"Ulli" means onion and "Theeyal" means burnt in malayalm. The literal translation of ulli theeyal is burnt onion curry.
The funny thing is it's not the onions that are burnt, but the coconut that is toasted till it's almost burnt. The toasted cocnut releases all the oils and gives immense flavors combinedwith onions. Theeyal is a ver traditional kerala side dish. the onions can be replaced with eggplant, cheena, chakka anything you wish!
The only time consuming part is peeling the small onions. If you have frozen ones, go for it.
- 1 cup pearl onions peeled and cut it half
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 1 cup plus 1/3 cup water
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- few curry leaves
To roast & grind
- 1/3 cup grated coconut
- 2 medium sized red chilli ( more if you like heat)
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 & 1/2 tsp dhania powder
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- pinch of asafetida
- In a pan, add a tsp of oil and add the grated coconut.
- Fry constantly stirring till it becomes brown like this. keep heat on medium taking care not to blacken the coconut. you'll have a nice aroma of roasted coconut/
- Add the fenugreek, redchilli, a couple of pearl onions, dhania powder, red chilli powder, a pinch of asafetida and fry for few seconds. Don't add these spices before browning the coconut as these may burn quickly and leave a bitter taste.
- Turn the heat off and let it cool.
- Once cooled , grind the roasted masala with 1/3 cup pf water to a smooth paste. set aside.
- In another pan, add 1 tsp of oil. once hot , add the mustard seeds and let them pop. add the curry leaves, rest of the pearl onions and saute till the onions are golden.
- Add 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp of tamarind, salt to taste and let it boil till the onions are soft.
- Add the ground masala and a little bit of water if needed and adjust salt.
- Turn the heat off once it comes to a boil.
Serve hot with steaming rice, ghee or idli, dosas.
I made this for lunch with potato curry and it was so good!