Navaratri is the time of fasting and also feasting. While North Indians fast all day and prepare special fasting foods before breaking their fast at night, in the south, they make a feast, offer to the Goddess after elaborate puja and then gorge on it. The fasting is for the rest of the day!
Navaratri being both a religious and social occasion – especially among women, there is the custom of haldi–kumkum wherein women visit their neighbours, relatives and friends and exchange what we call vethalai-paakku (betel leaves and supari) along with some fruit, coconut and prasad of the day. Nowadays, there is the custom of also giving gifts along with it.
Coming to sundal, this is generally a savoury item — though some are made with jaggery too — which is made of whole pulses and dals. This is offered to the Devi along with some sweet dish like kheer or hallway and then given along with the vethalai–paaku. Small children get a packet of this when they accompany their mothers or sisters. Read about this custom and the celebration of Navaratri in Tamilian homes here.
Sundal is a very simple yet the yummiest snack one can have. One of the most famous sundals is made of white matar, (pattani in Tamil), which used to be sold on beaches in Chennai during summers. It is made with bits of green mango and coconut and tasted heavenly. The vendor’s cry of ‘thenga, manga, pattani sunda! (coconut, mango pattani sundal!) used to have a whole bunch of kids and even elders drooling!
Here I am sharing the basic recipe of the sundal with suggested pulses for more varieties.
Though you can make them during Navratri for bhog, you can make them anytime to munch on.
Chawli/barbati/cowpea – 1 cup (soaked for at least 4-5 hours)
Red chillies – 2 (broken into half)
Green chillies – 1 or 2 cut into large bits
Curry leaves -2 sprigs
Mustard – ½ tsp
Urad dal – ½ tsp
Hing – a large pinch
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Salt to taste
Grated coconut -2 tbsp
Oil – 1 tsp
- Pressure cook the chawli with the turmeric for 2-3 whistles or till cooked. It should be firm and not turn mushy or too soft. Drain the water and set aside.
- In a kadhai heat the oil, add the mustard seeds and urad dal. After 30 seconds, add the hing, red and green chillies and curry leaves. Let the mustard crackle and the dal turn golden brown.
- Now add the drained chawli and salt to taste. Mix it well and let cook for 2-3 mins. Mix well as it cooks.
- Switch off heat and add the grated coconut.
- It tastes good both hot and cold. Can be substituted for dry subzi, or eaten as a snack.
Note: I have given one recipe as a sample. You can use chana – both black and white, white and green matar, whole moong, groundnuts, chana dal, moong dal, rajma or any other pulse that you fancy. The soaking time will be more for some, while some like moong dal need to be cooked in a pan and not pressure cooked because it will turn mushy in no time. Generally though overnight soaking is recommended.