Kovakkai Paruppu Usili - Ivy Gourd with steamed lentils

Usili is a popular Tamil Brahmin vegetable preparation where soaked, ground and steamed lentils are mixed with vegetables like cluster beans, French beans, Capsicum, Carrots and even Ivy Gourd. The first two are made regularly in my family, but until I saw Sheela write about this one with Kovakkai (ivy gourd) I hadn't know about this possibility. When I asked mum whether we make this kind in our family, she confirmed that they do and it is delicious.

Ivy Gourd is an interesting vegetable, mainly used in dry curries in Tam Bram cuisine - it is either sauteed in tempered oil and garnished with a bit of fresh coconut shavings or a spicier version is made with potatoes. For both these recipes, kovakkai can be cut into slender strips or into roundels. This is low carb, high in fibre and fast to cook. It is an excellent vegetable choice for diabetics too. Read this report for more details on Ivy Gourd and Diabetes.


1/2 cup toor dal
2 tbsp chana dal
2 dried red chillies
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder / hing
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tbsp oil

2 cups length-wise slit kovakkai
1 tsp oil
2 dried red chillis and 1/2 tsp mustard seeds for tempering
Salt to taste

Preparation for Usuli:

Soak 1/2 cup toor dal with 2 tbsp chana dal, either overnight or for 3 hours in warm water. Grind this to a coarse paste with 2 broken dried red chillies, 1/4 tsp of asafoetida powder, pinch of turmeric powder, 1 tsp salt and a few curry leaves without adding any water.
Steam this paste in an idli-steamer or a regular steamer for 10-15 minutes until the lentil paste is cooked. Remove to a bowl once cooled and crumble into small pea-sized pieces. Keep aside.


Place the slit pieces of kovakkai in microwave safe bowl, sprinkle some water and cook them on high for 5 minutes. Keep aside.

In a non stick pan, heat 1 tbsp oil, and put in the crumbled usili. Stir them around on medium flame till golden and slightly crispy. This will take around 5-7 minutes. Keep this aside.

In the same pan, take 1 tsp oil, put in the mustard seeds and broken red chilli pieces. Once they crackle, put it the cooked kovakkai, salt to taste, stir around for 2 minutes.

Add the stir fried usili and stir together for 2 minutes until they have come together.
Serve hot with Mor Kozhambu and rice along with some appalams (Tamilian Papads)

  • You could make double the batch, and freeze the lentil 'idlis' for the next time you are making this. Making the Usili is the only time consuming part of this recipe.
  • You can also pressure cook the ivy gourd pieces in a cooker-vessel, after sprinkling some water for one whistle to cook them for this recipe.
  • Mor kozhambu is the best combination with Usuli as this dish is already heavy with lentils. Combining this with sambhar, which is again made with lentils, makes it a very tough to digest combination. Mor Kozhambu is a Tamil style Kadi made with sour buttermilk and a paste of raw rice, coconut, cumin seeds and red chillies, boiled together with the buttermilk, and a tempering of curry leaves & red chillies.

A Maharashtrian style Ivy Gourd recipe - Tondlichi bhaji with Goda masala
Sheela's Mor Kozhambu with Opo Squash

This goes out to Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables for the letter U (Usili)


Anita said...

And I had kovakkai all ready for cooking...now will do this version that had been on the cards for some time. I know it will taste great!

Nandita said...

Anita, I must tell you that this doesn't taste too good with rotis as it is quite mild - however with rice and any kind of buttermilk kadi it will be fantastic!

Priya said...

Paruppu usili and mor kozhambu is wonderful and I need to thank my mom for teaching me that :) I also love to have paruppu usili with puli kozhambu, another awesome combo from mom. (I like anything tangy :P)

Raaga said...

I love paruppu usli. My favourite however is the vazhaippoo version. I didn't know it could be made with kovakkai. Nice revelation. In my family, it is made with beans, cluster beans, vazhaippoo... I've also eaten capsicum and cabbage paruppu usli at some places, but I'm fairly certain its not made at my place.

