Manathakkali or manithakkali or milagu thakkali is a type of nightshade plant. In English, it is black nightshade. Looks like it is called Makoy or chukkitti keerai. Indosungod also has a picture here. The leaves and berries are very healthy and is a cure for many ailments. Esp. stomach ulcer! I can't remember the number of times my mom fed me these leaves and berries... These plants were always there in the backyard. And if there were too young to cook, then mom bought these from the lady who came door-to-door to sell fresh veggies and green.
The leaves got cooked with tur dal, sometimes with a coconut based masala; sometimes with just plain dal and seasonings. The berries were dried and stored in a glass container which later became the base for the tangy vatral kuzhambu. As a kid, I dreaded these dried berries and their bitterness. I remember lying to the green grocer lady (after eyeing the greens in her basket) to go away because mom isn't home, when mom was right there in the kitchen. :)
These days, it's just the opposite. I love these leaves and berries. I think that's because it's not easily available here. Or maybe because I crave for the comfort that I had in childhood and resort to the foods I had then. But then...
When it is hot, he wants it cool
When it is cool, he wants it hot
Always wanting what is not.
Tamarind - a small lemon size
Coconut - 3 tbsp, grated or 5-6 pices chopped - fresh/frozen only
Sakthi vatral kuzhambu powder - 1 tbsp [I like this one better!]
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Garlic - 5, chopped lenghtwise
Onion - 1, chopped
Curry leaves - 8
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp or a pinch
Methi/Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Jaggery or sugar - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
2. Heat oil and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add the fenugreek seeds and asafoetida. When the fenugreek turns slightly golden, add the manathakkali berries and roast them for a few mins.
3. Add the onion, curry leaves and garlic. Saute until the onions turn translucent. Add the coconut paste and the vatral kulambu powder, turmeric powder, salt and the extracted tamarind pulp. Let it boil for 15 mins.
4. Just before you remove the curry from the heat, add the 1/2 tsp of jaggery. More of jaggery will sweeten the curry and change the real taste of vatral kulambu. That little amount of jaggery helps to improve the taste of this particular tamarind based curry without sweetening it.
5. Serve hot with rice and pappadums. That's what we usually have. It also goes with roasted or grilled fish.