Puli Kootu ~ Southern Chickpeas Dal with Rajalakshmi Sampath

by on December 15, 2017

I don’t know whether it is being creative or not, but I am always experimenting with new vegetables and ingredients. Despite living in so many different cities in India, I have stuck to some traditional rules such as cooking without onion and garlic. But I keep making modifications and innovations when I see different vegetables and for health reasons too. For instance, drink this glass of kadarangai juice. It’s a variety of bitter lemon. I simply experimented with it by soaking chopped pieces along with rock salt. I stirred it for two days and then refrigerated it. The liquid goes on collecting at the bottom of the jar and serves as the concentrate for the juice.
A healthy and sumptuous dish, Puli Kootu, this family favourite in Smt Rajalakshmi’s home is made with an unusual combination of pumpkin with chickpeas.
Puli Kootu


  • Chickpeas (dried chole): ¼ cup
  • White pumpkin: 1 cup; chopped
  • Tamarind: Lemon-sized
  • Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
  • Mustard seeds: ¼ tsp
  • Oil: 1 tbsp
  • Curry leaves
  • Salt to taste

For the masala paste

  • Channa dal: 2 tsp
  • Urad dal: 2 tsp
  • Peppercorns: 2-4
  • Red chillies: 2
  • Asafoetida powder: A pinch
  • Grated coconut: 2 tbsp


  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight.
  2. The next morning, pressure-cook and set aside.
  3. Soak the tamarind in enough water and extract the pulp.
  4. Cook the chopped pumpkin in enough water and set aside.
  5. For the masala paste, heat 1 tsp oil in a pan.
  6. Add the asafoetida, channa dal, urad dal, peppercorns and red chillies. Roast until the dal turns golden.
  7. Now, add the grated coconut and grind into a fine paste, adding enough water.
  8. In the same pan, cook the tamarind pulp and chopped pumpkin in a cup of water.
  9. Add salt, turmeric powder and the masala paste.
  10. Cook for a few minutes and add the cooked Chickpeas. Bring to a boil and lower the flame.
  11. Allow the kootu to simmer for a few minutes and switch off the flame.
  12. In another small pan, heat the remaining oil and pop the mustard seeds.
  13. Add the curry leaves and pour this tempering over the kootu.
  14. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Tips: You can make this kootu with other lentils such as red channa, dried green peas and dried karamani (lobiya/black-eyed peas). Among these, karamani does not require overnight soaking. You can also substitute pumpkin with chow chow or brinjal. Further, you can add a teaspoon of rice powder to thicken the kootu if you wish.
Photo Courtesy: Harmony Magazine

Part-1 of this post is an interview with Rajalakshmi Sampath, a self-reliant woman from Chennai.
First published in ‘Heart to Hearth’ – a column in Harmony Celebrate Age, a magazine about silvers.


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