Vallarai Milagu Kuzhambhu – Pennywort Pepper Gravy

I jumped with joy when I discovered pennywort at a local Asian grocery. They have been carrying it all along, but only now do they have their English names on them. Good for me. I grabbed a pack, rushed home and called my mom for my favourite recipe that I enjoyed growing up.

Indian pennywort is one of those remarkable herbs with amazing medicinal values. In Ayurvedha, it is referred to as ‘the brain tonic’. Amidst others properties, it is believed to enhance brain function in terms of memory and concentration.

Our keera kaara amma would bring pennywort during summer, just before our annual examinations. ‘Good for their memory’, ‘They will get good scores’, she used to say. Even with its near-magical properties, you cannot become an Einstein by eating pennywort few days before your exams. Try telling that to her :).

It brings a smile just thinking about that old lady; loud and boisterous on the outside, but kind and gentle on the inside. There was a personal touch, even though she was just getting her business done. Hard to find these days.

Vallarai Milagu Kuzhambhu
(yields about 1 cup)


Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Toor dal – 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 1½ tbsp
Pennywort – 2 packed cups, leaves only
Curry leaves – ½ cup, divided
Pepper – 1 tsp
Dried red chillies – 2

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
Gingelly/Sesame oil – 3 tsp, divided


Heat 2 tsp of oil over medium flame, and add the first seven ingredients in the order mentioned, reserving about 10 curry leaves. Sauté till pennywort has wilted and lost its raw smell. Cool and grind to a smooth paste.

Heat remaining oil, splutter mustard seeds, and add rest of the curry leaves, asafoetida, tamarind paste, the ground mixture, salt and 1 cup of water. Whisk everything together and let it boil for at least 10 minutes. The gravy should be nice and thick. Enjoy with warm rice and more gingelly/sesame oil. Refrigerate the leftovers in a well sealed container for about a week.

Be warned if you are new to this green; it has a strong taste and aroma. Cooking with freshly ground spices and tamarind mellows it down quite a bit. You will hardly notice that you are enjoying a medicinal herb. This is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging. The team at The Daily Tiffin is hosting this week.

Other pennywort recipes


amna said...

i don't think i have heard of this before.. of course kerala was never as rich in green vegetables as TN is :) lovely pics!

SMN said...

Suganya the by the pic it looks as brahmi leaves? is that one or smthng else

sriharivatsan said...

My Dad only urged the importance of this when me and my brother were in school days, he used to give a vallarai tablet for us daily..Never seen the leaves and heard about any dishes using that..This is good recipie that everyone can adopt..Tx for sharing a wonderful and useful one..

Raaga said...

I somehow haven't heard of this at all... I did leave Madras 12 years ago, but even then...

I love the presentation :-) and I love milagu kuzhambu anyway

Finla said...

Same like Nags i don't know this veg.

sunita said...

Lovely...I remember this herb too...we get it in plenty and my ma used the same thing as yours :-)

Priya said...

hmmm, I never heard of these either...will have to talk to mom. Our keerai lady also was precious. She would come every other day and coax us into buying greens. Apart from my mother I think she was the one instrumental in making me like my greens. She has stopped coming by now though. Now it feels like a luxury to have some one come to your door step with fresh produce.

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I haven't seen this variety of greens, Suganya though our "Keerai amma" used to bring different types from Coimbatore.
But spicy kuzhambu, hot rice and nai/ nallennai is a wonderful meal.

Pavani said...

I wonder what it is called in telugu. Would love to try this. beautiful pics..

A_and_N said...

Thanks for this recipe. I've wanted to try this for a long time :)

Cilantro said...

I`d like to get them here but I think it is not available or I did not know the name to it... will look out for Pennywort since I know the name now. Looks too too delicious and yes, I do need the memory boost.

BTW... when I was new to cooking, I called my mother-in-law for Vallarai Keerai masiyal and made them. My husband could`nt have it and so it was feed to the roadside dog which ran away just by smelling it.

veggievixen said...

wow, i have never even heard of any of those ingredients. but i do know the feeling of finding a fantastic ingredient and jumping for joy! looks great.

Mythreyee said...

Nice recipe with vallara keerai. A healthy recipe. Thanks.

KALVA said...

oh never heard of it,, good to know!!

TestingSalesforce said...

wow. Vallarai keerai? Do u get here in USA? Your picture looks very perfect. It is also good for the pregnancy right?

Suganya said...

Nags, I am surprised that many haven't heard of this herb. Growing up, it was hard to miss because students were the primary target for vallarai tablets.

SMN, Brahmi is the Ayurvedic name for Indian Pennywort.

You are most welcome, Sriharivatsan. I never had those tablets, but these greens were a regular in my house.

Raaga, I am mighty surprised. Your mom may have sneaked into you plate w/o telling you :p

HC, Now you know...

Sunita, I am glad to know that it was cooked regularly across India. This is an age-old recipe. Can't go wrong with that :)

Priya, You probably don't remember well. I can't believe you haven't heard of this green. You should ask your mom.

Aparna, You said it right. The same kuzhambhu can be made with just curry leaves, if you can't get vallarai.

Pavani, it is called 'Saraswataaku' in Telugu.

A&N, I wanted to try this for so long too. Glad to be of help :)

LOL Cilantro. I would never try masiyal with vallarai. It has a strong taste and needs lot of spices, tamarind, coconut or shallots. I am sure that dog is nowhere to be seen :p

Thanks for your visit, Veggievixen, Mythreyee and Kalva.

Anu, I am not very sure. Read this article under 'Pregnancy and Breastfeeding'

Varsha Vipins said...

Am new to this..ur pics r always superb Suganya..:)

sra said...

I've seen this in the store but never knew what to do with it. Now that I've found a recipe, I mayn't find the greens again :(

Anonymous said...

I have never heard of this or seen this anywhere. Thanks for sharing ..
wonderful pics. I keep laughing at myself for i keep saying the same thing over & over again.

Sia said...

ha ha... i remember eating fresh leaves during exam times;) and we had these peenyworts growing wildly in our play ground at school. my fav has always been brahmi tambli:) now i have got another ecipe to try with peenywort. thanks sug :)

KonkaniBlogger said...

Oh wow, never knew we get these leaves here. We make a tambli of it also. I remember my grandma used to make oil of it, very cooling and good for the hair. I guess all kids got that gyaan abt the memory bit :D..

Anonymous said...

I've heard of Vallarai pills but never knew it was used in cooking. Thanks for the recipe. Can I substitute vallarai with spinach?


Rathna said...

I'm hearing about this green for the first time Sug. Will do my search hunt at asian market now. Lovely pics. :-)

Laurie Constantino said...

Very interesting post Suganya. The wikipedia article about this herb I've never heard of was fascinating. I slso love the linked story about the old lady selling greens.

Mandira said...

this looks amazing suganya, I've never heard about this green before but this looks fantastic!

prabhamadhan said...

Hi suganya,
I've been looking at ur blog n god its like some treasure to me since i'm very much confused about the names of the vegetables n cereals here in i'm jus arrived..could u pl give me some keerai names n also cereals like kambu..ragi..i saw hulled millet n confused wat it is..hope u'll help me..thanks in advance

prabhamadhan said...

Hi suganya..
It will be more pleasure if u reply me..
thank u.

Suganya said...

Dear Prabha, I understand it may be confusing to identify foreign greens. The best place to search for answers is forums like IndusLadies or AnotherSubContinent. For eg, I learnt a lot about greens from this thread. Good luck!

GV said...

Awesome, I tried this recipe this morning, it came out so well. Thanks for the recipe.

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