On a recent trip to Yercaud, a hill getaway near Salem, I made a quick stop at JoJo Momos. This new quick-service dining destination gets quite creative with momos - they even toss momos into pastas. But it wasn't their core offering that caught my attention. I spotted a dish traditionally associated with wellness on their dessert menu. Ulundhu is the Tamil word for black dal or Urad dal while kali refers to a lumpy dish. Ulunthankali is a dish that combines two key ingredients - black dal and palm jaggery (karupatti). But the version I tried was quite different from the black, sticky consistency - very similar textures to the ragi (finger millet) mudde (balls) in Karnataka.
Also read: Mapillai Samba Rice: Tamil Nadu's Heritage Rice Recipe Rich In Nutrients
Ulunthankali has traditionally been a 'go-to' fix for bone health issues as well as menstrual health issues in Tamil Nadu. It's particularly recommended for kids under 10 during their formative years. There are other health benefits too. It is believed to be a body coolant and served in many homes during the summer months and some health experts also claim that it can help address hormonal imbalance issues. The presence of sesame oil adds to its cooling properties.
I soon discovered that there are two versions of this anytime meal or snack. The one I tried at JoJo Momos is similar to the sweet Pongal (except the moong dal in the sweet Pongal makes way for urad dal). This version is made with urad dal (without the skin), jaggery and ghee. This is certainly less sticky and sweeter, it's almost like a sweet dish. The traditional, healthier version is made with black urad dal (with the skin), karupatti (palm sugar) and sesame (gingelly) oil. This version is packed with goodness and offers multiple health benefits.
You can try both versions with our simple recipes:
Recipe - The Brown Ulunthankali version
- 1/2 cup Urad dal
- 1 tbsp Rice
- 1/4 cup Jaggery
- 1 cup Water
- 4 tbsp ghee
- A pinch of cardamom powder
- Dry roast urad dal in a pan until it turns golden brown.
- Dry roast the rice in the same pan till it turns slightly golden brown.
- Allow both ingredients to cool and then powder finely together.
- Heat jaggery in half cup of water in a heavy bottom pan to make jaggery syrup.
- Once it boils, add the powdered urad dal mixture. Switch off the stove and stir well with a whisk.
- Keep stirring until smooth. Now add 1/4 cup water and mix well.
- Heat again, add 2 tbsp of water. Keep stirring in medium flame. (This is a key step)
- Add one tablespoon of ghee at a time and mix. Add a pinch of cardamom. Add the rest of the ghee once it is cooked.
- You should arrive at a halwa-like consistency
- Transfer to a bowl and serve hot.
- 1/2 cup Black Urad Dal with skin
- 1 tbsp Raw Rice
- 1/2 cup Palm Jaggery ( Karuppati)
- 1 cup Water
- 1/4 cup Gingelly Oil / Sesame oil
- Roast Black Urad Dal on a low flame until you smell the aromas. Allow it to cool down.
- Now roast the rice and on a low flame till the rice puffs up and turns crisp . Turn off and allow it to cool.
- Heat palm jaggery in half cup of water in a heavy bottom pan heat to make palm jaggery syrup. Strain to remove impurities.
- Grind the roasted black urad dal and rice to a very fine powder. Sieve it and keep aside.
- Now add the black urad dal and rice powder to the Palm Jaggery syrup. Mix well and add another 1/4 cup of Water. Combine all ingredients and then turn on the flame.
- Cook on a low flame. Add 1 tbsp of Gingelly oil and mix well until the oil is fully absorbed.
- Repeat the same process. Keep adding the oil gradually and keep stirring. The Kali will be glossy and absorb the oil.
- Make small balls, drizzle some oil before you serve.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.