If you’re one of those city slickers in India who discovered your passion for cooking during the last decade or two, there’s a good chance that a simple Italian pasta might have been one of your first kitchen experiments. It was certainly my first shot at something more real than instant noodles. The first South Indian dish that I tried was a simple, earthy recipe from Andhra – the Tomato Pappu (see recipe below). This is one of my many definitions of comfort food – it could also stem for my predisposition for dals from across India including Bengali-style Cholar dal that’s cooked with coconut slivers.

Almost in homes across South India, sambar is cooked at least once a week either as an accompaniment for breakfast staples like idli/dosa or as a main dish with rice. While that might be the most popular version of dal with a more intensive cooking process, there are numerous simple dals that are also cooked regularly. Nowhere more than Andhra where ingredients like spinach and tomato are combined cleverly with dal.

(Also Read: 8 Traditional Snacks from Andhra Pradesh that You Will Want to Try this Monsoon)


Almost in homes across South India, sambar is cooked at least once a week.

One of my favourite spinach dishes is a koora or spinach pappu – a dish that I discovered first in Amaravathi, a popular Andhra meals restaurant in Chennai. This dish is served almost every day as part of their elaborate banana leaf meals. During one of my visits to this restaurant, I was with Sunita Suresh – a friend of mine who’s an expert in Andhra cuisine – who decoded this simple recipe for me. Even though I use her time-tested family recipe (see recipe below) to make this dish, I still keep coming back to Amaravathi for their tangy, flavourful spinach pappu. It combines the goodness of spinach with the proteins of the pappu. The other restaurant that does a great version of this dish is Nagarjuna in Bengaluru.

There’s more than one type of pappu and some of my favourites include the beerakaya pappu, one of the tastiest ridge gourd recipes that you can try. The pappu is the perfect first course with steaming hot rice and a dollop of ghee with a stir-fried vegetable or even a spicy Andhra pickle as accompaniments. You can try both these simple, nutritious recipes at home

(Also Read: The Magic Of Gongura, Andhra’s Most Loved Spinach)

Tomato Pappu Recipe:

Try and use juicy tomatoes for this dish. The tomato pappu leans on the tangy tomato and fenugreek for its flavours.


– Tur Dal: 1 cup

– Turmeric: 1/2 teaspoon

– Tomatoes: 3 medium-sized (finely chopped)

– Garlic: 4-5 pods

– Fenugreek: 1 teaspoon

– Green chillies: 2 (split) (You could add 1 more if you like it spicy.)

– Chilli powder: to taste

– Mustard: 3/4 teaspoon

– Curry leaves: a few sprigs

– Asafoetida: 3/4 teaspoon

 – Oil or ghee: 2 teaspoons

– Salt: to taste

– Coriander powder: 1 teaspoon

– Coriander: a few sprigs


1. Add a few fenugreek seeds and turmeric powder as you pressure cook the dal. Cook for at least 15 minutes.

2. Temper the mustard seeds, fenugreek, asafoetida and curry leaves. I’d recommend using a teaspoon of ghee instead of oil for the flavour.

3. Pound the garlic in a pestle and add it.

4. Add the tomatoes and green chilli.

5. Add the chilli powder and coriander powder. Cook on a medium flame till the tomatoes are soft and cooked.

6. Add the dal – mash it if required before you add. Let it cook for a few minutes.

7. Finish with coriander leaves and add a small teaspoon of ghee as you serve hot.

Koora Pappu/Spinach Pappu Recipe:


– Spinach (Palak or Amaranth): 1 bunch

– Tur dal: 2 cups

– Large onion: 1

– Green chillies (Sliced): 4

– Ripe tomatoes: 2 Coloured Bell Peppers – 100 gm

– Garlic: 8 pods

– Turmeric: 1 teaspoon

– Red Chilli Powder: 1 teaspoon

– Tamarind piece: About an inch long

– Pinch of Asafoetida

– Salt: to taste

Cooking method:

1. Pressure cook all the above ingredients for about 10-12 minutes.

2. Remove excess water (if required) and mash it.

3. Heat a teaspoon of ghee and fry a few additional garlic slivers with another pinch of asafoetida. Add the dal and spinach mixture and serve after stirring in the pan.

4. Tastes best with steamed rice and some ghee.

About Ashwin RajagopalanI’ve discovered cultures, destinations and felt at home in some of the world’s most remote corners because of the various meals I’ve tried that have been prepared with passion. Sometimes they are traditional recipes and at most times they’ve been audacious reinterpretations by creative chefs. I might not cook often but when I do, I imagine I’m in a cookery show set – matching measuring bowls, et all!

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