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Following the Book: Bambalay curry and inspirations thereof!

As puerile as it sounds, the recipe for Bambalay curry caught my attention  purely on the basis of the phonetic sound of it, the inner loop voice in my head kept going 'Bambalay bambalay, bambalay...' (reminded me of the song by the Gipsy kings 'Bamboleo')

until I gave in (& gave up) & bought home some cans of bamboo shoots. I'd already got a pack of the exotic ingredient required, 'Kudampuli'.

So what on earth is Kudampuli? That was the question I was asking myself when I came across the ingredient in Raghavan Iyer's book 660 curries. A part of me was a trifle indignant & miffed at not knowing what it was, especially since it figures in dishes from Southern India. Its known as 'Gambooge', from the same family as Mangosteen fruits and is native to Indonesia. In the dried form, they're nothing to look at, resembling dried black bits of Candian Geese poop! Taste wise, they're tart with an astringent tannic mouth feel, but what really sets this ingredient as a prize catch is the smoky aroma that emanates from the dried fruit. Its perfect for summer dishes with its deep earthy smokiness.

Its used in a manner similar to tamarind pods, soaked in warm water and squeezing out the smoky liquid extract. The recipe presented in 660  curries was a smoky tart 'make you sit up & take notice' bamboo shoot curry from the Coorg region of South India.

The internal structure of bamboo shoot is unbelievably beautiful, the minute you cut it longitudinally, Just take a look at the picture above, Need I say more?

I stuck to the original recipe the first time I made this curry last week, but it definitely opened up a floodgate of inspiration for other adaptations. My supper tonight was a curry made with hearts of palm served over fusilli shaped Brown Rice Pasta (yep, Whole Foods carries them & they're delicious!), with grilled mushrooms, a gluten free treat.

Canned hearts of palm is a product that is easily available in most grocery stores. The whole types are soft & tender and lend themselves beautifully to salads. The cut variety often contains thicker, more mature coins that work perfectly for this curry.

Heart of Palm Curry with grilled portobello mushrooms over Rice pasta (serves 4)

(Recipe for Bambalay curry adapted from the book 660 curries by Raghavan Iyer. )

You need: 

  • 1 whole Kudampuli or 1/2 teaspoon Tamarind concentrate + 1 drop of liquid smoke (should be available in the same aisle that carries extracts & flavors in the grocery store)
  •  1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 2-3 dried Arbol chiles broken in two
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, torn into small bits
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 cans Bamboo shoots or cut hearts of palm (or 1 can of each). If using hearts of palm, cut  down on the amount of salt since these are packed in brine.
  •  Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon rice flour mixed in about 1/4 cup water
  • finely chopped cilantro for garnish
Soak the kudampuli in the boiling water for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the fruit to obtain  the smoky tart extract.
Drain the  water from the hearts of Palm &/or bamboo shoots and cut into small bite sized pieces. Set aside.
 Heat the oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds. When it pops, add the fenugreek and arbol chile pieces. Once the fenugreek seeds & chile turn a deep reddish brown, add the garlic & curry leaves and allow the garlic to turn golden brown.

 Add the shoots, kudampuli/tamarind extract and adjust for salt. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer, allowing the flavors to get absorbed by the shoots.

Give a quick stir to the rice flour liquid and add this to the curry, taking care to keep stirring (this ensures that the rice mixture does not coagulate into little lumps).

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve the curry with the pasta (as described below), or simply over Basmati rice, or paired with deep fried Poori.

To finish the Pasta dish:
  • 2 cups dry Brown rice pasta spirals ( cook as per instructions on the package)
  • 4 caps portobello mushrooms, gills scraped off
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Cracked peppercorn

Brush the caps of the mushroom liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with the pepper. Heat a grill pan to high  and place the mushroom over the pan, top facing down. Allow to grill for about 5 mins on high. (the underside of the mushroom will begin releasing the juices on the concave surface). Turn the caps over and cook the other side for another 5 minutes. Remove to a cutting board using a pair of tongs, and cut into slices.

To serve, ladle the curry over the pasta, garnish with cilantro & place the grilled mushrooms over on top.

Bon appetit!


  1. That is a lovely dish... I have never used so many ingredients mentioned in this recipe for the simple fact I didnt know they would work..
    Loved it...

  2. Wow!!! I was attracted to reading this recipe for the same phonetic reason. Love your bold move. I need to muster more courage to buy ingredients like Kudampali and hearts of palm. For now I'll stick with tamarind and bamboo shoots, I'll let you know how it turned out. The pictures are very tempting and prompting me to try. Love it.

    1. Thanks Jayanti.. I was kinda feeling sheepish admitting this, but heck, that was what it was!

  3. Please collect the award awaiting you at Square Meals :-)


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