RCI: Chettinadu Veg Cuisine ~ Fun with Fennel

spicy and rich chettinad thakkali kuzhambu ~
sensational sambhar from Solai’s True Chettinad Kitchen

I always learn something when I cook for RCI; therein lies a big part of its charm.
I especially enjoy the challenge of finding something authentic and unique to try. Srimathi of Few Minute Wonders chose Chettinadu Veg Cuisine, and that, for me, was a challenge! I found myriad recipes for mushrooms, but nothing that really sparked my imagination until…

I happened upon this wonderful blog and truth be told, I wanted to cook everything in it!

While enjoying Solai’s easy conversational style and truly authentic recipes,
I noticed the dried chiles in her photos, different from the long Indian chiles I am used to. I saw these small, almost heart-shaped chiles for the first time in the Indian grocery a couple of weeks ago. At the time, I hesitated to buy them —
I wasn’t familiar with them and did not know quantities to use etc. Now with the happy discovery of Solai’s blog, I may pick up a bag and see how hot they are πŸ˜‰

The other fun part of Srimathi’s RCI was fennel. Fennel has never been a favorite of mine. Even after I got hooked on Indian cooking, I did not relish the flavor. The most I did was to try it in recipes calling for panch phoron.
I don’t know why fennel didn’t appeal to me — but after the last 24 hrs I have developed a whole new respect, even fondness, for this fragrant spice.

It was difficult to choose only a few things, so I went with what I had on hand.
I didn’t go out to buy one thing for this RCI, which may be a first!


Enough of my rambling. Thank you, Srimathi, for your wonderful choice for RCI and all your hard work; and thank you, Solai, for sharing your delicious recipes!

Now, here’s a sampling from Solai’s True Chettinad Kitchen. Please check out her blog for the recipes — I have linked them all and full credit goes to Solai. I cooked everything precisely as she instructed and as a result, everything turned out great! πŸ™‚

First of course, I made sambhar — this one more properly named Chettinad Thakkali Kuzhambu. The big difference between this and the few other sambhars I’ve made with coconut was the use of *lots* of garlic, and of course, fennel. It was even tastier today. See it close up in the photo at the top of this post.

Who could resist brinjal? Not I, never. Combined with tomato and lots of fresh cilantro, this was a great new way to enjoy one of my favorites — and made me dream of summer. Imagine how good it will be when the veggies are fresh from the garden!

comfort food with a chettinad twist ~ Solai’s brinjal cilantro curry

Next we have jackfruit, another of my fav veggies. This and the sambhar were the spiciest of the dishes I chose to cook. The pirattal had an amazing combination of flavors. The scent of my new friend fennel mingling with cinnamon, clove, chiles and more was enticing as never before. The finished dish was an exciting taste event, even using jackfruit from a can.

Solai’s palakkai pirattal, jackfruit and potatoes in spicy masala

The other two dishes were from the ‘side dishes’ section of Solai’s blog —
two chutneys, one of brinjal and the other of roasted moong dal.
I guess they don’t belong together on the same plate but by then,
I had the mixie out and I was on a roll πŸ˜‰

And that’s all I could manage for one night — but I know I’ll be cooking more Chettinad cuisine thanks to Srimathi and Solai!

chettinadu veg thali for RCI ~ clockwise:
chettinad thakkali kuzhambu on rice, kathirikkai malli pachadi, jackfruit pirattal, paruppu thuvayal (moong dal chutney) and kathirikkai thuvayal (brinjal chutney)

Whew, the end! πŸ™‚



  1. Happy Cook said

    You are going to be the queen of chetinag cooking.
    I am fully knew to this.
    I am sure going to go and look into the place for all these delicious recipes.

    Oh, you’ll love Solai’s blog HC — full of tasty treats! Thanks for visiting πŸ™‚

  2. Asha said

    WOW! Thali looks yum. Great dishes to make. I don’t care much for Fennel in savory cooking too but it’s great in desserts or just as mouth freshener.

    Stupid me! I didn’t remember Solai’s blog, had to surf the web like crazy for Chettinad veg dishes. You are so smart, Linda. I even was scared to write “Palakkai” because I didn’t think I have heard that name before, wasn’t sure it was the right word! πŸ˜€

    Sunita’s “Think Spice” is also Fennel, send it to her too.

    A bit exhausted this morning, too much excitement last night watching the game!

