Best dishes are sometimes very simple. Chintha Chiguru Pappu is a simple yet hearty, mildly tart, seasonal Tender Tamarind Leaves Dal (aka Hunase Chiguru Thovve in Kannada) that captures the essence of early Indian Summer in a comforting staple dish.
Indians are well versed with the using Tamarind in various ways. Tender Tamarind leaves however are popularly used in regional Andhra cuisine in a variety of dishes. I am so happy that you chose to explore cooking them today.
Because, Chintha Chiguru / Tender Tamarind Leaves are a nature’s treat one must not miss. They are in season for a brief period between mid April to May after Yugadi (New Year celebrated in South India). Later around August – September up until December, the tree begins to bear raw tamarind. The tender leaves are a pretty pinkish green in color and can be eaten as is, just like raw mangoes. They taste mildly tart and can be used as a souring agent just like tamarind. The creamish-pink flower buds and blossoms are extremely dainty and beautiful and are edible too.
They are not easily available in any market. So, the best way to get them is to forage when they are in season.
Tips for sustainable foraging, so we can all enjoy the foraged harvest for years to come:
- Tender Tamarind leaves are highly perishable and do not store well for long. Take only as much as you can use. That way nothing goes to waste.
- Snip off only the tender leaves without plucking away the blossoms. That way you maintain the tree’s ability to reproduce. A good rule of thumb is you should never harvest more than 5% of a plant or population of plants.
- If you are travelling far from home to forage, keep an ice box or small cold storage handy to bring the leaves back in good condition as they wilt easily once plucked.
- Check your neighborhood for the tree. Chances are you might find one nearby.
- The tree may abundant in some areas, but rare in others. Always pay attention to and respect local conditions. Ask for permission before foraging on private land.
- Choose unpolluted places far from industrial land, roads or fields, which are free of heavy metals, pesticides and other toxicants.
It is an amazing nature activity to do with kids too. To keep them in tune with the season’s bounty, go together and forage tender tamarind leaves.
I have real fond childhood memories surrounding Hunase / Chintha chiguru.
Tamarind trees grow abundantly in Karnataka and Andhra. The first time I ate Chintha Chiguru Pappu must be when I was about 11 years old when my dad was transferred to a remote village bordering Andhra. The place was dry and arid. But the tamarind trees were in plenty. The locals knew well how to live off the land. And during the beginning of the summer, the trees would spring all over with greenish pink tender leaves. My mom perhaps learnt how to make this lovely dish from the locals.
Amma would ask my brothers and I to go bring tender leaves to make this soul satisfying Chintha Chiguru Pappu. Not far from our tiny house were sprawling trees filled with tender sprigs shooting out of the branches bending down to touch the ground. I’d stretch out my skirt as a makeshift basket to hold all the tender leaves, tuck them well and run back home. And it has been etched in my memory since. Today, the dream of my making my own Chintha Chiguru Pappu from foraged leaves has come true after a wait of many long years.
Consider yourself lucky if you can get hold of these during this season and go make this amazing Dal. No supermarket can bring this out of season. Well in case you don’t find the leaves, this Dal can be made with any leafy greens at hand such as Palakura Pappu or this Mung Dal or this Swiss Chard Dal Paanch Phoron
Andhra Style Tender Tamarind Leaves Dal, an early Indian summer delicacy
- big handful chintha chiguru / tender tamarind leaves
- 1/4 cup yellow dal / Moong Dal
- 1/3 cup Toor Dal
- water for cooking
- 1/4 cup freshly grated coconut
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder or to taste
- salt to taste
- 2-3 tbsp peanut oil
- 1/2 tsp jeera / cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- big pinch hing / asafetida
- 2 red chillies torn
- 2-3 green chillies cut in half
- 1/2 tsp pwodered menthulu/methi seeds/ fenugreek seeds
- Make sure to only pick the pinkish green tender leaves are picked. Separate the hard stalk from the leaves. Wash Chintha Chiguru / tender tamarind leaves well, rinse and pat dry on a clean towel.
- Wash the lentils with water until the water runs clear. Pressure cook the lentils/Dals for 3 - 4 cooker whistles and keep aside to cool.
- When the cooker has cooled, add turmeric to the lentils and give it a good whisk (I find whisk quite useful for this) to blend and mash well.
- Place 2 tbsp oil in a medium pan or kadai over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add green chillies and sauté until the green chillies turn white on the sides. Add the tender tamarind leaves and saute until they have wilted. Add red chilli powder and methi seeds powder or ground fenugreek. You can make your own by grinding some in a small jar mixer-grinder. Sprinkle some salt only for the leaves and stir well to mix.
- Pour in the cooked Dal mixture over this. Pour in water according to thick or thin consistency needed. Add salt for the lentils (remember we added salt for the greens earlier), sprinkle freshly grated coconut, stir well and bring it to a gentle boil, stirring in between to avoid the lentils from burning at the bottom. Turn off the stove.
Pour 1-2 tbsp oil in a small kadai or tadka pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter, reduce the heat to low and add cumin seeds and torn red in that order and sauté until the red chillies puff up and turn brown. Add hing/asafetida after turning off the stove.
- Pour this hot seasoning into the Dal carefully avoiding the sizzling oil and rising steam. Immediately cover the pan to keep the flavors intact.
- Serve hot with steamed rice, drizzled with Ghee and “appadum” (papad)