Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vengaya thogayal (Onion chutney)

I've been holding off on posting this for nearly a month now, at first because of lethargy and a stubborn unwillingness to accept the fact that the photos would not just edit and save themselves in the right dimensions for my blog, and wait neatly in a folder with the appropriate recipe name, ready for uploading onto my blog.

And when I finally and grumpily went to load my photo editing software on my new laptop, I discovered that the CD had gone AWOL. I still haven't found it, and that's the reason I don't have photos for this recipe. Not that the photos were works of art, mind you. But the post has been hanging about long enough, so I'm publishing it sans photos. (Worse things happen at sea, I'm told.)

So, call me biased, but the vengaya thogayal I made using my mother's recipe is quite literally the most addictive chutney I've ever tasted. I dont usually like onion chutney because of the possibility of the raw onion flavour lingering on the palate and - er, manifesting itself elsewhere (no, I'm not about to elaborate) as well.

But when amma suggested that I make this thogayal, I decided I would treat my two
dear friends, who were visiting a couple of weeks back, as the guinea pigs very welcome guests that they were, and spoil them with the chutney as a side-dish with quinoa dosas. And because I was a bit concerned that the chutney might not turn out well, I also made sambar and tomato chutney as back-up.

I needn't have worried, because the chutney turned out de
licious. At least, that was the feedback I got from my dear lab rats friends. I discovered the chutney's delights much later that day, after my friends and some unexpected visitors had all left, and I could sample what I'd made at leisure.

The trick is to slice up the onions thinly, and brown them long and slow - well, by that I mean about 15-20 minutes - on med-low heat. I used 2 tsp oil (for 3 onions) at first, then every time the onions looked like they would start to burn, I sprinkled 3-4 tbsp water to keep them moist and continue caramelising.

I've made this delectable thogayal twice in the last 5 days. It keeps well for at least three days out in the open, and would probably last longer in the fridge. (But it was pretty cold weather when I did this, I wouldn't trust it to do as well in warmer weather, without refrigeration.)

I confess I have developed a tendency to dip a fingertip in the chutney and lick it off. (Relax, folks, at this level of chilli-heat, it's just me who eats the chutney so no hygiene worries there!) It's amazing how quickly you can finish up something in this way. It makes my tongue, eyes and nose all water together (I like my thogayals well hot), but it's worth it. I'm especially pleased that it's great with chapaties, rice, dosas, bread and anything else you care to use it with.

Recipe for:
Vengaya thogayal (Onion chutney)


3 medium white onions, sliced thin
5-6 dried red chillies (or to taste)
2 tbsp urad dal (I used whole urad because that's all I had)
1/8 tsp asafoetida powder
3-4 tsp oil
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
8-10 fresh curry leaves
Salt to taste


1. Heat 2 tsp oil in a heavy-based frying pan and add the onions. Stir-fry on high heat till they start turning colour, then lower the heat to med-low and continue caramelising the onions. Stir them once in a while, checking to see that they are not burning at the bottom. If it looks like this might happen, sprinkle 3-4 tbsp water and stir again. You can do this 3-4 times if required.

2. Once the onions are evenly browned all over, turn off the heat and let the cooked onions cool completely.

3. Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat the remaining oil and add the asafoetida pwoder, curry leaves, urad dal and red chillies. Fry them till the chillies are a deep dark red, and the urad dal is golden. Reserve about a tbsp of the fried urad dal and a few curry leaves.

4. Grind the chillies, curry leaves and urad dal with 2 tbsp of the cooked onions, using only the minimum of water (in fact you might not even require the water), till the chillies are pulverised.

5. Add the rest of the onions and grind to a reasonably smooth paste. (I didn't make it completely smooth because I wanted some texture.) Finally, add the reserved fried urad dal and curry leaves and give the mixie a last turn. Let the dal remain coarsely ground.

Serve this chutney as a spread for chapaties or bread/toast, as a side-dish, as a mix for plain rice, or as anything else you like.

You could even call it onion marmalade (if made with far fewer chillies, of course) and serve it with whatever meat - but I'm dabbling in the realms of ignorance here, as I'm a vegetarian! What I'm saying is, this chutney is versatile! :)


Hari Chandana said...

Lovely n simple recipe.. good job!!

A-kay said...

I completely agree with on the raw flavor in onion chutneys - I hate it too and that is one reason I refrain from making onion chutneys. This one does sound interesting, will try this out for sure.

I love chutney / thogayal too as they are so versatile and go with pretty much anything that you want to eat with...

Nupur said...

Sounds wonderful, Shammi!

You use proper photo editing software and all? I make do with the free online stuff :)

Shyam said...

Hari Chandana: Thank you! Credit to my mom!

A-Kay: I think this one might make a convert of you :)

Nupur: Gosh no! :D I'd be a pretty pathetic specimen if I had proper photo editing software and still came up with the sort of photos I take :D No, it was just some basic demo software CD, cant even remember what it's called. I might have to look up this picnik site, now, because I need SOMEthing to work with. :)

shahana said...

First time here.U got a wonderful space !!!

Raaga said...

I make this very often, in its Telugu avatar though :)

Premalatha said...

Why do you need editing? just click and post.

here is my crude version of onion chutney
I make it often with variation introduced everytime. :-)

Swarna said...

i like guinea pigs and , especially the lab rats!
as for vengaya thogayal., next time.

TheTasteTinkerer said...

Like A-Kay, I too dislike the lingering taste of raw onions....the browning must add a wonderful caramel flavor to this spicy chutney..mmm.....can't wait to try it!

RV said...

I love thogayals and chutneys.. am bookmarking it.

Maaya said...

chutneys is one thing i love