Lima beans/edamame, etc work well. If you like to add zucchini, add it at the end of cooking just before removing from heat so it doesn't get mushy. A handful (about 1/2 cup) of cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans either tan or brown, may be added also as part of the veggies.

3. If coconut is not available for the masala, 1/2 cup of coconut milk may be added at the end.

4. Salna served in the local restaurants is usually served on the thin side; if you like it more soupy, add a little boiling water to reach desired consistency at the end of cooking and adjust the seasonings.

5. Adjust the amount of chile powder - reduce or add more - according to your taste.

About 6 - 8 Servings


Masala for roasting and grinding:

1 tsp Oil
1 stick Cinnamon, 1" piece
5 whole Cloves
2 pods, green Cardamom
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1 Onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 slices fresh Ginger
1-2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 Tomato, cut into 4 pieces
3 tbsp Grated coconut (See Notes)
1 tsp Poppy seeds (Khus khus)
5 raw or toasted Cashews


1/4 - 1/2 tsp Red chile powder
2 tsp ground Coriander seeds
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or as needed
1 tsp Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Tomato, coarsely chopped 
5-7 Mint leaves, fresh or dried (use Spearmint)
3-4 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped
2 cups Assorted Vegetables (see notes above), cut in 1/2" cubes


1 tsp Oil
1/2 - 1 Tbsp Vadouvan/Vadakam OR see Notes* above
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, finely sliced


Prepare Masala:

Heat the oil in a kadai/skillet, add cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, fennel, and cumin; cook until spices are lightly toasted and fragrant - about 30 seconds or so. 

Stir in onion, ginger and garlic; cover and cook over low-medium heat stirring often until onion is softened and slightly golden. 

Tip in the tomato, cook until tomato softens and remove from heat and allow it to cool.

Place the cooled masala ingredients in a blender carafe; add the grated coconut, cashews, and poppy seeds.

Grind the masala into a smooth paste adding a few spoonfuls of water as necessary to facilitate grinding. Set aside.

Prepare the Salna:

Combine the coriander, turmeric, red chile powder and salt in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or large pan; swirl the oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Add onions with a pinch of salt and cook covered over low heat until soft and beginning to color.

Stir in the torn mint leaves, bell pepper, and tomato; cover and cook stirring ocassionally until tomato is soft.

Add the spice-salt mixture and mix well.

Tip in the vegetables and the ground masala paste.

Add a cup of water to the blender carafe to gather all the masala and pour into the pan. Add a little more water as necessary so the veggies are just covered.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Add enough boiling water if the salna is too thick until desired consistency is reached.

Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.


Heat oil for finishing in a small pan; add the crushed Vadakam or the *substitute and cook until fragrant and golden brown; be careful not to let it burn. Stir in curry leaves carefully. Remove from heat and add to Salna.

Cover the salna and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot in bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander.


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