    I never write the words first time out Asha — especially since it’s new language to me! I usually copy and paste then I learn πŸ˜‰ I’m glad you liked the thali — you always inspire me with your multiple dishes and I really got into it last night! Solai’s blog is a real treasure, for sure.

    Thanks for the heads up on Think Spice — maybe time for me to go back to more events? Didn’t watch the game here — had family coming in from a cruise so spent the night shuttling to and from airport and my driveway where their cars were parked! I need a limo! πŸ˜‰

  3. indosungod said

    Linda looks like you were on a Chettinad cooking spree. The platter looks delicious, I can almost taste. Chettinad is a favorite of mine with it being spicy can it not be πŸ™‚ Fennel aids in digestion as well, if you want further reason.
    the pirattal looks so good but I am not fond of veggies from cans but oh well if I want to taste I have to get it right?

    As for adding lemon juice to the garlic pickle, it does not splatter, frying the cloves in the oil brings down the temp. I guess so it was fine when adding the juice. (thanks for this Linda, it did not occur to me to explain, I will now)

    ISG, thanks for the lemon juice reassurance — I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe like that pickle so wasn’t sure. Am already saving my small garlic πŸ™‚

    The canned jackfruit — well of course I don’t have point of reference since I haven’t tasted the REAL thing — but it’s not so bad if you drain and soak in water first. Mostly quite tender and I usually chop it up smaller. Let me tell you I took all these to work today for lunch and the jackfruit curry was *awesome* next day. I had it with thin oat-bran pita bread and it was so spicy, you’d be proud of me πŸ˜‰

  4. sandeepa said

    Wow you are ac hettinad pro it seems πŸ™‚ I have never tried chettinad cuisine except what goes by as chettinad chicken in restaurant. This thali looks so delicious

    Not quite pro but I will admit tonight I am soaking kala chana to try the chettinad version! Thanks for stopping, Sandeepa πŸ™‚

  5. Jennifer said

    This is the first time I am on your blog. You are amazing to be so brave with new food choices, ingredients and also experimentation!

    The other thing that inspires me to leave a comment is your finding of Solai’s blog. Even I only recently found her blog and had left a ton of praise on her posts! Indeed a rare gem of a blog.

    Hi Jennifer, and thanks for your kind words. Although I haven’t been blogging often lately, I still cook Indian most of the time. Some of that feels quite natural now, but happily there is always so much more to discover! Hence my excitement over Solai’s place.

    I passed by your blog briefly and looks so fascinating! I have it bookmarked to visit again πŸ™‚

  6. Vani said

    You’re on a Chettinad roll, lady! πŸ™‚ So many lovely looking dishes! The thali looks delicious, Linda. Had a quick look at Solai’s blog – what a find! I’ll be trying stuff from her blog soon. Thanks for the link!

    Hi Vani! So glad you passed by — missed your smiling face πŸ™‚ Solai’s was a lucky find, for sure! Hope all’s well there πŸ™‚

  7. Maninas said

    Well done for finding Solai’s blog and introducing us to it!

    I tried making an egg curry for RCI Chettinad and it didn’t work out as planned to start with. I played with it a bit, and it did end up tasting great, but of course, the deadline had passed and I missed it…

    RCI Haryana is next. I’m definitely up for that. Researching already!

    I agree with you when you say that you learn so much when taking part in RCI. I do, too. Another fantastic thing is that I discover dishes and flavour combinations that I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered.

    Maninas, I am already doing the same research πŸ˜‰ That’s the fun part of RCI, for me. I’m so glad you are keeping track of the various dates and hostesses. Thanks for that! Sometimes I don’t make an event too but that’s ok — we’re only human πŸ™‚

  8. Diane said

    Wow! Looks amazing…

    I brought back some of those small chilis from Chennai last time I was there, and they are HOT! Yum…

    Hi Diane — thanks for stopping and thanks for your input on the small chiles. I am def. going to get a little pkg next time I am in the Indian store — maybe this weekend! πŸ™‚

  9. so;ai said

    Thankyou so much for trying the recipes from my blog.Accidently came across your blog.Great one.very happy to find the interest of now a day girls in cooking.Keep it up

    Hello Solai — so happy you came across and saw the finished dishes! I so enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for your comment and kind encouragement πŸ™‚

  10. Siri said

    The platter looks wholesome and yummy Linda. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing info about Solai’s blog.


    Hi Siri! Thanks for stopping and leaving your kind words πŸ™‚ Solai’s blog was a real find — too good to keep secret! Hope you enjoy some recipes from her, too πŸ™‚

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