I'm spending 3 days at Madras next weekend and am attending the wedding of 2 close friends... Pattappa is the catering in charge. So some mouthwatering Iyengar food is what I'm in for. And have asked Amma to make paruppu urundai when I'm there. :)

Roopa said...

paruppu usili i love this often make with cluster beans. with kovaikai is quite new.

ushaprashanth said...

I knew Beans paruppu usili,vazhai poo paruppu usili!but kovaikai... hmm no! should try this..

trupti said...

This is so great! My MIL made Broccoli Usli using toor daal and chana daal and it was so good!
I need to try this next week, my hubby will be bringing back some fresh tindora from Toronto then....!


Nupur said...

Good to know that ivy gourd is so healthful! I wish it was more easily available in the US though. The usili looks perfectly delicious!

bee said...

wow. i love tondli and i love usli, but never thought of combining the two. great looking dish.

Asha said...

Great recipe.Lot of Tendli recipes out there this week including mine:)
I will try this next time I get Tondekai which is hard to come by for us:))

Richa said...

wow! one more tasty addition to my tendli recipes :) thanks for the info on tendli! i recently made kale chane & tendli combo, have blogged about it :)

Dee said...

I love Ivygourd. My grandmother makes chutney with it and I simply adore it. Thanks for the recipe

DEEPA said...

wow!!!i have made parup usali ..but never tried it with this veggee......wow!!!this is nice one .....

DEEPA said...

in between ..your video looks very neat and clean explained one ....

Foodie said...

Dear Nandita,

I emailed you once earlier, but you did not reply back to me.
I think I commented on bottlegourd sabji you had it cooked differently. I liked your mushroom tikki version inspired by the Chef Mr. Kapoor. I was also thinking about making the same thing today. I will now follow your version which has more flavor and spices. Please feel free to reply at the above email address when you get a chance.
I also have my blog http://www.zaayka.blogspot.com/
do visit.

Bombayite said...

Hi Nandita,
Reading your kovakkai paruppu usli recipe late at night here (12 am) while taking a break from work (grad student life sucks) ... your pictures make me hungry! Usually I used to never eat kovakkai ... my mom tried to convince me several times but now ... these pictures look good. I guess I will have to make it! Kovakkai is available in some places in the US -> CA (Bay Area), I have seen it at my local Indian store. Loved your environmental article btw & thanks for the welcome comment.

Sheela said...

Dear girl, good to see you gracious and generous as always... and, how nice of you to try it - am glad your mom confirmed that it is indeed a 'legitimate' tambram dish ;-) When are you coming over to visit me and Sig?

priar's, said...

Hi nandita,
i always used to make kovakkai curry.This seems new to me.I will try this out and give my feedback.


Anonymous said...

Nandita, you are being blessed by everyone who ate the brownie I made using your recipe. It was the yummiest and the easiest recipe ever! Thank you so much :)


Tamanna said...

you should know you were linked on Mid-day.com


Tamanna said...

Oh Good Work! Sorry I was excited about telling you!

Anil P said...

Is there a Gojju recipe you know of? Would be interested in seeing you post an entry using Gojju assuming you haven't already :)

Shameem Akthar said...

hi nandita saw your blog listed among the best blogs in Mid-day! Congrats!! Shameem

Clinical Electrodes said...

Looks like a great recipe. I'm looking forward to cooking this up!

Anonymous said...

This can also be made with fresh methi leaves. Tastes great.

Gardenia said...

Super. What a super sounding, simple recipe! Kovakkai - kundri in North Bengal - is a favourite with us, as is Paruppu Usili. What a happy thought, to combine the two! Waiting to try this one out. Thank you for having visitied my blog and left a comment: it helped me discover your blog, and this is going to give me lots of happy hours of browsing!

Nandita said...

so you landed on this ancient archived post :)
I am glad I discovered your mom's blog, read eevry single word of it in one sitting, and then yours...just reading about your relaxed life transported me to a world so alient from the one we lead in Bombay - truly you make me wish to visit the plantations you live in and describe so beautifully!

Gardenia said...

We had this great dish - thumbs up!- today, and morkoottan like my Mom makes, with deep-fried vendakkai on top.

Mallu said...

That looks like a great recipe

Nurtigal said...



Looks like the blog above has plagiarized your post. Hope you had given them permission. Love your work!


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