It was a myth widely circulated in the 80s that coconuts are the main sources of cholesterol causing artery blocks. Nevetheless my mother started reducing the use of coconut meat greatly, used coconut milk sparingly, and stopped using coconut oil once for all. But my grandmothers continued to use coconuts profusely, and they even found a dish insipid if coconut meat is scantily added into it. In those days coconut meat was used in almost every vegetable preparation, coconut milk used for making scrumptious payasam, and coconut oil for frying crunchy snacks like thattai, murukku, banana chips, etc. We relished theeyal mostly in our grandmother’s house as this recipe calls for good lashings of coconut meat fried in coconut oil.

theeyal-4 Theeyal
Ulli Theeyal

Theeyal (meaning charred curry) got this name as it looks like a charred curry but actually it is not and no charred ingredient is used in here. Traditionally this curry is stewed in the extract of black tamarinds (old tamarind) that lent a black color to this curry. But now we can use new tamarinds if we don’t want to make a black color curry.

theeyal-2 Theeyal
Lunch with brown rice, theeyal, aviyal & usili

Ulli theeyal (shallot theeyal) tastes divine when served with hand-pounded brown rice (or other traditional rice varieties or millets), avial and paruppu usili. We can also prepare mushroom theeyal (with new tamarind) and serve with dosa, uthappam, appam, or idiyappam.

mushroom-theeyal Theeyal
Mushroom theeyal using new tamarind

Now the recipe for traditional ulli theeyal :

theeyal-3 Theeyal
Ulli Theeyal using old tamarind


Main Ingredients:
Old black tamarinds pressed into a small ball
Shallots (chinna vengayam)250 grams
Cold-pressed coconut oil2 tbsp
Fenugreek seeds (vendhayam)1/2 tsp
Asafoetida block (or a pinch of asafoetida powder)a small piece
Jaggery1/2 tsp
Salt1 tsp
Ingredients for spice powder:
Red chillies4
Coriander seeds1/2 tbsp
Black peppercorns1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds1/4 tsp
Coconut pieces (2″)10
Ingredients for tempering:
Coconut oil1 tbsp
Mustard seeds1/2 tsp
Finely chopped coconut piecesas desired
Curry leaves1 sprig
theeyal-ingr Theeyal

Theeyal masala:

  • Heat a pan with 1/2 tsp of coconut oil.
  • Add red chillies, pepper, coriander seeds & fenugreek seeds and roast them in low flame.
  • Remove them from pan when heated up and leave aside.
  • Now pour 2 tbsp of coconut oil into the same pan and add chopped coconut meat.
  • Fry them in medium flame and remove from oil before getting burnt.
  • Now grind the spices & fried coconut pieces into a fine powder as shown below.
theeyal-masala Theeyal
Theeyal masala

Cooking procedure:

  • Microwave tamarind after adding 100 ml of water for 1 minute.
  • Extract tamarind juice by adding 500 ml of water and keep aside.
  • Heat the same pan used for frying coconut pieces with the left-over oil in medium flame.
  • Add fenugreek seeds & a pinch of asafoetida block in to the oil.
  • Add shallots when the asafoetida is fried and saute until translucent.
  • Pour tamarind extract into the pan and bring it to a boil in high flame.
  • Cover the pan with a lid and simmer until shallots are cooked soft.
  • Then add theeyal spice powder into the pan and mix well.
  • Pour enough water for the required consistency.
  • Add salt & jaggery and bring it to a boil.
  • Meanwhile prepare the tempering and pour it into theeyal.
  • Serve hot theeyal with kaikuthal arisi sadham.
theeyal-recipe Theeyal
How to prepare Theeyal

Tips & Tweaks:

  • I like to prepare thick curry for rice and thin curry for dosa, and you can adjust the consistency according to your palate.
  • We can also prepare theeyal by replacing shallots with one or more ingredients shown below in the same way we use them in other kuzhambu like pulikuzhambu, karakuzhambu, etc.
pulikulambu-veg-1 Theeyal
Vegetables used for making kuzhambu

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